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Differences in leather quality

Sunday, 21 August 2016 10:53:07 Europe/London

Soft Natural Leather

 

Leather is a natural product and therefore the quality is inconsistent, with significant differences occurring from breed to breed and even within the same species.  

Gender, age, nutrition, feeding and general care all affect an animal’s skin.

Differences in quality of cow leather (but also applies to other species):

  • Age: The quality of hides from older animals is generally poorer than that of younger animals.
  • Gender: The structure of female hides has a denser fibre and a finer grain. Also the stability of the skin’s fibre structure deteriorates the more often a male animal mates and, for a female, the number of times she gives birth. Castrated oxen tend to have a finer skin structure.
  • Nutrition: Fresh forage promotes better quality skin.
  • Animal husbandry: The skin of animals kept on open pastures has a superior texture.
  • Climate: A harsh and cold climate favours a good skin quality.

Diverse demands are placed on leather, depending on its use. Furniture leather should be easy to maintain, while being soft and warm. Shoe leather should be robust, waterproofed, soft, heat-retaining and breathable. Car leather needs to be simple to look after and be able to withstand heat, cold and wear. 

However it’s used, leather should be durable and easy to clean. It should not tear, bleach, smell unpleasant or contain pollutants. These are the essential ‘leather qualities’ or ‘leather properties’. 

However, leather can't be extremely soft, porous, robust and easy to clean and maintain all at the same time. Unfortunately, people often think that the high price tag of that luxury leather jacket or set of furniture means that it should be easy to clean and maintain. But, in fact, the opposite is true. Valuable leathers are as sensitive as silk.  With regular use the beauty diminishes rapidly, while incorrect cleaning can even ruin the material. 

Tanners and manufacturers of leather goods should establish their own, verifiable, quality parameters and check them regularly. These parameters should take into account the animal species and the rawhide. Differences in the quality of the individual sections of a skin, including the possibility of damage when cutting, must also be considered. Additionally, in sensitive leathers, differences occur from batch to batch. Only a limited quantity of skins can be worked upon at any given time during the manufacturing process of leather and all of them do not behave the same in each run. Often the tanner will need to make small changes during the process, which can lead to deviations from batch to batch. Depending on the bandwidth of the established quality limits, it should be possible to identify differences. 

Apart from the production quality, the longevity of leather depends on certain other factors too. An important element for long-lasting enjoyment of a leather object is the handling of it. If leather is regularly cleaned and maintained and not excessively overused and if the basic rules in dealing with leather are respected, you will prolong the pleasure of this durable and robust material.

    Broken leather with bad flexibility   Bad quality leather belt   Bad quality leather

Testing Leather

There are many different methods for testing and evaluating leather. Here’s what to look for and don’t be afraid to ask the vendor if you’re not sure.

Look of the leather: A beautiful leather looks very natural and has a defect-free surface.

Leather grain texture: The grain texture should be good-looking and as natural as possible. An embossed grain pattern is very uniform, which does not correspond to the natural grain of a skin. Also embossed leather often feels less natural.

Softness of the leather: Generally, leather should be pleasantly soft and have a natural feel. But leather shoes or leather belts need to be more robust.

Haptic evaluation of leather surfaces: Leather should feel good, whether it’s soft, blunt or smooth. The more luxurious leather feels, the better the quality. 

The leather finish: To protect the leather, it is often useful to apply a binder based finish on the surface. The more layers of leather paint that are applied to the surface, the more unnatural it feels. If the grain texture is sanded before the finish, the leather feels even more unnatural. So too does film coated leather, usually considered inferior to natural leather and therefore relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, the effect is an accepted feature of patent leather.

Breathability of leather: While breathability gives leather the edge over alternative materials, this property is reduced the more it is coated with colour or film.

Tear strength and stability of the leather: Good leather is stable and resistant to tearing, whereas suede, nubuck or extremely soft lambskin will not have the same stability as, for example, belt leather. But within the types of leather very different qualities exist. So, a leather of inferior quality within the same type of leather will always tear more easily than that of a higher quality. Also sanded leather is usually less stable than full-grain leather.

We regularly deal with varying types of leather and a wide range of qualities. Whilst we are not regulated or offer a very extensive test report, we can test your leather to establish the quality and give you our honest feedback. We do this for free and purely because we love working with this wonderful, natural product!

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Leather colouring and colour mixing guide for professionals

Sunday, 7 August 2016 13:28:17 Europe/London

 

Leather dye bottles

The beginners’ guide to colour mixing for trade professionals - leather repairers and car detailers.

If you’ve never worked with paints or dyes the whole idea of having to mix a colour can seem daunting. There are also countless colour mixing machines and gadgets available which can mix a colour based on a sample or a colour chip. But the cost of buying a good quality machine and ensuring it is correctly calibrated makes it unsuitable for a lot of small businesses. In most cases, the time that it takes to mix a colour by eye versus using a machine works out to be more or less the same. The only exception is when a business needs to mix a large quantity of varied colours on a daily basis. 

Colour mixing is a skill that requires a lot of practice and a fair amount of patience. But above all, you need to understand how colours work. While there is a lot of information out there explaining how certain colours react when mixed with a different colour, there is no substitute for practice. The aggravation of not being able to mix a colour, especially when you are under time pressure to finish a particular job, is an all too familiar feeling even for us - this is one of the main factors why individuals give up and call on us to mix the colour for them. With this in mind and to help our trade professionals, we have compiled an extensive list of formulas for over 500 of the most popular colours. 

All automotive detailers and valeting companies can find out the combinations of colours needed to mix for example, a BMW Veneto Beige leather interior. We have broken down the different colours required to mix this specific shade by weight. All you need is a microgram scale. Before you all hail this as the next best thing since you know what, we must say that this is only a guide and over the coming months we will be working to improve the accuracy substantially. However, by accessing this immediately you will be able to cut your colour mixing times by at least 40%. For other leather repairers, the formulas include all the 160 RAL Colours which can be used to obtain colours for furniture and other leather items. 

  Professional Leather colour mixing   Professional Leather colour spray   Professional Leather spraying  

Colourlock Leather Colours - for professionals

COLOURLOCK Leather Colours are designed for refreshing or changing the colour of pigmented Nappa leather, vinyl or plastic. They are designed to be applied with a spray gun or airbrush. The leather colours have a high covering power but still maintain the natural features of the leather. They are also suitable for use in the conversion of nubuck to nappa and aniline to pigmented leather.

The Leather Colours are a water-based formula that gives extremely high adhesion values if used correctly. This formula has been tested, approved and extensively used by leading automotive, furniture and aviation manufacturers. The leather colours are available in 17 prime shades from which any colour tone is mixable. Additionally, we offer a range of five luminous colours that can be mixed with the 17 basic colours. Our colouring system is a two-part system and requires the use of Top Coats with Crosslinker IC2 to finish the repairs. 

COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh Dye is mainly reserved for our end customers who generally do not have access to spray guns and airbrushes. This dye does not require the use of Top Coats to finish the repair and it can be applied by dabbing it with a sponge. Please watch our videos for more information. 

How to repair and colour leather professionally?

CLEANING 

  • De-assemble upholstery and covers as much as possible.
  • Remove any dust from the leather with a vacuum cleaner or with compressed air. Compressed air is better for the cleaning of folds and piping edges. Remove any remaining dust with a soft brush.
  • Clean visibly soiled leathers with Mild Leather Cleaner. Do not work too wet on damaged areas. Old leather shouldn't absorb water. Then treat older leathers (older than 15 years) with white vinegar (mixture 1:1 with water). Remove dirt in the grain with the Leather Cleaning Brush.
  • Thoroughly clean and de-grease with Solvent Cleaner. Leather Colour should be seen on the cloth to make sure that any residues are removed and the surface is slightly dissolved. Carefully sand the surface with the  Sanding Pad and dedust without using cleaning liquids. The Solvent Cleaner and light sanding are important processes to ensure optimal colour adhesion! 

REPAIRS 

  • Carefully smooth rough or cracking surfaces with the  Leather Sanding Pad. Wipe off the dust using a moistened cloth. 
  • In case of cracks and rips, first smooth down sharp edges. Stick together the edges of rips with Leather Glue. Areas which have to be filled with Leather Filler must previously be treated with 
  • Primer. Using the filler, spread a light film about five millimetres left and right of the filled crack or rip. This strengthens the durability of the repair. Let the filler dry and repeat the procedure where necessary. Any unevenness can be removed with a Sanding Pad previously dipped in  GLD. Important: Extremely old, brittle and weak leather should be replaced entirely. They can be repaired cosmetically, but colour and filler can never replace the leather’s strength. 

COLOURING 

  • Spray the leather (not too wet) with Primer at low pressure (approx. 2 bar/15-32 psi) until the surface becomes slightly sticky after drying. Avoid thick coats of primer. 
  • Filter the  Leather Colour before filling it into the spraygun! Apply the colour at low pressure (approx. 2 bar/15-32 psi) evenly and not too thickly. Always apply several layers and dry with a heat gun before applying the next layer until the surface is evenly coloured. Apply the colour only as thinly as necessary: Thick layers of colour affect stability and grip of the colouration. Pull apart folds and piping edges and treat those first. Always wear breathing protection during spraying. Work only in a well-ventilated space. 
  • Mix  Top Coatwith 1 % of  Crosslinker IC2. Stir well and filter! Spray the mixture thinly over the dried colour and dry with a heat gun. Repeat if necessary. Mix only as much Top Coat with Crosslinker as you need in the following two hours. The Crosslinker is reactive and should not get in contact with water and humidity. Keep away from skin and eyes! 
  • Primer, Leather Colour and Top Coat can be dried with a heat gun and the steps should be performed successively to ensure that the fresh layers connect well. 
  • Smooth down rough areas with Polishing Pad 4000. Then, if necessary, again apply colour or only Top Coat. 
  • After 24 hours, rub a wet cloth on the colour to be sure that the surface has sufficiently been treated with Top Coat. In case of discolouration, the leather has to be treated with 
  • Top Coat again. 
  • Care the coloured leather with  Leather Shield in order to protect it 
  • One week after colouring, apply  Leather Protector. Regularly repeat  against wear and scratches. this care two to four times a year.  

Recommended products and quantities required for treating a complete furniture

Please note, some of these product are only available to trade customers. Please email us on our contact form to enquire.
Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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