Dbeeksci

Paper Thin Veggie-tanned leather, historic treatments

Recommended Posts

I'm a restorer looking for information related to the processing and covering of small cases and boxes with thin leather during the 18th and early 19th centuries. I have several early boxes that need to be rebuilt and recovered. These cases were made to hold all sorts of early devices, from medical and scientific instruments to silver items and delicate glass items. They were cased within velvet-lined thin wooden boxes covered with paper-weight stiffened and decoratively-embossed leather. Has anyone read or know of a resource for information on the historic methods of treating leather to make it stiff, yet still pliable enough to be gold emboss. An image below shows a piece of the original 1820s leather removed from the case.

I thank you in advance for any assistance. Dale

20190311_094834.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hi Dale where are you based? I am in the UK and restore 17 / 18 century books amongst other things. But I know some of the stuff I use is Archival (which equals expensive) and not available elsewhere.

If its not as rare or valuable and not a book, see photo of binocular case before and after, I have been very successful with judicious use of Dr Jacksons Hide Rejuvenator from Tandy Leather

I also use my own mix of beeswax, oil and turpentine, very cautiously. It often darkens the leathers.

In bookbinding we repain pieces such as in the picture, from the back first, and often by laying a kitchen towel with the product on it on a flat surface, and laying the flesh side of the leather down first, leave it for a while and check, repeat as needed. We would then build up the leather by cutting and skiving pices to go into the gaps, then dyeing the insets.

1945 Binocular case.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Conservation by Design Ltd (in UK but ship wherever) has these products

image.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi: I'm in central US. Yes, I'm familiar with the varied treatments of old leather and now learning about the drying process of new leathers is priority. The new leather that I'm using .05 thin and too pliable. I have soaked it in cold water and then immersed in 180 degree (F) water for just a minute. It is now drying at room temp. We'll see how it dries; hopefully it is a bit more stiff. I've noted from other's that it's dangerous to apply heat however I may take a test piece and use a hair dryer. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Dbeeksci said:

Hi: I'm in central US. Yes, I'm familiar with the varied treatments of old leather and now learning about the drying process of new leathers is priority. The new leather that I'm using .05 thin and too pliable. I have soaked it in cold water and then immersed in 180 degree (F) water for just a minute. It is now drying at room temp. We'll see how it dries; hopefully it is a bit more stiff. I've noted from other's that it's dangerous to apply heat however I may take a test piece and use a hair dryer. 

We have treated almost as cuir bouilli on occasion, and put on lowest oven as if for a meringue, but it needs watching and checking

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just curious, how do you know that the original leather was stiffened?  Was it possibly pliant when new, and stiffened with time?

There is a wiki page and other information on the net on restoration of old leather, primarily regarding British Museum leather dressing.

YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, YinTx said:

British Museum

The book restorer who taught me worked there, I've never realised they had that site

:blink:

Will go there later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, YinTx said:

Just curious, how do you know that the original leather was stiffened?  Was it possibly pliant when new, and stiffened with time?

There is a wiki page and other information on the net on restoration of old leather, primarily regarding British Museum leather dressing.

YinTx

YinTx: That's a really good point, I don't know for sure however the way the leather has been cut and folded suggest it was not very pliable. Then again, the boxes with domed tops appear to have been covered when the leather was slightly damp in order to conform properly. Hide-glue was used for both the interior velvet and the exterior leather. Boxes where leather was used as a hinge must have used a pliable glue along the hinge area. I'm assuming the gold embossing was the last of the process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, hwinbermuda said:

Will go there later.

Awesome!  Let me know if you learn anything new.  And since you learned from the expert, I'll shut up and pay attention!  (meant in earnest, nothing less) :popcorn:

YinTx

Edited by YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, YinTx said:

Awesome!  Let me know if you learn anything new.  And since you learned from the expert, I'll shut up and pay attention!  (meant in earnest, nothing less) :popcorn:

YinTx

Don't you dare shut up, your input on the forum is always on my 'must read' list.

@Dbeeksci

 please could you post pix of the domed cases, as they may be shaped by cutting, rather than raising. I have seen both methods.

H

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, hwinbermuda said:

Don't you dare shut up, your input on the forum is always on my 'must read' list.

@Dbeeksci

 please could you post pix of the domed cases, as they may be shaped by cutting, rather than raising. I have seen both methods.

H

Following are images of small 19th c leather covered boxes with domed tops (all cased dental instruments). These are very slight domes, (not like that larger hump-back boxes). They all appear to be stretched single-piece leather tops that are gold embossed (or debossed). 

20190314_153058.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Dbeeksci said:

They all appear to be stretched single-piece leather tops that are gold embossed (or debossed). imageproxy.php?img=&key=81964be983ea98b5

I would agree with that, it would be cut exactly to size and bevel skived to the edge of the lid.

The sides would be layed on prior to that, also well skived, with the top area sanded lightly to allow glue adhesion.

I would expect there to be a mold, to exactly match the lid, so that the piece could dry under weight.

In view of this I don't think the leather was stiffened. There may have been a paper filler over the lid when the sides are covered, to bring the lid to a smooth finish when the lid is coverered.

I would expect the gold would be hot stamped prior to fitting the lid leather in a box from about 1910 through to modern machines with domed stamping plates. If they're factory made, that is; if bench made, could well be hand blocked.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

These cases date from early 19th c ca 1820.  Yes, I agree they were gold leaf stamped prior to glueing onto the lid. I'm learning how to skiv and having a hard time with such pliable thin leather that stretches so easily. I'll keep trying!

20190314_152845.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could try making your own miniature paring knife, like a lifting knife in bookbinding, and practise on paper edges, but flat bevelled to a razor edge.

As a quick reference to the knife look here http://www.hewitonline.com/Lifting_Knife_p/tl-071.htm

I made my own from a hacksaw blade approx 1 cm wide, grinding down to shape and working on a stone, stropping etc. ( I also make my own clicking blades like this, and have one that I have used since 1986 much cheaper than buying them).

Holding the paper, keep trying to just take the edge down to nothing, whilst retaining its shape, so you ar aiming to be able to run your finger from full thickness, to marble stone and almost not feel the transition.

Once you have become comfortable with that, you could try it on scrap thin leather.

On dry leather, the need is to have an ultra sharp blade, I find it easy to keep the edge on the lifting knife, by stropping.

Very old dry leather WILL crumble, you may need to match and patch, but if you have fed the leather first it should work.

Gently, gently, and slowly will do it.

H

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/14/2019 at 2:17 AM, hwinbermuda said:

Don't you dare shut up, your input on the forum is always on my 'must read' list.

Heh, I appreciate that.  But on this topic, I shared what I knew, and now I'm a learnin!  Thanks for laying out the info!

YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now