Finishing Techniques in Leatherwork

Finishing is concerned with the improvement of the hand and appearance of a product so as to enhance its general outlook and maximize its marketability potentials. It is essential that Leatherwork articles are finished in any of the accepted finishing techniques to heighten their design and aesthetic qualities. There are various appropriate techniques through which leather products can be finished. Some of these techniques are burnishing, waxing, polishing, spraying, texturing, patenting. using conditioners, soaps, and cleaners.

1. Burnishing

This is a decorative process in which a smooth surface/tool is rubbed over the surface of the leather to produce a sheen. The leather is placed on a hard surface. Then a blunt, smooth tool, for example, Stone, bottle, bulb, spoon, marble or some smooth, hard object is used to rub over the surface of the leather on the grain side to produce a shiny effect. This is done by starting from a point and working gradually to all parts of the leather until a uniform sheen is produced. By this process, the rough surface of the leather and any wrinkles are smoothed or polished. This is done by rigorously rubbing the surface of leather with a tool such as a bone folder, plastic or wooden burnishing wheel, stone, bottle, metal spoon etc. to leave a fine shiny, glossy or smooth appearance.

2. Waxing

This finishing technique involves the application of wax to improve the surface quality, hardness, and water resistant ability of the leather item. The application of the wax can be done by the use of brush or foam to give a glossy effect to the leather product.

3. Polishing

This finishing technique also aims at improving the surface quality of leather products. Polish in the form of abrasives with varying colors and polishing liquors like lacquer or varnish are applied with either hard bristle brushes or foam to improve the surface quality of leather items. Sometimes wax is used to enhance the surface quality of the leather.

4. Spraying

This is the application of polishing liquors like varnish or lacquer on leather items by the use of spray guns or diffusers that spill the polishing agents in fine bits or dots on the leather item to improve its surface quality. Spraying avoids the brush strokes that sometimes mar the perfect application of the polishing liquors.

5. Texturing

This is achieved by the use of dyes, acrylics, and other coloring agents by incising, stamping, printing, spraying etc. These are used in creating patterns or textures on the grain side of the leather for decorative purposes.

6. Patenting

This is the application of lacquer or varnishes in layers on the leather to give the surface a waterproof effect and make the surface very shiny.

7. Using Conditioners

Leather conditioners soften and nourish the leather while providing a protective coating over the leather. This assists the leather to be able to resist scuffing and color fade. It gives the surface luster to leather after polishing. Examples and conditioners, their functions and application have been discussed below.

i. Saddler’s wax- It nourishes, cleans and polishes leather. It is used mostly on saddles, boots, and handbags. It can be applied with the fingers, a piece of cloth, a brush or a damp sponge.

ii. Melo wax- It is used for cleaning, polishing and softening smooth grained leather. It can be applied with a cloth or the fingers, allowed to dry and then polished with a soft cloth.

iii. Kiwi leather conditioner- It cleans, mellows, softens and preserves smooth grained leather. It can be applied with a cloth or the fingers, allowed to dry and then polished gently.

iv. Shoe Cream- It nourishes, cleans and softens leather. It is used on belts, handbags, billfolds, watch bands, bracelets, hair ornaments, etc. It can be applied with the fingers, a piece of cloth, a brush or a damp sponge.

v. Lexol- It makes the leather supple and gives a durable preservative finish. It is applied in thin coats by the use of sponge, a piece of cloth or the fingers. It is allowed to soak in for about ten minutes before it is applied.

vi. Vaseline petroleum jelly- It softens the leather, brings back its colour and provide a protective coating to help the leather resist scuffing. It is applied with the fingers. It is allowed to dry a bit for 15-20 minutes and then wiped off with a soft cloth. It is mostly used on belts and handbags.

8. Using Soaps and Cleaners

Soaps and cleaners are also excellent finishes that are used to clean and protect the surface of leather. It is applied with a wet sponge or brush. After its application, it is wiped with a dry cloth and then polished to a soft luster. Examples include Kiwi soaps, Belvoir glycerine soaps, Belmont soaps, Propert soaps, Castile soaps and Blue Ribbon soaps.

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