Restoring Antique Leather Chairs

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I am looking for an advice on how to restore a set of six leather chairs. They were made in Vienna more than 100 years ago. I think it is a pigskin stretched over a wood frame and nailed on the outside of the chair frame with the decorative pins. I have posted some pictures at
http://s1179.photobucket.com/albums/x390/levis55/Antique%20Chairs /
You can see that the leather is cracking, and seems to be deteriorating faster and faster, especially the seats. Please advise: Can it be fixed, and how?
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On 9/14/2010 6:43 AM, Student wrote:

If you care about the antique value, hire a specialist. While I'm big on DIY for most things, restoring antiques is one of those jobs where specialized knowledge and skills are needed and there's no do-over.
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Wreck only
On Tue, 14 Sep 2010 03:43:02 -0700 (PDT), Student

Pigskin is generally thin and scarred. That is likely either thick bull or buffalo leather, instead.

The leather has been allowed to dry out and break. It is now unstable, and while you might make it softer with mink oil, the cracks and chips are not repairable. Yer SOL, Sam.

Yes, replace the old leather with new, complete with tooling.
-- Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary. -- Peter Minard
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That's some nice leather work. Too bad it's deteriorating.
An option, if you have the connections, which isn't difficult to create, is to purchase some cowhide and have a prisoner tool the leather. There are some excellent leather workers, mostly in state prison (long-termers!), and cheap, too. Despite their social condition, some prisoners are excellent service providers in certain fields and their services are available to the general public, just like any other service provider. Just because they are in prison, doesn't mean they can't provide a service.
Some juvenile detention centers, more apt to be local, have inmates that tool leather, also.
Sonny
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Addendum: .... Then get an upholsterer to reupholster the leather onto the chairs.
Sonny
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In article

I'm with Mr. Clarke. Have the chairs assessed by someone who understands the restoration of antique furniture or risk destroying their value.
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I don't know anything about proper restoration, BUT - leather is organic, and once it starts tearing, peeling or cracking, there's no way to "put it back" to its original look. An expert could tell you how to keep it from deteriorating further - simple massage with saddle soap would be my first move, but that might not be the best thing.
N.
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Student wrote:

Chances are very good it isn't even leather, a number of these embossed seats were actually a man made fiber material that resembles leather. In any event click here for a source for both: http://www.vandykes.com/search/2/seat?brand=&color=&finish=&wood_type=&material=&height=&length=&width=&diameter=&depth=&sSearch=seat&items_per_page=8
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When I first read the post, before seeing the pics, I was thinking oilcloth, as well as leather. Usually oilcloth is thin, but there are examples of built-up applications. I'm not sure as to how thick oilcloth might be formed (the carved/tooled look).
As an upholsterer, I, personally, wouldn't tool the leather. The leather would be tooled by an appropriate leather craftsman, then I would apply it to the chairs. It's not out of the question that some upholsterers can tool leather, though.
Sonny
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Based on some of the deterioration shown in the pics, I think it is leather - when the surface deteriorates, you get that powder-like reddish substance - almost like sawdust - in the next layer down. I can see that plainly in one picture. Oilcloth or turn of the (20th) century fake leather wouldn't be thick enough for tooling, in my opinion, nor do I think it would hold the pattern because even with layers, the backing is fabric of some kind. I've tooled leather in my time, but not any fake substance.
N.
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http://www.vandykes.com/search/2/seat?brand=&color=&finish=&wood_type=&material=&height=&length=&width=&diameter=&depth=&sSearch=seat&items_per_page=8 He did say they were over 100 years old. No such thing then as fake leather.
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CW wrote:

As a restorer of furniture since the 1960's I have to disagree, much cheaper grade furniture sold in catalogs during the turn of the 19th century used fake leather, but not likely used on these pieces. If I had a dime for every one of them I tore the stuff off of I'd be a wealthy man.
From what I can see in the images the material used here is embossed, the design is stamped with dies. Chairs like these tend to be 1880 to Edwardian period pieces, but I've seen Spanish revival examples date into the 1930's
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On 15/09/2010 01:22, CW wrote:

You are confusing the word fake. Try imitation -"that which is made to resemble"- as in, simulate, mimic. Not necessarily for fraudulent purposes but for style and economical reasons. Of course, there were perfectly acceptable man made 19th products (and techniques) which resembled (simulated) leather.
--
Posted From rec.antiques







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Artificial leather has been around for more than 100 years, according to Wiki. It was used for lots of things - even the coverings on things like suitcases and typewriter cases.....
N.
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Thanks everyone for your opinions!
I think I misused the word "restore". I am not in antiques neither as business or hobby. What I really care the most is to stop further deterioration. It makes sense that saddle soap or mink oil would work well on leather. But now you guys made me unsure if this is the leather at all! How can I tell? The reason I thought it was a pigskin is that on the surface there are miniature "holes" in lack of a better word, typically found on pigskin.
Replacing the covering with the new leather is not an option at this point, as we want to preserve the original look. Hiring the specialist is not an option at this point either.
Last question: For the cracks, do you think I could carefully insert a strip of cloth or thin leather so that it sits under both sides of the crack, then apply appropriate glue. It may not restore it to the original look, but should stop the crack from enlarging.
Thanks again!
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"Student" wrote:

deterioration. ------------------------------ There is no free lunch.
At a minimum, you need to get an opinion of a professional restorer.
If you pay for the opinion, you will be dealing ".. at arms length".
A good position in business affairs.
Lew
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In article

If you don't care about preserving the value then forego an opinion from an expert and just do whatever you want.
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On 9/15/2010 7:50 PM, Dave Balderstone wrote:

If he just wants something to sit on perhaps he should sell his antique chairs to an antique dealer or someone else who cares about them as antiques and is willing and able to pay the cost of proper preservation and use the proceeds to buy some new chairs from Ikea or wherever (Ikea has perfectly serviceable chairs for 15 bucks--they're not fancy but they'll keep your butt off the floor).
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On 16/09/2010 12:16, J. Clarke wrote:

"use the proceeds to buy some new chairs?" Judging my the set of photos. IMHO - would doubt he may even get "15 bucks" for his "antique" chairs from the antiques trade
...... I'd say Ikea could be the better bet.
-- Posted from rec.antiques Long Time Antique Dealer (now retired)
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J. Clarke wrote:

The chairs are not really all that old or rare, you can pick up comparable sets of four for under $500.00 at auction.
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