Colouring and Polishing Leather

It is not difficult to get a professional result but it does take quite some time and involves many steps.

For the purpose of example, the following information is given for virgin cow hide that has been veg tanned.

A completed item in virgin veg tanned leather

Apply water based dye colour using a sponge or cloth. Artist type brushes work well for hard to get spots. Once you have evenly applied a few coats and completely covered the leather you now leave the item to dry a little, this is important because saturated leather just can’t absorb any more of the dye carrier.

Wet leather is always darker than when dry. As the leather dries it will become lighter in colour with a dull finish.

Now you can re apply. Repeat this process using even applications until you have the desired colour, it will become darker each time but never reach the darkness of the dye itself.

Coloured and ready to polish. To achieve this colour, five coats of brown dye was applied over two days.

We make our own polish but every day boot polish is perfect. (Kiwi) brand is economical and works very well. Use a neutral or colour. If using colour, keep it close to the colour you have used to dye with.

Use the small end of brush or a cloth to apply sparingly (Kiwi brand being used here).

Apply polish in small light circles, clock and counter clock wise, then straight strokes in all directions. Stick with a small section until you have a even coat. The leather will darken because of the moisture in the polish but it soon returns to original shade. The darkening effect will help you see when you have a even application. Don’t be worried about getting a shine yet, that will come in the next stage.

Apply lightly until even shade. You can see in this picture the darkening on application .

Once you have completed application you can use the larger section of clean brush or a clean cloth to polish.

Now polish in circles and buff in straight motions.
Hydrate with conditioner

The rough side of your leather should be re hydrated using a leather conditioner. This is important because the leather will dry stiff after being wet. The conditioner will assist in the prevention of cracking when flexed as well as help prevent water take up on the unsealed rough side.

The top piece in hand still stiff. Look at that shine!!

Now you can gently flex the leather repeatedly to loosen the fibres that are making it stiff. Start with just a slight flex and increase as you feel it starting to get easier. Be carful not to distress the leather.

I don’t flex any further than this, any more and it’s a bend or fold and will damage the top side. Do not flex the other way unless you are after a distressed looking leather.

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