Restoring leather cushions

After the dust settled and the guys had gone home I got in the workshop this evening and did some antique restoration. signet.2 These 4 red leather cushions are from seats in the Signet Library in Edinburgh’s old town,  a private library for Edinburgh WSs,  that’s writers to the signet, an organisation that all the best Edinburgh lawyers and solicitors are part of. Signet.1 My father was one and I might have been one if I hadn’t got distracted by wood and furniture making when I was meant to be studying law at Edinburgh Uni 30 odd years ago.  The library is a lovely old building and most of the furniture dates from the early 1800’s when the library was built.  These days the furniture takes a lot of abuse as the library hosts a lot of functions, weddings etc to pay its way and when the drink is flowing…well,   these cushions were the most recent casualties.  There is a very smart restaurant/café open sometimes,  it is open now during the Edinburgh Festival,  so anyone can go along and be indulged in beautiful surroundings! Afternoon tea is one of their specialities :

I have been lucky enough to have been their furniture restorer for about the last decade.  IMG_4266-001There is a lot of evidence of past poor quality bodge job restoration in most of the pieces there  but nevertheless my approach is always authentic reversible antique restoration,  so I use traditional materials like the animal glue used here,  which can be undone in the future by softening with heat,  without doing any damage to the surrounding materials.

IMG_4274-001For rips like these I cut small scraps of leather and insert in behind and beneath the tear,  rough side up, then quickly apply just the right amount of warm animal glue and tease the torn pieces back together.  Sometimes a little persuasion is required .  IMG_4290When the glue has dried tomorrow I will see if I can find some red wax or else make some up with some light wax mixed with earth pigment and give the seats a good feed – some collectors like to leave them looking totally bare but the fact is that wax will make the leather supple which will give a longer lifespan to the other weak areas of the cushion and hopefully stop any more tears –  as long as there are no more bridesmaids using them as trampolines!

Patrick @ The Wood Place

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