Replacing leather top on desk

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alex robinson

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Hello,

I am looking to replace the leather top on an old writing desk that is looking very tatty. Are there any magic tips or tricks for it? Is it just a case of removing the old piece with pliers, cleaning up the recess and gluing a new piece in place? If so, what would be the best glue, and where would be the best place to get a nice piece of leather?
Cheers,

Alex
 

Argus

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There a plenty who will probably know more than I on this subject, but desk leather, done the traditional way, can be a specialist business. Many years ago I knew a restorer who specialised in replacing desk-leather, or more correctly, a' Skiver'.

It's worth considering, before you start, if taking the old skiver off will devalue an antique piece. Some old pieces are best left in the original state.
However......
It can be just a matter of sticking a leather patch on a bit of wood - but it isn't.
A skiver is a prepared thin, unblemished leather sheet, often with decorative edges. The stretching, trimming, thinning and fitting process adds strength and hardness to the material - which prevents the top wearing through in a couple of years. This is a hundred-year fix, after all.

If you are buying a prepared leather for a skiver, investigate an effective tranquilizer first before you check the prices! Also,there are stretching tools specifically for this job.

I had a look around and if you search the terms "fit a leather skiver to a desk" into Yoo-Toob, you'll see a few people doing the job the old fashioned way which may inform you going forward.

Good luck.
 
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alex robinson

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There a plenty who will probably know more than I on this subject, but desk leather, done the traditional way, can be a specialist business. Many years ago I knew a restorer who specialised in replacing desk-leather, or more correctly, a' Skiver'.

It's worth considering, before you start, if taking the old skiver off will devalue an antique piece. Some old pieces are best left in the original state.
However......
It can be just a matter of sticking a leather patch on a bit of wood - but it isn't.
A skiver is a prepared thin, unblemished leather sheet, often with decorative edges. The stretching, trimming, thinning and fitting process adds strength and hardness to the material - which prevents the top wearing through in a couple of years. This is a hundred-year fix, after all.

If you are buying a prepared leather for a skiver, investigate an effective tranquilizer first before you check the prices! Also,there are stretching tools specifically for this job.

I had a look around and if you search the terms "fit a leather skiver to a desk" into Yoo-Toob, you'll see a few people doing the job the old fashioned way which may inform you going forward.

Good luck.
Thanks for that that. I am not going to wreck a valuable antique - it is a cheap mid 20th century piece that looks as if it has been left out in the rain. Certainly right about the cost of the leather. Looks as if that will be a lot more than the desk!
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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Alex, fitting a leather to a desk is fairly straightforward. There are two ways to do it, firstly take the desk or just the top to a leatherer, that way you will get the best job. The other way is to measure your top and order a leather over the phone, decide what colour you want and what sort of tooling and whether you want the tooling to be blind, black or gold. If you are not sure what you want most latherers are pretty good at putting the right tooling on just from a description of the top. If I am doing it this way I always pick a curly/wavey tooling for the edge as the leather is prone to stretching it is easy to loose some of the edge and with a wavy one it will still look okay. By wavy I mean like No1 on this page. THE COLLECTORS WORKSHOP
You will want a skiver (sheep's hide) which is quite thin and easy to work with.
Make sure you get all of the old leather off and if there are any holes splits or dents make sure you fill them and sand them flat. Pay special attention to the edge banding and make sure it is nice and clean on the inside edge. I run round it with a sharp chisel. If you are right handed use a straight edge and cut the edge furthest away from you and the right hand edge, if you are left handed cut the left hand edge. You can glue your new skiver down with a few different glues like scotch, fish or wallpaper adhesive. As it is your first time I would go with wallpaper adhesive, mix it up as you would for wallpaper, brush it generously onto both surfaces then place the leather down and push your two cut edges into place. With a large dry rag or towel work any trapped air out away from your two pre cut edges making sure you do not pull it away from these edges. Now work it into the left edge and the edge nearest you. Get a plastic scraper or credit card and push the leather down into the edge all around, when you are satisfied all is well you have the only tricky bit left to do and that is cut the left and front edge. I use a scalpel for this job but a sharp Stanley knife will do. Try to angle the blade into the edge of the edge banding if that makes sense but you will have to be very carful you do not slip and cut the top surface of your banding. As you cut the leather with the one hand pull the excess away with the other that way you will not drift away from the edge. Once that is done wipe away any excess glue leave it overnight to dry then push some black or dark wax into the edge all around to blend in the raw cut edge.
 

Richard_C

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Originality or function?

I've had an old desk for 40+ years, it had very tatty green vinyl, probably done to replace leather in the 70's before I got it. As I use it daily for work and other things a couple of years ago I went to Dunelm and got some brown textured leatherette - pvc mock leather - for a few ££ and glued that on, I think I used pva. Looks neat and tidy and serves well enough for daily use, laptop, coffee cups etc. (but not being in Downing Street it rarely gets red wine spilt on it). If I ever do want proper leather I can peel it off and it won't have cost me much money or time.

If you want to do it properly the posts above show the way.
 

TRITON

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Ebayy is a god source of skins. Plus theres a great deal of unwanted-job lot type sellers who are selling things on, so colours are more available for better prices, but also you can look to find an offcut which fits the space better than needing to buy an entire skin.

eg
 
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