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Thread: Vegetable-Tanned - Vintage club chair in need of restoration to former glory...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013

    Default Vegetable-Tanned - Vintage club chair in need of restoration to former glory...

    i purchased this french (english? it depends on where you look) leather club chair awhile back and would like to restore it. after researching similar makes and models on this website:

    it seems like it has a bright and lustrous future if i apply the right products and dispense some elbow grease!

    here is mine: (also at this address- )
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    it was very dry and had dry rot at the time of my acquisition. 5 months ago i applied some leather honey and fiebings "tan kote with resolene," to it... this gave it a luster which i presume sealed the pores and may well need to be removed. the chair has almost very literal anatomical markings that reveal its primary user (who was oily and listed/leaned to the right).

    i welcome your suggestions for restoration and improvements- this chair seems able to last another 50 yrs in the right environment, and only has a very dank/musty/moldy smell going against it. (that's another forum, i suspect?)


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Greater Vancouver, Canada.


    Leather Identification:
    It is highly important to have a positive leather identification before we know where the restoration ends.
    A vegetable-tanned unfinished leather is just as naked as our skin and should be respected as such.
    A vegetable-tanned unfinished leather can still be finished in either aniline transparent dye or pigment opaque coloring.
    In the way the chair is constructed it is more likely the unfinished vegetable-tanned type.
    Further information can be gathered from the unused or unexposed areas for a confirmation.

    Appearance (Stain):
    Outstanding stains are found in the head, back and hands contact areas.
    These areas are stain by body oil, grease and sweat.
    Sweat is more damaging as it contains traces of uric acid that when ferments shift alkaline.
    The leather protein fiber is amphoteric while the other constituents like the tanning agent and the fatliquor are not.
    Alkalinity from sweat influence and shift the protein fiber ionic negative (-ve) that breaks bond with the other ionic negative (-ve) leather constituents.
    Tanning agent breaks bond and turn the leather sticky and in extreme cases slimy when damp denaturing the leather into rawhide.
    Fatliquor (fat, oil and water) breaks bond and the leather stiffens and loose its strength from easy abrasion.

    Appearance (Sun fading):
    An old piece of aniline dyed leather would show some sign of sun fading which is not found in this chair.
    Vegetable-tanned naked unfinished leather derives its color from the plant and vegetable-tanning agents alone.
    These leathers behaves just like our skin that sun tanned and turn from a pale biscuit color to a dark tan.
    This sun fading observation reaffirm that the high possibility that this is a vegetable-tanned unfinished leather.

    Appearance (pigmentation):
    Patchy appearance from the outer-back and outer side suggest that only vegetable-tanned unfinished leather has this unique characteristic not found in other finish types.

    Appearance (abrading wear at cushion edge):
    If this is a confirmed vegetable-tanned leather, my recommendation is not to hide the damages but to strengthen the leather structure instead. However, still depends on the overall appearance before a final decision.

    Restoration versus Conservation:
    In order to retain its history and value, I recommend a conservation approach in the following sequence:

    1.] Restoration Cleaning:
    Degreaser-2.2 > Acidifier-2.0

    2.] Tannin Lightening:

    3.] Attending to Unknown Stains Accordingly to Problem Solving Guide

    4.] Leather Rejuvenating:
    Hydrator-3.3 > Fatliquor-5.0

    5.] Repairs:
    Repairs to unfinished leather may produce a darkening effect.
    Structural strengthening to “dry rot” is achieved by Impregnator-26

    See this Problem Solving Guide for Vachetta leathers:

    Decide on which route you wish to take and we can go into further details.

    Roger Koh
    [email protected]

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    Vachetta (Unfinished Vegetable-Tanned) Leather Problem Solving Guide

    Converting to an Aniline leather with a more even appearance with the ability to camouflage repairs would follow this Guide:

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    Aniline (Matte Finish) Leather Problem Solving Guide
    Last edited by Roger Koh; 03-22-2013 at 10:28 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013


    Thank you so much for your detailed profile of/potential solutions to the problems this chair faces. I believe conservation is also the best course of action, with seemingly the seat cushion posing the biggest hurdle. How best should I proceed?

    Again, thank you for your time and diagnosis.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Greater Vancouver, Canada.


    The main products you will need for Degreasing, leather rejuvenating and protection in found in this Kit V5.dr.
    Add-on for tannin removal will need d’Tannin-3.5 from Kit V5.ns.
    Add-on for the very dank/musty/moldy smell will need d’Mold-3.6 from Kit

    I will email you the prices for your consideration.

    Further product information:

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    Kit V5.dr – Leather Degreaser Kit
    Leather Doctor® Kit V5.dr, vachetta, saddlery and veg-tan leather degreaser kit is an innovative leather-safe degreasing system for removing grease and sweat contamination. When sweat accumulates and ages it shift alkaline, besides the apparent darkening effect it will also impart a sticky feel to the leather. Leather is composed of protein fiber with other leather constituents like the tanning agents and the fatliquor. The tanning agent preserves the leather while the fatliquor softens it. The protein fiber is amphoteric while the other component is non-amphoteric. They come together by hydrogen bonding. When the pH of the leather rises due to the sweat, the protein fiber begins to shift ionic negative and breaks bond with the ionic negative tanning agent and the fatliquor. The protein fiber loosing the ionic attraction from the tannin agent denatures and revert the leather to rawhide as experience with tackiness or stickiness in extreme cases. The stiffness of the leather is due to the loss of the fatliquor that lubricates the fibers thus the fiber becomes stick together and when flex cracks. The darkening effect is partially contributes by high pH exposure, as alkaline darkens and acidity lightens the appearance of leather. To rectify the compound problem the grease and sweat contamination is remove. The protein fiber is degreased and recharged ionic positive below its iso-electric point (pI) by using Degreaser-2.2 follows by Acidifier-2.0. This combination degreasing and rinsing process should improve the darkening effect while reversing the leather to a healthy squeaky feel. Hydrator-3.3 helps rectify alkaline overexposure areas by facilitating colloidal water movement to redistribute the leather constituents from surrounding areas, while purging foreign contamination to resurface and charging the protein fiber below its iso-electric point (pI) ionic positive to hydrogen bond with the ionic negative fatliquor more effectively. Fat and oil is replenished with Fatliquor-5.0 to return the leather for softness and suppleness when dry. Protector-D+ heals and conceals scuff and abrasion marks; imparts a rub resistant draggy-feel against friction rubs and shield against sticky soiling while prolonging the appearance of the leather longer. Note that the mentioned products suffix numbers denotes its pH value for a safer degreasing approach to pH sensitive leather. Leather is an amphoteric material and shifting of it pH value obliviously causes the leather to darkens, denature and reverts to rawhide

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    Leather Doctor® Kit V5.ns – Leather Tannin Remover Kit
    Leather Doctor® Kit V5.ns, unfinished leather tannin stain removal kit is designed to remove most stains that is vegetable and plant derives including coffee, tea, grass, juice and beverages including water from vachetta, saddlery or veg-tan leathers. These naked unfinished leathers has a low pH value averages 3 and rain or tap water alone with a pH value close to 7 will often cause markings to these pH sensitive leathers. pH balancing with Acidifier-2.0 rectify these water stains problems why dry. Stains that are caused by natural food coloring d’Tannin-3.5 is used. Prior to treatment, the leather is clean and rinse with Cleaner-3.8 follows by Rinse-3.0. As the leather coloring is plants and vegetables matters derived, an overall treatment is mandatory to achieve an even appearance. Vegetable-tanned leathers when exposed to sunlight will darken as it ages, just like our tanned skin; reducing the tannin ageing color is another use. Hydrator-3.3 helps to moves and redistribute any foreign derive coloring effect; helps reduce surface tension for a more even appearance prior to fat and oil replenishing. Fatliquor-5.0 contributes to the intensity of the color with a richer tone besides imparting leather with softness and suppleness when dry. Protector-D+ enhances a non-stick draggy-feel to shield against sticky soiling. Besides, it has the abilities to heal and conceal lightening scuff and abrasion marks. Note that the mentioned products suffix numbers denotes its pH value in this holistic approach to removing vegetable and plant derived stains including water from vachetta, saddlery and veg-tan leathers.

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    Kit – Leather Mold Killer Kit
    Leather Doctor® Kit, unfinished leather mold killer kit is designed for vachetta, saddlery and veg-tan leathers mold preventive and decontamination care during storage or after growth. Water damaged leathers and storing in a humid condition promotes mold growth. The presence of mold infestation is detected by its characteristic musty odor and moldy appearance. Mold is a living organism and damages are progressive that timely preventive anti-fungicidal control is preferred over corrective restoration. A progressive mold infestation will result in unsightly sinking pits that may require physical removal with refinishing. When leather is store away, a d’Mold-3.6 treatment preserves the leather for a potential period of 8 months. d’Mold-3.6 is a waterbased leather-safe non-phenol fungicide designed to kill mold growth. An effective mold decontamination process would include a restorative cleaning with Prep-4.4, sticky residue removed with Cleaner-3.8 and follows by Rinse-3.0. Mold growth draws its nutrients from the leather fat and oil and will need replenishing. Rejuvenating the leather includes hydrating to relax the stick together fibers and to eliminate surface tension with Hydrator-3.3. Fat and oil follows immediately with Fatliquor LS-5.5 to rejuvenate the leather with suppleness and diffusing a classic leather scent. This follows with d’Mold-3.6 treatment when dry and proceeds with Protector-D+ for a holistic leather care. Note that the mentioned products suffix numbers denotes its pH value in this holistic approach for both leather mold preventive and corrective care.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2022
    United States


    Thank you for giving such a detailed steps for cleaning and restoration. You can use this to clean any kind of leather no matter what kind of situation it is in.

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