Stripping Old Leather Covering

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by wfwhitaker, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

    Messages:
    566
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    Lobsta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I thought this had been covered somewhere, but I can't find anything specific after searching. I have an old Conley 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 self-casing camera which, except for needing a new bellows is sound. It's leather covered and the old leather is crumbling off. Since I want to use the camera, I wouldn't mind just leaving the old leather covering on it. But it's crumbly and leaves behind a trail of dust and old leather bits everytime the camera is picked up. What can I use to remove that old leather covering without destroying the wood below? What sort of adhesives were used a hundred years ago? Has anyone tried Citrus-Strip paint stripper?

    The wood appears to be mahogany. While I don't want to get into a full-blown restoration, I would like to get the camera cleaned up, put a new bellows on it and go take photographs with it.

    Thanks in advance,
    Will
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Dear Will,

    Rabbit glue (a relatively low-tack water-soluble collagen/gelatine glue) was a common way of sticking leather on, I am told. But I don't know how good the information is and the person who told me is dead...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  3. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

    Messages:
    566
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    Lobsta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Wabbit gwoo, eh? That would expwain why it's so wascally!

    Looking at the camera again, it appears that some careful and diligent work with a scraper (cabinet scraper or such) should work. Then perhaps lightly wipe the wood with acetone to get wid of the wabbit wesidue.
     
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Vater might vork better; I'd be supwised if wabblit was sowuble in acetone. Add a little vashing up liqvid.

    But this is only hearsay...

    Cheers,

    R. (or perhaps W)
     
  5. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

    Messages:
    2,384
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2004
    Location:
    Boston area
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Rabbit-skin glue is not soluable in acetone. It is, as Roger has suggested, water soluable. Chip and scrape away most of it and use a damp cloth, repeatedly wiping with a fresh surface. The final scrape can be done with a piece of glass, freshly cut and snapped (old woodworkers trick) or, less risky, the cabinet scraper you mention. There are shaped scrapers available for tight places.
     
  6. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

    Messages:
    566
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    Lobsta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Or perhaps, haresay.
     
  7. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

    Messages:
    566
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    Lobsta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks Whitey. I'll stay away from the acetone. Good to know that water is the best wabbit wemover.
     
  8. wclavey

    wclavey Member

    Messages:
    253
    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I just stripped the crumbling leather off of a Crown Graphic and I can attest to the "scrape off what you can then use warm water" approach... it worked like a charm. It took, in total, about 45 minutes to do the whole thing, start to finish.

    scwewy wabbit...
     
  9. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,458
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2005
    Location:
    North East U.S.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A bit of heat would help as well, a hair dryer would probably do the trick, or else a hot air gun if you need more serious heat.
     
  10. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    Messages:
    4,913
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Northern Aqu
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Not sure about that; I'd back the damp cloth/broken glass approach above heat, and I'd be extremely hesitant about using a hot air gun. Wabbit glue dries VERY fast.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  11. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

    Messages:
    472
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2004
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Maybe a heat-gun?
     
  12. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

    Messages:
    2,297
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2003
    Location:
    Floriduh
    Shooter:
    35mm
    With the leather on a Crown you use steam from a kettle. Don't scrape it off. The glue they used is horse hide glue.
     
  13. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,458
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2005
    Location:
    North East U.S.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hide glues, whether from wabbits or other critters is prepared, in part, by melting it, and it's applied hot. Applying heat will reverse the process. The trick is how much heat to apply, which would be the minimum needed to soften the glue. Moisture will help too, but too much of either would be a bad thing, moisture probably being the worst of the two, for the wood anyway.
    Here's a link for modern hide glue,
    http://www.cheyennesales.com/catalog/behhide.htm