1/ Can you change the colour of my leather interior?
Without doubt the most common question we get asked & the short answer is NO. To answer why you have to remember that we are in business to effectively reapply the worn through, coloured surface finishes originally applied by the tannery. Because its a surface coating, it will wear off again & could you live with your old colour wearing back though? That is the long term issue. Short term is just actually getting into every seam & nook & avoiding leaving the slightest bit of grit. Then there's the volume of pigment required to cover the old colour because it becomes counterproductive. As when the leather was originally finished, as is with professional Reconnollising, its important to keep the colour layer to a minimum in order to keep the leather pliable & then rely on the final matt sealer to provide the durable resilience required. If the pigment layer is too heavy, established creases soon become fractures, fractures into cracks & it will be your old colour behind showing through. So why not strip it all off & start again? There is no solvent which will do that easily, or cleanly with the water-based system like thinners would do with the old nitrocellulose-based system. You will also strip off the surface primer,followed by the fat & oils drummed into the suede fibres at the rear during tanning. This & no primer coat means new finishes will absorb into the skin, rather than on it & the leather will dry stiff. No doubt there will be plenty of suppliers who will undertake a colour change, but we do not. Sorry.
2/ Do you supply a DIY kit?
When we departed from the Connolly Leather Renovation Department to set up Leathercare in 1988 & we were first offered the exclusive license to use their name & products, it was on the understanding that we never resold the materials in kit form. This was because Connolly already had a very established domestic & international market supplying DIY kits, cleaners & Hide Food. This was not a problem as we were always going to make more money using the materials, than supplying them. That was until Connolly's demise in 2002 when a lot of that "market "descended on us to fill the void since we were the only other Connolly affiliated company. By that time, the industry had moved onto water-based finishes & our kits needed to be quite comprehensive compared to the simpler solvent-based ones they supplied. They were very popular, but we soon realised the time it took to match & put together, we didn't make any money with them. Soon, there was a major influx in other leather DIY kit suppliers, shippers restricted the volume of liquids to 1 litre, so we saw that as our cue to stop. Then materials relied more & more on a lot more preparation, spray application & hazardous sealers, which made it too specialised to supply. As it turned out, it was a good decision because ever since our workload has increased putting all these DIY renovation projects right again afterwards! Now we simply supply products to maintain & hopefully preserve what people have.
3/ Do you restore leather 3 piece suites?
We have always relied on domestic furniture to sustain us though the quieter periods of year when the ;prestige cars are put away for winter. People always wanted their suites looking nice for Christmas & then there was the New Year party damage! For many, many years we even handled all the service damage & complaints for the major retailers & manufacturers in the North West. We even took on our own in-house, very skilled upholsterer to deal with repairs & recovers. However, changes in leather quality used in the domestic market created premature issues which you could not always resolve by refinishing, so gradually we just did things we knew would not have later issues with , like putting new leather panels in & fully recovering. Our upholstery department lasted over 25 years & built up a fantastic reputation for service & quality, but the retirement of our upholsterer & inability to find a suitably skilled person to replace him after a year meant another Leathercare chapter closed! Shame because we still get about 5 calls a week from old customers & new to sort out their suites, but just do not have anything in place to handle them anymore.
4/ Can you restore my leather interior at my home/work?
Sadly, another service severely restricted by changes in materials & heath & safety. When we worked for the Connolly renovation department, it was a self-sealing, nitrocellulose based system in play & i remember us travelling all around the country by train to restore cars & seating for London hotels, theatres & government buildings (including House of Commons & Lords). A solvent-based product we applied by hand with no gloves or respirators, but it was quick & durable & we could do a whole Rolls Royce interior on someone's drive in an afternoon! That same interior now needs 3-4 days at our workshop where it is stripped out as the colour & matt top coat needs spray application, followed by 8-10 to cure! For that, we have extraction & masks in a purpose built workshop for our Reconnollising service. Working/drying temperature is controlled & even the lighting are Daylight LED tubes. The service we offer on site for aircraft service centres, local prestige car dealers & valuable car collections involves light remedial work. This is a deep clean, light refinish to minor wear to areas like bolsters, followed by our dye-guard conditioning protection lotion. We still need a warm, dry, dust free, well lit area to open all doors with access to hot water & power point. It can be a great way to "lift" the interior, but never going to have the impact of our full workshop attention!
5/ What is "Connollising"?
Basically, its repeating the final "finishing/colouring" process the hide originally went through to give the leather a second lease of life. Many, many years ago when the term was first used, the original coloured finishes were solvent/nitrocellulose-based, which was basically a specially developed "paint" containing an oil so it remained pliable on the surface of the hide. Over time this coating would wear & scuff off, or dry out & crack, so when Connolly realised it could be reapplied, they set up the Renovation Department to offer this service to previous customers. This extended the appearance & life of their leather upholstery, at the fraction of the cost of replacement. The leather colour was originally spray applied at the tannery, with an additional clear matt lacquer to offer up greater wear resistance. However, they discovered the old nitrocellulose pigments could be applied by hand & were fairly resilient even without the clear lacquer. As a result, leather seating could now be restored on site for their previous customers, like the House Of Lords, Commons, QE2, as well as many top hotels & theatres. Plus car interiors could now also be restored at customers premises. This was our role within the Connolly Renovation Department. Later, Connolly would supply these materials in a DIY kit, but were incredibly protective of anyone other than themselves using the term "Connollising". That was obviously up until we left to move to Cheshire & set up Leathercare, when it was granted under an exclusive franchise arrangement in 1988; their first & only in their 125 years trading! Of coarse now that Connolly are no longer about in the same capacity, plenty of companies out there are using the term, but we were the only officially recognised company, so be warned!
There are plenty of other questions we have been asked & answered over the last 30 or so years, & I will continue to add the more common ones as we remember them. Please feel free to ask. We have always tried to be helpful & honest with people & most answers given do not involve a trip up to Cheshire!