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Re: Leather quality thread...

A few thoughts...

I used to work at a place that used many chrome tanned skins for doing
rebacks on things like those enormous late 19th c family bibles, that look
like they used some bizarre finished skin- almost like patent leather.  I
have been trained in a very traditional manner, and at first this was
challenging for me to accept.  In the end though, i realized- Why Not?  The
cow hide that was used was pared in a Fortuna paring machine, and the reback
was done with straight PVA, so it would stick.  No, this really isn't
conservation, it is restoration.  But I thought about it... and you know...
 Chrome tan skins are very strong and have a very durable surface grain,
something that lacks in many vegetable tans.  The surface as well, seemed to
perfectly match the original.  Is this innappropriate?  It certainly worked.

  Inspired by this, I experimented with a chrome-tanned leather lining on a
very large and thick book of my own, which I  then quater bound in Cheiftan
goat (vegetable tan).  I think that the skin helped support the shape of the
book, and I wonder if the leather linings of vegetable tanned hides would
hold up as well as the chrome.  I used a japanese paper release layer on the
spine, sanded the grain side of the skin first then glued it on with straight
pva.  I was able to sand it to a nice shape- albeit a bit tougher to sand.
 It looks great!

Of course I love the traditional tans above the chrome, but I think a skilled
craftsperson can effectively make use of available materials- and create a
product that still has an appeal and feel that the mass-produced boos and
bindings provide.

Where I currently work, we have an embossed red chrome tan that perfectly
matches 18th and 19th c style heavily boarded goat skins.  Again, it
certainly looks appropriate for the original, and is probably more durable.

By the way, when i last dropped by Tandy, they had a wide selection of Brain
tanned (mostly buck) skins.  I wonder if any of you there have played with
that stuff.  It does feel soft and comparitivley rather fragile... but may
work for some things...

Also, we order wholesale 4th quality skins from pearce leather in NYC- don't
have the address handy, but they are vegetable tan goat skins that are about
$6-$7 sq. ft.  They have a very polished appearance, and may not be
appropriate for every thing- we use good skins too from the other companies
like haramatan.  The only problem that Iv'e come accross has been that some
of the goat skins have a "sheepy" feel to them- not always though.  they tend
to split easily.  I think that has more to do with the animal in question
though, than the processing...

Any reactions?

Jake Benson
Assistant Conservator
Etherington Conservation Center

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