Leather finishing is an important step in the finishing process of a garment or other leather product. The finished piece will look much better and more professional if it’s given a fine, uniform finish. If your leather goods don’t have a smooth surface, they won’t be able to compete with similar products that are finished better.
There are different ways to give a rough surface the final polish required for it to look like high-quality leather. Finishing methods include solution tanning, vegetable tannage and chrome tanning. Each of these processes has advantages and disadvantages and each tool is best used for one specific task.
What is leather burnishing?
Burnishing is the process of smoothing the surface of the leather with a burnishing tool. Burnish leather is the opposite of scuffing, which is the result of rubbing and abrading the leather. A burnisher is designed to produce a slightly wavy or fuzzy surface on the leather, as opposed to a completely flat surface.
There are different burnishing tools and leather finishing methods, each of which is best suited for certain applications. The most common burnishing tool is the burnishing compound, but conditioning leather pads are also popular.
Hardened leather burnishing compound
A burnishing compound is the main ingredient in both scuffing and burnishing processes. It’s mixed with either water or oil. The solvent in the compound helps to soften the leather while it’s being burnished. Once the burnishing process is finished, the compound can be washed off, leaving only the original surface of the leather behind.
Some burnishing compounds have been designed as waxes, while others are designed specifically as burnishing compounds. These compounds are typically made from natural ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin and carnauba.
Conditioned leather pad
A conditioning pad is a piece of leather that’s been treated with a leather conditioner. Conditioning pads can be soaked in a leather conditioner for several days, which allows the conditioner to act as a glue between the fibres of the leather.
Conditioned pads are best used for burnishing soft, worn leather. Conditioned pads are best used before burnishing, as they can be very hard to burnish once they’ve been conditioned.
Softened leather pad
A softened pad is similar to a conditioning pad, but it’s been treated with a light-coloured solution tanning agent. Tanning agents are used in a number of leather finishing processes. When used in the burnishing process, they allow the burnishing compound to stick to the pad while creating a wavy, fuzzy surface.
When used alone, a burnishing compound won’t stick to a soft pad, so the burnishing process results in a dull, not-polished finish. A soft pad is best used as a final step in the burnishing process.
The burnishing tool is the most important ingredient in the burnishing process. It provides the tool with a flat surface that the burnishing compound can stick to. There are a variety of burnishing tools designed for specific tasks.
Conditioned leather pads are designed to make it easier to burnish off-white, blemished leather. Hardened leather burnishing tools are designed for burnishing finished, dyed leather.
There are various finishing techniques that can be used on the burnished surface of leather. If a smooth surface is what you’re after, you may also consider finishing the leather with a wax, oil or dye. Polishing leather can be done with a soft or a hard polishing compound. Polishing leather with a soft compound will only smooth the surface of the leather, while a hard compound can also be used to get a shiny finish on the surface.
Drying the leather can be done by either air-drying or a machine. Some leathers are best when they’re dry, like the soft leathers, but others, like the vegetable-tanned leathers are best when they’re wet.