View Full Version : Replacing leather on camera: how hard?

Ben Calwell
16-Feb-2005, 09:00
Since I can't afford a new, lighter 5x7, I've decided to try and re-ignite the romance with my old and heavy Linhof 5x7 by dressing her in some new leather or leatherette. What's on there now is not original, and it's starting to come loose. I don't exactly have the hands of surgeon -- would this be a tedious job best left to professionals? Thanks for comments.

Neal Shields
16-Feb-2005, 09:28
Been there, done that, got the T shirt.

Get camera leather. Thin. Get it pre cut if you can but I doubt if you can.

Sources of leather are, if I remember correctly Camera leather and Microtools.

Pull the old leather off.

Mask the area with masking tape.

Cut the masking tape out with an razor knife.

Put the masking tape on the leather and cut the leather out with a sharp pair of sizzors.

Use either 3M double sided mounting tape, or Pliobond contact cement to glue the leather down, (or buy leather with peal off backing if possiable)

Note: I will try to get you the exact part number for the correct 3m mounting tape when I get home.

For the knob inserts I used a compass with a razzor blade in place of the pen and cut out paper till I got the exact size and then cut the leather.

To look right, it has to be perfect.

I am a klutz and mine looks very good but it took me 12 hours!!!!! on a Technica 5

Frank Petronio
16-Feb-2005, 09:44
My leather came off my old Tech 4 easily, and then I just cleaned it up and used it, all bare aluminum. It looked pretty cool actually.

Juergen Sattler
16-Feb-2005, 09:51
Hi Ben,

I restore these cameras as a hobby and have done numerous Linhof Technikas.

Get the leather from Microtools - the Maroccon leather - not the leatherette (you'll probably need at least 2sqft).
Also from Microtools get Pliobond - it is a glue which works great for putting leather on a metal camera.
Buy one of those headbands with loupes in them - you'll need it to get it right
Lift the old leather with a knife very carefully - they make it easier to get an exact copy.
Use an exacto knife to cut the leather - for the straight lines
For holes and curves use one of those bended scissors - the ones you would use for you toe nails work great
The rest is patience - make sure you get the corners right - they are not straight, but rounded off - that's important.

Have fun and good luck:


Ben Calwell
16-Feb-2005, 09:58
Thanks, fellows. I might give it a whirl, and Frank, I like your idea.

Ernest Purdum
16-Feb-2005, 16:42
Many years ago I encountered a bookbinder who had an excellent selection of leathers and did beautful work. He said covering a camera was easier than binding a book.

Rob Vinnedge
18-Feb-2005, 16:28
I used the self adhesive black leatherette from www.micro-tools.com (http://www.micro-tools.com) ,#4040 or 4056-2 I can't remember which, to restore the tan leatherette on my 5x7 Technika V. After cleaning off all the old glue and buffing out the the metal with a commercial grade aluminum polish, I then used the old leatherette as a template and carefully cut out the new pieces. Application was clean and easy, since the new leatherette was self adhesive. I wouldn't bother with the pliobond method. I've used my beautiful refurbished camera for two years, now, and nothing has come loose, even in hot weather.-Hope this helps.

Jon Wilson
1-Nov-2009, 13:45
Has anyone had any experience in replacing the leather on older wood cameras, such as an old leather covered graflex or conley camera? Any recommendations on the best way to accomplish this task or is it something best left undone? Thanks for any assistance and thoughts on this possible project I am considering. Jon

1-Nov-2009, 14:27
My leather came off my old Tech 4 easily, and then I just cleaned it up and used it, all bare aluminum. It looked pretty cool actually.

I removed the vinyl inserts from my Tech 5x7, with the intention of recovering it in real leather. But after cleaning and polishing the aluminum frame, I just left it bare. Like Frank said, it does look pretty cool.

Paul Ewins
1-Nov-2009, 14:46
Jon, I've recovered an old Graphic, but I'm not sure whether my efforts are an advertisement for doing it or not doing it:

It is actually pretty easy. The old leather usually comes off cleanly and can then be used for a template for the new leather. The only hard part is the bulge in the door/bed which required a form to clamp the leather in place as the glue dried. Regular contact cement works fine.

Steven Tribe
1-Nov-2009, 15:07
This is a really fun job. Microtools supply a usable product. Much easier than wallpapering. A couple of notes though:

- on many cameras there will be a number of bumps in the old covering - especialy camera like German folders and Rochester flat bed like poco/premo. This is due to different metal corrosion, wood shrinkage etc. Expect to use some time ensuring the source of the bumps are removed. Decoration and embossed lines should be done before mounting the leather.

- leather will gradually shrink over the years and will also expand in connection with most glue application. It is best to make a series of patterns (like dressmaking patterns) to check the precise measurements before cutting the leather.

- use a heavy duty paper guillotine as much as possible for the straight lines. Otherwise a metal ruler, sharp heavily built knife, and keep the other hand well behind the cutting edge direction!

1-Nov-2009, 15:12
You can probably obtain precut leather from http://www.cameraleather.com/

Frank Petronio
1-Nov-2009, 15:14
I doubt he would make a die for a fairly rare Linhof 5x7 but with a little careful X-Acto knife action I bet you could make it work.

Jon Wilson
1-Nov-2009, 15:38
Steven, what have you found to be the best way to remove the leather from the wood? Jon

al olson
1-Nov-2009, 16:14
A year ago I recovered a Technika IV with precut leather from Camera Leather. The leather was precoated with an adhesive. The only place where the precut piece didn't fit was on the rangefinder. They give me a spare piece of the same leather to cut to shape.

I am currently replacing the leather on my 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 Super Technika made in the early 1960s. To remove the old leather I use a 1/4" wood chisel which allows me to work underneath the old leather and adhesive to remove the whole pieces to be used as patterns. I am using a leatherette this time, again from Camera Leather, precoated with adhesive as well.

After trying out a number of knives I am using a carpet cutter's knife with the Wilkenson blades to cut the straight parts. These blades are sharp and retain their sharpness longer than any of the others I tried. They will cut all the way through the leather in one easy pass. The Wilkenson blades were recommended to me by a carpet layer. I still struggle with the eXacto on the curved portions and find it necessary to make a number of passes until the cut goes all the way through.

If you are working with actual leather, you can wet it to shape it over the bumps. I don't know how this would work with the precoated adhesive.

Steven Tribe
1-Nov-2009, 16:35
Jon I have always used mechanical methods to remove the leather. I have never dared to use water/solvents near well seasoned mahogany. I think the conley has a more prominant distinct pebble grain pattern. There is a leather company in scotland - I'll try and find the name tomorrow - who has illustrations of various patterns on-line. It is a pity to change the appearance of the leather finish - which was often the main distinguising feature of these lightweight self casing cameras. I am one of these people who think that bad lacquer on brass lenses should be replaced (it stops further corrosion) and scruffy leather trim should be replaced - in reality, it is often a half decomposed animal product which used to be leather.

Jim Ewins
1-Nov-2009, 19:53
Take your camera to Tandy Leather they have the material, tools and willing expertise to help.

Jon Wilson
1-Nov-2009, 20:06
Thank you for your suggestions. My new "leather" Premo No. 6 is a whole plate camera and I am thinking about taking the leather off and seeing what the wood looks like. I came across a picture of one (5x7 premo no. 6) on apug with the wood finished. It might actually be easier to finish the wood as opposed to installing new leather on the camera.

I am going to have to think long and hard as to how this project will progress. But first, I have an order in for some whole plate film and will just enjoy the format.

Thank you again for your assistance. It is appreciated.


Steven Tribe
2-Nov-2009, 02:52
Jon - stripped 1890 - 1905 flat bed cameras are not uncommon. Recently there was a ebay.de seller who described it as a "rare tropical version". The wood is usually quite good - but they obviously selected the most regular grained timbers for the bed and rails. You can always decide to reapply the leather later. I would have thought that you would have to invest more time in getting a finish on the mahogany as it only got a finish which would give a flat surface on the leather. And what about concealed buttons for locking. These copper buttons will fall out as they are loose under the leather?

Steven Tribe
2-Nov-2009, 03:05
The Scottish company who specialises in small pieces of thin leather is hewit.com. They have an exciting website about leather - mostly for bookbinders - which is highly suitable for cameras too. I don't have any personal experience about using them but I think they look as if they know what they are talking about.

2-Nov-2009, 07:24
I've been doing a lot of stripping lately. Acetone and a straight-edge to strip the leather and glue, then prep and sand and apply the new covering with Pliobond or similar. If you're able to remove the original covering in large enough pieces you can use them as a pattern for your replacement.