Most leather inserts are small and easy to install. I am deliberately demonstrating a difficult install to show the depth and detail of how to do this kind of work.

First, is your desk/table a antique period piece or modern with modern construction materials. If it is a antique with a secondary wood board surface  to apply the leather to then go to "STEP 1."

If it is a modern piece with a "PLYWOOD", "VENEERED"," "MDF", or "PARTICLE BOARD" the substrate surface then it MUST BE SEALED

Sealer must be generously applied to keep the water based adhesive  from causing de-lamination. I general use two or three coats of brush applied thinned down lacquer.


1. Photos 1. and 2. show that the surface  must be clean and all imperfections and irregularities must be removed before the application of the leather.

Also the back side of leather clean of all
dirt, wood chips, etc.

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2. Using a scraper and sandpaper, 80 grit is fine to use to smooth the surface.

All cracks and knot holes must be filled. Any and all imperfections will show through the leather and do not expect the leather to bridge any cavities.

Use a vacuum cleaner, compressed air, or broom to clean all dust and dirt off the back of the leather as well as the wood surface.
Cleaning high spots off is very important. Any imperfections will show through to the surface.

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3. A clear strippable wall paper paste as the adhesive for leather inserts has proven to be the best all around glue.
"ROMANS GOLDEN HARVEST" from Lowe's Home Improvement is a good brand "GH-34"( about $ 9 a gallon ). Golden Harvest
Universal Dry Adhesive.

Also recommended:

Roman's PRO-880
Roman's PRO-838

ROMANS Universal Wheat Paste

If the above can not be found then

Roman's GH-57

Any Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes stores  carry this brand. Any wall paper supply store.

When mixing the dry adhesive sprinkle the powder in a container of water as it is being stirred. The thickness should be somewhere between pancake batter and a thin pudding. The thinner the mix the longer the working time. So for large leathers make the adhesive thinner with water.

This glue is water based so will not affect any finish and provides
the good adhesion and gives you enough working time to install and fit the insert.

I recommend applying the paste with a plastic spreader that has a serrated edge.

Of course you can use the original 18th and 19th century glue made from wheat paste. Some of the Golden Harvest products are made with corn starch and wheat starch.

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As with any water based glue or paints drying time may vary
greatly according to the air temperature and humidity.

For large or complicated shaped leathers the thinner (watered down) the adhesive the longer the working time. I recommend thinning the adhesive or taking a spray bottle and liberally spray the wood surface and the suede side of the leather.



Applying the right amount of glue is CRITICAL to doing a good leather installation.
Too little glue and the leather will always remain loose and subject to
stretching and wrinkling.

Too much glue is not a big problem because it can be worked out
with roller (see pictures below).
By rolling with a rolling pin or paint roller from the center outward most if not all of the excess glue
will come out the sides and then cleaned up with paper towels.



Free adhesive spreader and free leather (scraps) are available upon request.
The glue spreader is designed to help apply the right amount of glue to the surface.
The leather scraps are used to practice and gain some skills in working with the glues,
leather and wood surface. It is much better to practice on scrap leather than an expensive
desk leather you have just paid for.



Order a scrap of leather and test it out by gluing it on the desk to find out the drying times.

1. Apply the adhesive to a clean area on the desk the same size as the scrape of leather.
2. Apply the scrape of leather, position it and smooth it out with a roller just as you would
do applying the full size leather.
3. Let dry 24 hours. In a cold environment 48 hours.
4. Try to lift up a corner. This test will show how long the drying times will be.
5. Pull off leather and clean surface with a scraper.


4. It is very important to lay the paste as evenly as possible.

The thickness of the glue will change the drying times.  It is important to take drying time into consideration because
leather will shrink and expand in different environments most inserts will not fit perfectly on a table so a certain amount of time and effort is needed to make adjustments.   
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All the desk leathers we sell are CUT TO EXACT SIZE. Take special care when
handling large leather sizes because they can be easily stretched out of shape.
For example, when a very large leather is picked up by two people from the four
corners and waked over to the desk be placed on the glued surface. The leather could
in up being 1/2" longer because it was handled this way.
This will make the installation more complicated and you probably will have to
do some trimming.

To avoid stretching a large desk leather install the leather so it lays down in perfect alignment and does not need to be pulled and pushed and stretched to get it in the correct position.

Measure the desk and the leather and mark the middle. Now roll up BOTH ends of the leather to meet in the middle where the mid point mark is.
Apply the adhesive and line up the middle points on both the desk and leather and roll it out,
it should be perfectly positioned. This part takes two people to do.

 These instructions are showing unusual circumstances in order to cover
all situations one might encounter when installing desk top leathers.



5. Sometimes the leather insert is larger than the area it is to be installed. In that case you will need to center the insert.
The key point here is to center the emboss. In other words make sure the gold emboss is a equal distance from the edge on all four sides.
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6. Now this is the part where you need the glue to dry slowly. This is the proper  positioning of the leather to the desk.
There is no fixed rules here except the equal distancing the embossing to the edge.   
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7. Just slowly keep pushing and adjusting the leather to the right position.
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8. If the leather is too large it will compress. In this photo I am pushing towards the middle of the desk.

For every square foot of leather it can be stretched or compressed (on the average)
1/4 of an inch.
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9. Now that the insert is well fitted and positioned in the center it is time to smooth out all of the bubbles and lumps.
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10. I have found that the best tool for getting a smooth surface is to use a plain old paint roller.
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This is one of the best tools and it only cost
 $ 5 at most grocery stores.



11. Start from the center and work out ward, pushing the bubbles out toward the outer edge. You will have to go over area many times to get a smooth surface. Watch out for lines formed by the roller's edge. Just go back over them with less weight on the roller.
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12. After the insert has a smooth surface and all the bubbles have been removed you may need to do more positioning by stretching and compressing the insert. The excess leather will need to be trimmed off. 
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Never place any kind of tape for any reason on a gilded/gold leaf emboss

Do all cutting and trimming while leather is still wet.



13. To trim the insert you will need to place a piece of cardboard or something similar between the wood and the insert to protect the wood surface.
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Very important to measure the "emboss" to the edge of the desk before
you make any cuts. This is to insure that the emboss is in a straight line
and is evenly positioned all the way around the desk.



14. Now take a straight edge and line up to the wood border.
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15. Take brand new blade and start trimming.

Do not press down too hard on the cutting blade. It is better to go over two or three times than cut through the cardboard or pull the leather out of position.
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16. Change blades often.
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Do all trimming before the adhesive has set up. This time period is between 20 minutes after application to 2 to 4 hours. This is to insure that if the you cut off too much you can still manipulate the leather to close any gaps.


17. A little more adjusting to get the perfect fit.
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17.B Another technique with a little practice can get a nice clean cut and a better fit. Use a new razor blade with the putty knife as a straight edge. Push hard into the corner with the putty knife.


18. Now take a dry paper towel and wipe up the excess glue.
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Sometimes you will have to tape down the edges.
Use only painters tape, that is a blue tape that has a very weak
adhesive. Do not leave it on longer than 24 hours.
To remove the tape never, ever pull straight up. Always pull
close to the surface and at a diagonal.



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19. Now take a clean wet cotton cloth or a paper towel and wring out as much of the water as possible and start wiping the rest of the glue off the wood finish and the insert.
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20. Let stand and dry for 24 hours and the job is complete.
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