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How Is Patent Leather Made?



Patent leather is leather that has a shiny surface created by the application of varnishes or lacquers.

More Info: The application of one or more coats of varnish or lacquer gives patent leather its mirror like shine. The coating can be made from linseed oil, polyurethane, or other synthetic plastic-like resins.

The Hide becomes Leather

The first step in creating any patent leather product begins with a leather hide.  An animal hide, usually cowhide, is treated to make leather.  Animal hides are preserved through a process called tanning.  Tannic acid is used to remove water from the hide and cement the protein fibers together.  The tanned hide is then thoroughly dried prior to processing with the patent leather finish.


Seemingly stiff while remaining pliable, the curious coating known as patent leather is achieved through a process called japanning.  Japanning is a method for varnishing a surface to achieve a glossy finish to imitate East Asian lacquer work.  Japanning varnishes are usually resin based and often include dye pigments.

The Patent Leather Process

Patent leather is made from a variety of ingredients, generally consisting of polyurethane and/or lacquer among other ingredients, and is applied to the leather hide itself rather than the finished product.  Generally, several coats are applied to the hide, with a vacuum drying process performed between each coat.  The first coat is designed to penetrate the leather; the second coat contains the dye, while the third coat becomes the glossy, waterproof finish.

Once the patent leather process is complete, the hide can be made into a variety of products.

How to Remove Scuff Marks from Patent Leather

You can remove light scuffmarks on the surface of patent leather with the use of mineral oil or petroleum jelly. Simply use a soft, dry cloth to apply either product to the scuff and rub until it disappears. For deep scuff marks on black patent leather, you can attempt to mask them by dabbing a black felt tip marker on a damp paper towel and rubbing the area.



“Manufacture of Japanned and Enameled Leather.” Leather Processing and Tanning Technology Handbook. Kamla Nagar, Delhi: National Institute of Industrial Research, 2009. 297-302. Print.

Thorstensen, Thomas C.. Practical Leather Technology. 3rd ed. Malabar, Fla.: R.E. Krieger Pub. Co., 19851984. Print.

“Japanning (decorative art) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.” Britannica Online Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012. < topic/301315/japanning>

Leather — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.” Britannica Online Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2012.


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