Burnishing leather is an essential process of cleaning up and creating a smooth feel along the exposed seams to make your project look more professional and appealing. Completing your leather project without burnishing the edges is more or less like leaving your house without putting on deodorant. The burnishing effect may be subtle. However, it does make a significant difference.
There are three methods, including the use of water, wax, or a gum tragacanth. Although everyone has their unique touch on the process, below is a comprehensive but easy guide on how to burnish leather. This process will help keep your leather edges looking glossier and darker. Burnishing relies on friction, which in turn creates heat that compresses the fibers in the sides of your leather. This is the process of burnishing leather.
How to Burnish Leather Step by Step Guide
1.Getting the Essentials
First things, first! Every process has its tools, and for burnishing, you will need to have a slicker, sandpaper, edge beveller, gum tragacanth, water, wax, paper towels, and a leather conditioner. Slickers or hand burnishers may come in plastic, wood, or glass. A canvas is necessary for creating some friction and can be used in place of the slicker. A drill mounted burnisher can as well be used, but you would require having a drill. Whatever items you decide to use is all a matter of your preference.
2.Cutting and Sanding
Before anything else, you ought to cut the edges into good, neat, and measured cuts. You have to do it slowly and with patience to ensure that you are sure of the outcome. This saves you a lot of time and frustration in the end. Also, your sandpaper comes in handy in this step.
You are required to sand the leather to remove some edges of your leather after cutting. It also helps remove any excess glue that may have stuck on. It is also necessary when you have glued two pieces of leather together, and you require bringing them to the same level.
An edge beveller aids you to round off your edges. They may not appear as perfect at this stage, but it prepares the leather for the smoothening process. If you skip this process and move straight to burnishing, the edges usually start to fold during the process of burnishing.
Also known as an edge shave or edger, it comes in a variety of sizes. Usually, sizes one to three are preferred for thin leather. The smaller the size, the less the beveller takes off from your edge, and the larger the size, the more it takes off from your side. If you are not sure of the best size, a number two should work just fine.
4.Using Water to Burnish
When it comes to burnishing leather with water, the process is quite easy. After you are done with all the above-written steps, slightly tampon the edge of your leather with some water. When using your edge slicker, move back and forth to create friction and compressing the fibers in the edge.
It is recommended that if you are doing a longer piece of leather, such as a strap that you section it into parts. These parts may be divided into an inch length. This is because you have to create enough friction to smoothen the edge. This is hard to achieve if you are doing the entire section at once.
Water burnishing is one of the most important methods of burnishing. One advantage of this method is that it is quite easy to follow. Also, it is cost-effective! The leather on completion feels smoother and appears darker.
5.Use of Dyes
Even though the leather appears darker after your first burnishing, some people still prefer to use dyes for an advanced and more attractive color. The stain is applied after the first burnishing if you would like it to adhere to the leather. This is one of the crucial leather finishing techniques that leave your leather looking nice and attractive. You, however, need to know the process of how to dye leather.
Beeswax is inexpensive and one of the best methods. In case you are wondering how to burnish leather edges with bee wax, it is easy and takes only a short while to complete. Apply some wax on the leather’s edge and again use your slicker to smoothen the edges.
While using wax, you may have to apply the wax several times to achieve the desired finish. After you are done, the edge seems a lot darker and feels a lot smoother than when you use water for the process.
A slicker has different sizes that enable you to work with varying levels of thickness on the leather without having to purchase a new hand burnisher.
7.Gum Tragacanth Burnish
Gum trag may be used instead of water burnish or even after it. Always shake the gum well before use. Using a paper towel, apply a small amount of the glue onto the edge of the leather. You have to do several coats with gum trag before you achieve a beautiful, desirable result. Therefore, you have to reapply every once in a while and then continue burnishing.
Also, before burnishing, you should let the gum to sit for about one minute, as if it is too wet, you may not get as much friction required while slicking. Allow the ‘gum trag’ some time to dry. After the process, you get a subtle, smooth finish on your leather’s edge. When compared to wax, it is usually a bit softer and also lighter in color.
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With that said, you now have three unique methods on how to burnish leather. The process that you opt for depends on your preference. A water burnish darkens the edge of the leather and makes it smoother. A wax burnish adds a darker appearance as well as a softer feel, which is also glossier. Gum trag burnish on top of the water burnish gives a smoother feel, although it does not darken the edge as much.
It is recommended that you use a top finish to make your edges more durable after you finish burnishing. Burnishing leather to achieve a mirror finish takes up to thirty or forty-five minutes. However, if you find that you are not getting any significant result after the first couple of burnishes, your edges may be too dry! To fix the dryness, you could apply some oil on the edges.