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Playing with leather dyes

This is the Forum for the art of Bookbinding, post your questions and answers about bookbinding here.

Moderator: denis

Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Sun Oct 16, 2011 11:31 pm

Hi, folks.

Just a few pictures of recent pieces -- nothing fancy, but I wanted to display the coloration I'm getting from using natural dyes instead of aniline and other mixtures, such as ferrous sulphate.



Uploaded with

This one turned out well. The orange I obtained after combining a couple of different natural dyes with a kind of "activator" that produces a very bright orange tint.



Uploaded with

This one was done with varying strengths of walnut dye.



Uploaded with

This one was colored using strong walnut dye.



Uploaded with

A different view of the first one, with flash. (The smaller half binding wasn't colored by me -- the goatskin was already aniline-dyed.)

I've been working with "crude" tests but am putting together some controlled test data. So far my natural dyes are either very low in acidity or pH neutral.

Cheers,
S.
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:52 pm

WoW this is something im going to have to look into , great work , a really natural colour works perfectly with the style of bindings.
Brynn
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 6:03 am

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:05 pm

Thanks, Brynn.

I have to warn you: it is extremely difficult to do. I've learned everything through trial and error, but there's some insights out there. Check out Google Books. I especially recommend any book on the coloring of leather, and ancient recipes -- Navajo dyeing, Egypt, everything you can get your hands on.

This one is pretty useful: The Manufacture of Leather: Being a Description of all of the processes for... by Charles Thomas Davis.

You can download it for free from Google Books.

Generally the dyestuff needs to be boiled to extract the color then fermented for a long period of time. I ferment my stuff for several weeks, but I've got some batches that I won't attempt to use for several months, and a couple that I'll crack open next year.

Dyes like madder, lac, logwood are almost immediately usable but it's best to let them sit for a few days after boiling and simmering. Oh, and you'll need a mordant or fixative. I use an alkali mordant but read up on that stuff, too. I'm happy to nudge you along if you do give it a try. :)

Cheers,
S.
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Mon Nov 07, 2011 8:19 pm

Was the red/orange obtained through "madder root" ?
Brynn
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 6:03 am

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:48 am

Yes it was. Madder is very versatile. Once boiled for a few minutes it produces a lovely orange-brown, or can be shifted into red with the help of some alum.
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:37 am

Blimey time does fly :)
Ive now obtained 25g of madder root dried , and havent a clue how to go about making a dye from it , its amazing how little info there is on the net , not even a basic recipe to make madder into a leather dye , now if i wanted to dye cloth/wool id be laughing :)
Brynn
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 6:03 am

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:35 am

Hi, Brynn.

If it's dried roots, enclose them in some cheesecloth or something similar, tied up, and cover with water in a pot. If powdered, you can tie them up in some coffee filters. (Use a pot you don't care about, and something you don't need to cook in ever again... once you do this, it can no longer be used for cooking.)

Cover so that the water is just past the top of the bags. If you want to maintain a reddish dye, this will be a bit tricky, because madder can't be heated too quickly or too hot. Start on low, and gradually increase the temperature up to medium. Let this simmer for about a half hour, and use an object to drop a droplet of the liquid on a paper towel. If it's a deep color, then it's ready to drain. If still a bit thin, let it simmer more. You want the concentrated color from the bottom. When ready to drain, pour it out, re-fill the pot and repeat this until you have enough dye extracted for what you'd like to use.

Note that if you want a brown shade from the madder you can increase the temperature to medium high, or high. Madder being boiled gets the browns to come out.

Once you have the dye extracted, add a bit of the original dried madder to the bunch and allow it to ferment, which will result in a really rich dye, but it will take about four months. If you do this, keep the mixture in a jar or corked bottle so you can burp it regularly. Glass is inert, so it won't interfere with the process.

The fermented dye will need to be strained, and can be applied with a sponge, brush, etc. Once applied it's a good idea to buff the area lightly to remove excess dye on the surface, then oil the skin. This forces it to dry from the inside out, rather than the outside. If it dries from the outside, you'll lose color as it does. I recommend adding about 10% to the volume of the dye you're using some galnut extract, as this is the best anti-UV agent I've found, and a pinch of soda ash and citric acid (quite literally a tiny pinch). This helps to saturate the leather collagen. Don't worry, the effect on the leather will be negligible. All the dyes I make test to be near neutral pH. The soda raises the pH so that you can add the pinch of citric acid in the least damaging pH range.

You can follow this process for other substantial dyestuffs, such as barks, walnuts, beat roots... fruit you can also ferment, though without boiling. Just crush the stuff a bit and ferment, again for about four months. Some require longer due to climate, so test when you think it's ready. Generally it's ready when it smells of cheap wine. :)
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:02 pm

Hello Shea_M

I cant thank you enough for taking the time and trouble , to walk me through the process , im very thankful to you :)

As im still waiting for the madder root & also oak bark powder to arrive , i thought id have a go with some "Liberon Van Dyck Crystals" (walnut husks) which i have for ageing paper , this never worked on leather with the my normal prep , but by using the method you outlined above , its made a great dark brown dye which takes to the leather like a duck to water !! , thank you for opening up a new exciting adventure in bookbinding :)
Brynn
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 6:03 am

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:35 pm

Hi, Brynn.

Great, that's good news -- I'm happy to have been of help. That walnut husk dye is really, really substantive and works great for leather. The longer you let it sit, the better it gets. I have a small batch that I've kept for two years and it makes jet black, which is important because historical methods of making a black dye or chemically treating the leather to become black are known to damage the skin and cause corrosion. This stuff won't, it just lacks all the properties necessary for damage. Of course, time will take its toll one day...

Have fun!

If you ever want/need dye advice privately, you can reach me via tulipbookbinding.com.
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:35 pm

Brynn
 
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Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:14 pm

Hi, Brynn.

If water is taking it off, then it did not penetrate enough, and isn't quite strong enough yet. This is the main reason behind fermenting the stuff for many months. Once it goes through that process it's incredibly powerful and goes on just like aniline. I've experimented with this for years now. Of course, buffing it and washing it will take off some, but a negligible amount. Once the dye is on, the skin should be permanently sealed. After I dye, I buff lightly to remove the excess on the surface then allow it all to dry with the book under a weight or in a press, and once done the entire skin is sealed with a medium water-based sealant.

EDIT: It occurs to me that you may be using leather that has a polyurethane or another type of coating on it, which most leathers do. Because of this, natural dyes are hit and miss. You'll get better results by using a leather deglazer to remove that finish prior to applying your dye. This is why I mentioned a sealant above -- once that finish is removed, you'll have to re-finish the skin. If you do this, be absolutely sure that you wear gloves and eye protection, and you do it in a well ventilated area. Deglazer fumes are very powerful and will stink up a room for a couple of hours without ventilation.

--I am that same user, yes. :wink:
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:38 am

Hi , thanks for the added info , well its a veg tanned pig skin , and others dyes are taking , so its just a case of letting that dye to ferment i suppose !
Ive got some madder dye now fermenting , a small amount of reddish dye and a much larger amount of brownish dye , so now a short wait of 4 months to see if it works LOL

Next on my list to try is "Cochineal" ive managed to source 10g of "Cochineal extract" or 25g of Cochineal ,both at roughly the same price , so im assuming via the price they would both make the same amount ? i havent a clue if the amount they would make would be viable on a price point , as there not cheap !!!
Would the method and timescale of making this into a dye , be the same as the madder etc ?

Many thanks as always :)
Brynn
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed May 12, 2010 6:03 am

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Shea_M on Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:29 am

I haven't tried to dye pigskin yet, so I'm curious to see how that will turn out.

This is definitely one of those things that you have to experiment with. Climate is a huge factor. So long as you keep the stuff in a dark place and in moderate humidity they should produce good dyes. If not, play with it -- don't ferment all over again, but try increasing the quantity of additives. In the winter I need to add a pinch more citric acid, whereas in the summer I add barely any at all.

Cochineal is usable immediately -- it requires no fermentation time. You can add it in a small amount of water. A pinch of the powder in 1/4 cup water is usually what I make, and it's powerful. You may need to add a little alum to brighten it into pinks, or add a bit of copperas to make it more purple. All you need is a couple grains of the copperas, just a whiff. Too much and it will damage the leather.

It can be applied with a brush, sponge, pretty much anything. Get yourself some powdered gallnut extract to mix in, as it will help it become fade-resistant. You can also mix it with denatured perfumer's alcohol. The alcohol evaporates very quickly and only serves as a delivery mechanism for the dye. It won't dry out the skin.

The best price I've ever seen for cochineal is $25 per ounce. If you're getting it for less than that, then I'd like to know where it's coming from!
Shea_M
 

Re: Playing with leather dyes

Postby Brynn on Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:59 am

Brynn
 
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