"Wet method" application

Please read this page and the next one fully before applying your new covering!

Is recovering your camera really something you want to attempt yourself? If you have basic hobby skills, the answer is "yes" and if you are reasonably good with your hands the answer is also "yes". Based on the number of kits we send to camera owners versus camera repairers, the answer is "yes" for most photographers. 

Even if you feel confident enough to 'dive in" it's still important to read these pages. This page describes some basic approaches, and the next page describes the "wet method" of critical application. Read them both before you start. And email us if you are unsure of anything!

Your parts arrive on the release side of a clear carrier sheet. The back of the sheet looks identical, but it is an "adhere" surface, so don't accidentally set the parts on this side, since they will require some effort to remove. The carrier sheet also serves as an important tool for a clean, accurate job . . . it will keep the cover from sticking down when and where you don't want it. Read on . . .

All cameraleather kits are self-adhering and require no glue for a perfect application. The adhesive on the back is very aggressive, and will try to stay on the camera where it first touches. When you start, it's very important to keep any section from sticking too soon, or in the wrong spot. To avoid sticking, you should expose only the leading edge during initial placement. . . so that it hangs just off the end of the carrier sheet. 

For the front pieces, you should expose the "inboard" ends just enough to allow them to be placed up to the lens mount. In the photo at left, notice how the section has been placed just far enough off the carrier sheet to expose the full scalloped edge. In other words, the piece should hang out only (but always) far enough to allow full contact along the leading edge. The carrier sheet should be visible only above and below our new section of leather.  For a rectangular piece, you need only expose about 1 cm, just enough to  get the edge to stick down.

For the opposite side, the leather section has been placed a little further off the sheet, for an initial application around the PC socket. Look closely and you can see the carrier sheet underneath, just to the lower left of the "KONICA" lettering. This is also the method used if you are applying the kit over a self timer arm. (See the Leica M support page for more on the over/under method of getting the new cover around the self timer.)

The idea is to use the carrier sheet to keep only the important leading edge of the active adhesive in contact with the camera body during initial application. This keeps the cover from sticking and lets you slide it around more freely to get the most accurate placement.

Now the new section is moved right up to the lensmount and is seated accurately on the PC socket. At this point you want to look at how you are lined up on the top and bottom. Most of us amateur repair people are very good at placing the piece correctly "right-left" but a "top-bottom" error, or skewing, is easy to make.  It may not be apparent until you wrap the piece all the way around, and find that it rides up over the top or bottom plate, leaving a gap on the opposing edge. Here's the second job for the clear carrier sheet: it allows you make sure the bottom and top edges of the new piece are perfectly aligned all the way to the outboard end.  By looking at the top and bottom edges through the carrier sheet you can make sure you're lined up right. Now you can press the cover down at the inboard end, lift the outboard end up slightly to remove the carrier sheet, and press the rest of the section down fully.

We used the Konica S2 to illustrate another point: On most cameras of this type, it's necessary to get the inboard edge of the new piece slightly under the lens until it butts up against the mount.  In this photo there's about 1mm of grey leather you can't see. Only in this way will the outboard end of the cover "end" in the proper place. This is not really an issue on leather sections with a hole cut out for a PC socket, self timer, "G-III" badge, etc.---since these holes  serve as the definitive "left-right" guide.
An important thing to keep in mind is the idea of "jumping ahead" when you place any section of new leather. In other words, as you concentrate on placing the new section at the starting point, you should visually "jump ahead" right away, as far as you can to the other end and sides, without actually adhering the leather to any points in between. This will prevent the natural inclination to stick the cover down incrementally as you go along, as if you were painting a wall from one end to the other. This tendency should be avoided, since you will not be aware of any slight error until is shows up at the opposite end, and is no longer so slight! Remember a skewing error starts out invisibly and gets worse as you move along. An effective way to "jump ahead" is on the diagonal: if your starting point is at the bottom plate, inboard, then jump ahead visually to the top plate, outboard.

Another way to avoid skewing is by taking some masking tape and applying a strip at the top and bottom margins. (Assuming the old covering has not shrunk, you can even do this before removing it, which will show you exactly where the cover should stop.)  The light colored tape, seen through the clear carrier, provides a good visual aid for "jumping ahead" and very precise placement.

Most front sections of leather are bordered on the top and bottom by a cast metal edge, or a top plate. It's pretty easy to place the leather against this sharp edge. However, most backs are made from stamped metal, and the top and bottom edges are typically a "rolling" lip that is not as well defined. A skewing error is much more likely here, so the tape guide is especially helpful. Take your time in checking the placement of the tape . . . it's just as easy to skew the tape as it is the new covering!

Although it's not as important now that we have our tape guides, we're using the same technique of placing only a portion of the cover off the carrier sheet, and sticking that end in place. For now we just need to  get a good placement on the edge, since we'll rely on our masking tape guides to finish up . . . 

Preventing a skewing error is important, because it's such an easy error to make, even for competent repair techs. An error can be so slight that it still looks and feels perfect. (Especially if your new cover is black!) But over time your fingers will start to feel a little ridge on the top or bottom edge, usually just on one side of the camera. This is guaranteed to become bothersome, and can expose a leather edge that may eventually lead to peeling or lifting. As a final step, It's a good idea to run your fingers lightly along the top and bottom edges all around, and feel for any high spots. It's easier to get it perfect now than it will be later!

Now, we will take this technique one step further in a more complex setting . . .

We're now placing some grey lizard skin on the front left section of a Pentax LX. We are not attempting to remove the self timer arm, something that should always be avoided unless it's really necessary.

We've cut down a section of the carrier sheet to be just a little bigger than our new leather section. If you remove the leather temporarily from the carrier sheet, remember to always place the adhesive side of the leather on the release side of the sheet, and not the adhere side.
If you're not sure, just stick a small corner of the leather to each side of the sheet, and the release and adhere sides will make their presence known immediatley!

The dull side of the carrier sheet can be marked with a pencil or marker, to provide a pattern that will expose just the leading edge of the new leather. You should leave no more than about one centimeter of adhesive showing. You can cut along the lines with scissors or a hobby knife.

This is about right. If I were doing this over again, I would take the carrier sheet all the way up to the self timer hole. The idea is to have the active adhesive only along the inboard edge of the new leather piece.

Now, we want to remove the leather part, and set it aside on the release side of another piece. Take the trimmed down carrier sheet in our hands . . . and crunch it up. That's right . . . don't smash it into a ball, but work it in your fingers so that you end up with something quite wrinkled, and as you are doing this, remember which side is the release surface. By doing this we will make it much easier to slide the carrier sheet away once the new leather piece has been accurately placed, since the active adhesive side of our leather will only stick to part of the wrinkled surface.

Now, place the new leather section back on the release side of the wrinkled carrier sheet. With some scissors or a hobby knife, trim off the top and bottom edges flush with the new leather. . .

Here is our newly wrinkled carrier sheet, cut neatly along the top and bottom edges of the leather. If we turned the piece over, the only  part of the carrier sheet visible would be off the left edge of the piece.

I've taken the additional step of cutting the narrow point between the self timer hole and the inboard edge.  This makes it easier to get around the self timer, and once the leather is down, the incision will not be visible.

Don't worry . . . this is just what technicians at Leica do when they apply the factory covering around the lens preview lever of the MP and M7.

Set the self timer arm to the "9 AM" position. On most self timer arms, you will be able to partly activate the arm, although  on some cameras you may have to set the arm more fully to keep it from creeping back.

Using the "over/under" method, slide the right edge of the leather OVER the self timer arm, and the left edge of the hole UNDER
the self timer.

Before I press down on the active adhesive area with a small chisel, I've made sure:

1) The cover is accurately placed at the inboard edge and around the timer.

2) By "jumping ahead" I can see the top and bottom edges line up perfectly all the way left to the out board end of the camera.

You don't need to use a chisel . . . your fingers are fine!

Now we are ready to pull away the carrier sheet.  You may have to pull a little to release it.  Don't pull so hard that you move the leather left.  If the carrier sheet resists, slip a credit card  or something thin under the cover and push gently inboard so that you release some of the adhesive that is holding down the sheet.

You may find you can re-use the same carrier sheet for other leather sections.

You're now free to finish setting the outboard end of the leather.

So far we have been applying the leather "dry". First time recovering attempts, and those on more complex cameras such as Leica M's, may consider the "wet" method of application. With the wet method, we use a fluid instead of the carrier sheet to prevent the cover from sticking where or when we don't want it.  There are some other advantages to the wet method, so please proceed to the next page . . .