Artificial Leather Entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica MDCCCLXXXII

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LEATHER, Artificial. Under the name of artificial leather, or of American leather cloth, large quantities of a material having, more or less, a leather-like surface are used, principally for upholstery purposes, such as the covering of chairs, lining the tops of writing desks and tables, &c. There is considerable diversity in the preparation of the material, but most commonly it consists of a web of calico first prepared with a thick paste to fill up the interstices, and thereafter coated with a mixture of boiled linseed oil mixed with dryers and lamp-black or other pigment, uniformly spread, smoothed, and compressed on the cotton surface by passing it between metal rollers. When the surface is to possess a glossy enamel-like appearance, it receives a finishing coat of copal varnish. A grained morocco surface is given to the material by passing it between suitably embossed rollers. Another material now largely used for preparing artificial leather consists of gelatine mixed with appropriate colouring materials, and such chemical agents such as, by their reaction on that body, render it insoluble, - calico being coated with the mixture in the manner indicated above. Such insoluble compounds are obtained by the action of acetate of alumina on gelatin, with exposure to a temperature of about 160º Fahr., or by the addition of about one per cent. of bichromate of potash to gelatine solution and exposure to light. The addition of a proportion of glycerin to the gelatinous mass renders the resulting “leather” softer and more plastic than it would otherwise be. These preparations have a close affinity to cloth water-proofed with India-rubber, and to such manufactures as ordinary waxcloth. An artificial leather has been patented and proposed for use as soles for boots, &c., composed of powdered scraps and cuttings of leather mixed with solution of gutta-percha dried and compressed. In place of the gutta-percha solution, oxidized linseed oil or dissolved resin may be used as the binding medium for the leather powder.