Pressing with a Form Finisher

Tom Lucenta |

Ever wish you could steam the wrinkles out of a suede or leather garment? Even though I’ve advised against it in the past, you can!
In the past, I’ve explained that pressing suede and leather garments with a hand iron is almost exactly like pressing cloth garments. And in the case of a steam/air form finisher, you can use the same techniques you would use in form-finishing cloth garments such as coats and jackets — including the steam cycle.
That’s right — in spite of what I’ve said before, you can use live steam on most suede and leather garments. Why did I say never to let live steam come into contact with a skin on the press? Simple: A form finisher such as a Suzy is not a press, so the rule against steam no longer applies.
On a press, the head comes down and puts pressure on the article getting pressed. With the head down, steam is usually applied while the head is locked and the garment is under pressure. Most skins will draw up when they get wet with steam and have too much heat applied to them. The exception is when steam pressure is lower than 40 PSI; then, wet steam can be used to press most suedes and naked leathers safely.
The conditions are not the same on a form finisher. Steam is applied to the skin, but the garment is not locked against a press head under heat and pressure. Therefore, applying steam to most suedes and leathers on a form finisher will not harm them; instead, it will steam out the wrinkles, and the air will dry the garment while holding it taut — just like it would on a cloth item.PRESSING PRECAUTIONS
There are, of course, a few precautions to observe when using a form finisher. I say that you can use a steam/air form finisher on most suede and leather garments because there are some that you don’t want to form-finish.
Never try to form-finish a fur or a shearling. Never try to form-finish a chamois suede on the regular cycle, since it will invariably shrivel and turn into a claim. The same thing can happen to any soft, delicate lambskin suede or leather.
Also, be careful not to apply too much steam to soft, painted leathers, because the steam can be trapped by the impervious lacquer leather paint on the surface of the skin, allowing heat to build up enough to make the skin draw up. The same is true of delicate snakeskins, fishskins and birdskins.
Adjust the length of the steam cycle to suit the type of skin with which you’re working. You may try just a shot of steam on delicate skins, while lengthening the program for thicker, tougher skins such as cowhides and pigskins. They can tolerate more steam, and you may be able to increase the length of the steam cycle to nearly as much as that used for cloth coats.
In addition, you might wish to install a steam regulator to regulate steam pressure down to 40 PSI, which is safe to use on most suedes and leathers.
Place suede and leather coats on the form finisher just like you would like cloth coats; use the front, back and vent clamps as necessary. Use sleeve expanders as usual, but instead of standing idly by as the form finisher goes through a preset steam/air cycle, brush up the nap of a suede coat with a suede mitt while the cycle runs. At the end of the cycle, the nap will be fully brushed, and the only parts left to brush will be the areas covered by the clamps.
Smooth leather coats don’t have a nap and won’t have to be brushed. For optimal results, however, you should press leathers all over, or at least hand-iron the collars, lapels, pocket flaps, etc.
Many suedes can be finished completely on the form finisher. Others may have to be touched up with a hand iron, as described last month. Collars, lapels, pocket flaps, belts and hoods might need to be hand-ironed or pressed.

About the author

Tom Lucenta

Royaltone Co. Inc.

Vice president

Tom Lucenta is vice president of Royaltone Co., a company specializing in techniques and products for cleaning leathers, suedes and furs. With his father, Frank, Tom trains operators to process leathers, suedes and furs using the Royaltone system; he has also written two texts on the subject, Handling Leather & Suede and Cleaning & Finishing Leather & Suede. Royaltone also offers a training DVD on wetcleaning leathers and suedes. The next live training session is scheduled for February 18-19, 2010. Call Royaltone at 918-622-6677 or e-mail [email protected].


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