leath•er•ette (ˌlɛð əˈrɛt)
n. a material constructed and finished to simulate leather.
The material used on the Minolta Autcord, and many other cameras of that time, was a vinyl material with a leather pattern. Older Leicas had a covering made of vulcanized rubber (usually people refer to this as sharkskin vulcanite) and later models used vinyl material. Lacquer was a common adhesive to attach these materials to the metal camera body.
Over time these materials become brittle. You have probably seen many old cameras with the leatherette peeling in the corners or random sections missing … so you would naturally assume it would be easy to remove … NOT !!!
The leatherette that is already peeling away means that the lacquer/adhesive underneath has disappeared making it very easy for those pieces to flake off. I had a Leica IIF where the vulcanite had shrunk so it was peeling away on the front. I was able to pull off the entire piece that wrapped around the camera intact.
Most of the time you have leatherette that is still attached to the body and becomes a pain to remove.
Some say to use “softeners” like Acetone to break down the adhesives … problem is that the adhesive is underneath.
I looked into tools for this.
Chopsticks shaved down … worked for a couple of scrapes then became dull.
Screw driver … ones with a sharp point are not wide enough, and sometimes caused grooves in the metal … though a Dremel with a grinding wheel makes easy work on those cheap screwdrivers to modify them.
Then I encountered a suggestion on the web … dental chisels.
Sharp and somewhat wide, and some not sharp … these worked great and continued to work without dulling quickly.
I picked up a pack of different types for less than $20.00
The larger pieces of leatherette on the Autocord came off in single pieces, while the Minolta-35 was brittle so I ended up with a table splattered with flakes.
Recovering is the easier part. You can get leatherette pre-cut for many cameras or buy a sheet and cut yourself (see About the tools).
If you are cutting yourself, you can get sheets with or without adhesive.
You can really use any flexible material you can think off (that is not too thick … most cameras are good with 0.4 to 0.7mm thickness).
Clean off the body with Acetone.
Use painters tape mask off the areas. Apply many layers.
Cut around to edges with a very sharp knife. If you make a mistake, just apply more tape.
Once you are satisfied with the cuts, peel off the tape. Then apply the tape to the new covering material.
Use a sharp knife to cut out the pieces.
For adhesive I use Pliobond … yeah it does smell funny, but it goes away after a while.
I will show off the re-covered camera later, as I am still working on it.