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How a Woodworking Convention in Philadelphia Completely Changed Our Leather Company

February 21, 2012
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“You realize this is a wood-show, don’t you?” That was what the man said to me as I setup at my DCT Leathers booth at a woodworking convention near Philadelphia, PA, circa 1998. The man gestured across the trade-show floor from where he’d come: a slick, pitch-perfect booth that showcased his company’s top-of-the-line woodworking machinery and the like.

I shrugged and said something like, “Well, I guess I thought this might be good way to reach out to the furniture industry.”

“Reach out to the furniture industry?”

“Yeah, I guess I figure woodworkers and furniture makers need leather to help make some of their furniture. That’s why I’m here.”

The man shrugged at my own shrug, smiled, and nodded good-bye, with a look on his face that said something along the lines of, “Yeah. Good luck buddy.” For all I knew he was right: out of a jam-packed woodworking convention center, mine was the only booth that had anything to do with leather. I stood stiffly behind my table, wondering if I’d made the right choice to make the trip here from Toronto.

The next day visitors were crowding around my booth, taking a look at the leather cowhides I offered. Some were antique restorers who needed customized leather to help refurbish a certain piece of furniture. Others were furniture manufacturers looking for new suppliers ; they wanted to see whether I could supply their leather needs in bulk. Others were just curious as to what I was doing at a woodworking show. At any rate, my booth got pretty crowded. At one point I glanced across the showcase floor to where the smirking woodworking salesman had come from: he just stood there along with his fellow salesmen, staring off into space for lack of a single customer.

It was my intuition that there was business to be gained in custom-leather furnishings that led me to Philadelphia  , and it was there at that convention that my intuition proved accurate. One area of business that customers kept asking me about was whether or not I supplied leather for desks. Not at that very moment I didn’t, I told them, but I was more than determined I would be soon!

Since that day, my company has sold many thousands of custom-made leather desktops from coast to coast in different colors and tooling designs. Black, rust, chestnut, oxblood, DK green, camel, and wine are just some of the 10 colors we carry. We also have over twenty patterns we can roll on our desktop leathers. With instructions included, we lay down the leather employing a process that utilizes wallpaper paste, which is mild enough that it allows you to put the piece of leather into place without wrinkling it, or otherwise stressing it.

Leather has the ability to “breathe”. For the very reason we wear leather on our feet it allows water to pass through it thus allowing the wallpaper paste to dissipate leaving a strong bond and adhering perfectly to the wooden desk.

With the proper amount of heat and “dwell time” (the rate by which we roll the gold patterns on to the leather), we’ve been able to design and fabricate desktops of unique beauty and grace that are prized throughout the consumer market. The leather we use for our desktop program is of course our very own Andrew Muirhead Fine Scottish Leather tanned and finished in Glasgow Scotland: a very important ingredient to our recipe.

Customized Leather Desktops have become an important part of our trade at DCT Leathers. Who would have thought, as I stood there at the Fort Washington convention center near Philadelphia at a woodworking symposium, that in a few short years my company would be selling leather desktops to some of the best woodworkers and furniture restorers in North America?

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