A change of leather-scenery

Here’s a casual how-to on replacing the camera leather on your camera.

I got mine from Aki Asahi, a producer of many different types of camera leathers with self-adhesive backs. I had purchased some of his stuff once before, recovering a few Polaroid SX-70s and an old OM-1 a few years ago. He’s great to do business with- even ships before receiving payment (!). He sells a set for the Leica M6 / MP, and thanks to the aforementioned pre-adhesive backing AND the extremely precise laser cuts of leather that Aki Asahi supplies changing the skin on my camera was far easier than I thought it was going to be.

You’ll need the following:

– A camera.
– A new leather cover. This example uses the #4034 Pebble Emboss leatherette.
– A small flathead screwdriver.
– A small paint brush.
– Some rubbing alcohol. (pouring a little into a plastic film canister can help with this task)
– A smooth, flat surface to work. (I used the black plastic bag in the photo above)
– About an hour of your time.

Front:

This camera has been covered twice (three times?) during high level maintence/repair trips to the Leica service center. Each time the camera came back there has been a bubble in the leather near the frame preview lever. You can see it in the image above. I’ve seen many used M7s in the shops with the leather starting to curl and peel off from the edges. Come to think of it, I’ve seen Leica M9s already in similar condition as well.

Rear view- There used to be a full coat of thick paint on edges to the sides of the rear door. Not anymore and not for a long time.

The stock leatherette on the Leica MP is kind of like what you’d find at the bottom of a jacuzzi to keep people from slipping. There’s nothing wrong with it, really. But why not change things up a little? The worst thing that’ll happen (from my own experience) is that Shinya Arimoto will call you a geek (’tis true). Rather than your actual images, the only thing it will slightly alter is a tactile relationship your hands have with your camera. This, and the reasonable pricing of Aki Asahi’s wares was enough for me to try it out.

The stock leatherette peels off fairly easily- use a small screwdriver to get it started. It may tear in a few places, particularly around the lens and frame preview lever, though. Brushing some alcohol onto the remaining bits of adhesive on the body and letting it sit for a little bit made them easy to remove. But DON’T USE A TISSUE because your work will have just doubled or tripled with all the little shreds of tissue that you’ll have to remove afterwards. Rounding it all up with a small flathead screwdriver and removing it your fingers works best.

When totally naked your camera will look like this:

What follows was a process which didn’t let me stop to snap any photos. For a more visually detailed explanation of what comes next the step by step example on the Aki Asahi website is very useful.

For a Leica, first take the bottom plate and battery cap off before proceeding. You won’t need to remove any other parts of your camera, even the film rewind and frame selector levers.

Once ready, peel off the new leatherette from it’s wax paper backing and lay it face down onto a smooth surface that you can get wet with rubbing alcohol. Once it is laid flat, with the paint brush apply a liberal amount of rubbing alcohol to the adhesive. This will weaken the stickiness just enough for you to make adjustments in positioning of the cover when applying it to the camera body.

For a Leica M, the leatherette has a hole to let the frame preview lever poke through. START HERE. Once that is positioned, wrap the leather around the rest of the body. Work it upwards with your fingers and check that the edge of the cover is tight with the edge of the top plate. Remember that little flathead screwdriver I mentioned earlier? Use that to gently press down the edges of the leather around any camera parts that it meets up against. In particular, around the lens mount and battery compartment.
Once it dries the leather will hold just as tight at anything from the factory.

I was rather pleased with the results- it looks almost exactly like what Leica is dressing up their Leica M9-P bodies in and is grippier than the standard cover the camera originally came with. I ought to mention the service price sheet at the Leica service center includes leather recovering— for 50,000 yen. That’s about $500 USD. Aki Asahi’s prices are far easier on one’s wallet.

Is all this really necessary?

Of course not.

Kind of fun?

Sure.

Aki Asahi supplies leathers for a whole slew of cameras- check out his store to see the full selection.

5 thoughts on “A change of leather-scenery

  1. That’s awesome!
    I have a bubble on my MP and you’ve inspired me to reskin it!
    And if it has more grip, even better!

    Aki-ashi shows four different materials. I’m curious as to which one you used, #4008?

    cheers!

  2. i just had my M2 changed last year, if not it would be certainly something interesting to try – will have to keep it in mind
    :-)

  3. Great post, John! Coincidentally, I have just re-skinned my M8 with Aki Asahi’s #4034, and it looks fabulous. I, too, wrote a short blog post about the process: http://www.efixmedia.de/photography/2012/04/20/re-skinning-the-leica-m8/
    Negligent as I was, I forgot the water/alcohol trick to make the leatherette less sticky … it work nonetheless. Also, your tip to start with the frameline selecion lever sounds reasonable — this was the most difficult part for me as I started on the back.

  4. Just finished re-skinning my M2. Large chunks of the original skin broke off on a recent trip to Korea.
    It took most of the morning to scratch what was left off as it had become so brittle.
    Not sure if I didn’t get it on right in places but the skin from Aki Asahi didn’t line up in places.
    But the finish look robust and it feels like a new camera!

    Thanks for the tips John.

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