Shagreen and Parchment

Tips on sourcing and working with unusual animal hide-based veneer materials: shagreen and parchment. April 18, 2010

Does anyone have tips on applying shagreen and/or parchment to furniture?

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor B:
Good luck with this one. Most people that actually know how to work with shagreen don't seem overly willing to share the hard earned knowledge. There is some info on the internet of use but you will probably need to experiment. I have heard fish glue works well but haven't tried it myself.

From contributor G:
Try experimenting with hot hide glue in a manner like hammer veneering. Or canned (3M or other) spray adhesive of one type or another and a roller.

Please share your source of shagreen and parchment.

From contributor W:
I found two sources, both in NYC:

Dualoy Leather and Talas Bookibinding Supplies. I haven't bought any, but the Talas website shows a good variety of colors, and a price of $75/skin. Do you have any experience working with them?

From contributor J:
We [Pergamena] are parchment producers and suppliers. We produce it here in NY State and are the only producers in North America. We have sold to Dualoy in the past, but not to Talas. They may offer some skins for $75 each, but these are poor quality South American or Asian skins. They do offer European parchment, but these are exorbitantly marked up. I'd like to think we can hold our own against our European counterparts in quality and price. This is not even taking into account the delivery times and the savings on exchange rates and shipping costs. We have been supplying furniture panelers and interior designers for several years, as well as bookbinders and calligraphers. We offer goat, sheep, calf, and deerskin parchment.

From contributor R:
What would parchment typically be used for in furniture? Drawer linings or something? I build custom furniture and am interested in incorporating new materials in my pieces but lack the imagination of where to use this material. Your website is well laid out and gives lots of info about the making of the material but I didn't see anything on how to use/attach any of the skins to a final product.

From contributor J:
Parchment is an expensive material that would probably best be displayed on exterior surfaces where it could be most appreciated. I have applied it myself on chair seats, and have seen it used on drawer fronts, table tops, cabinet panels, just to name a few items.

As far as guidance on application, it is a very labor intensive and tricky operation that doesn't lend itself well to mass production. This is a good part of its appeal, along with the fact that if done well, it is absolutely stunning and unique. If you'd like to see some historical examples, look for Jean Michel Frank, Emil Jacques Rhulman, Eileen Gray, Paul Dupre-Lafon. There are several mid-century European designers that employed parchment in their designs. There is an increasing market in doing reproductions and reinterpretations, as well as new original work. We have supplied many interior and furniture designers over the years and have been honored to see our material on some really beautiful works.

From contributor A:
Does anyone know of a sealant for Shagreen? We would like to specify it for a cocktail table top and are concerned with liquid spilling on the surface and staining. We have noticed that even water will leave a mark on the surface.

From contributor G:
Tandy's Leather used to sell a leather glazing or topcoat to seal leather. Might try that. My guess is that most clear finishing products would have adhesion issues. What about Armorall, the stuff for automobile dashboards? It is meant to stick to vinyl. It does need to be recoated every so often and is a bit glossy (in a plastic sort of way). Also, TALAS (the library/preservation supply site) sells British Museum Dressing, a leather dressing that is about 50/50 neatsfoot oil and lanolin, with a bit of beeswax. Also shoe repair shops sell boot dressing, to waterproof leather boots.