How to Apply Leather to a Table Top


The top of a table takes a lot of abuse. But, if the legs and frame are in good condition, a leather top will make an old table look new. You can apply leather by covering the tabletop completely--by wrapping it like a gift or applying a leather inlay--or by simply applying a piece of leather and using upholstery tacks as an embellishment. This is the simplest and least expensive method, which should take no more than an afternoon’s work.

Things You'll Need

  • Leather top, custom or raw leather
  • Heavy shears
  • Painter’s tape
  • Furniture stripper
  • Sandpaper, 200 grit
  • Wallpaper paste, vinyl
  • Upholstery tacks
  • Tack hammer
  • Measure the length and width of your table top.

  • Calculate the size of the leather top you will need by subtracting 4 inches from both the length and width measurements. This will allow a 2-inch border on all sides. Adjust these measurements if desired.

  • Trim raw leather to the desired size. Sharpen your shears or craft knife as you move from one edge to another.

  • Position the leather on the table, and “frame” it or "outline" it on all sides with painter’s tape. Remove the leather, but leave the tape on the table.

  • Strip the surface inside the tape frame with a liquid furniture stripper. Roughen the stripped surface with 200-grit sandpaper.

  • Apply a thin layer of vinyl wallpaper paste to the surface inside the tape frame, then remove the tape. You should have a perfect rectangle, wet with paste.

  • Position the raw leather at one edge of the rectangle of paste and unroll it carefully.

  • Smooth out the leather with your hands and lay heavy books on it--reaching every corner--to strengthen the bond. Allow the paste to dry.

  • Leave the raw leather top as is or embellish it with upholstery tacks. Measure 1/2 inch in from every edge of the leather and mark the leather with tailor’s chalk. Measure along those lines and mark where you will place the tacks, about 2 inches apart.

  • Apply the tacks carefully with a small tack or ball-peen hammer. Be careful not to hit the leather because it will show the dents.

Tips & Warnings

  • When buying raw leather, look for a lighter leather, between 2 oz. and 5 oz. in weight. The leather can be color or finish you desire, but a darker leather will retain its looks and hide stains better than a light one. Steer clear of buckskin, suede or rough pigskin, which will look grubby after continued use.
  • Consider purchasing a custom-made top to suit your dimensions and design specifications.
  • Maintain the leather top with a conditioner and surface treatment. The conditioner will keep the leather like new, but a surface treatment usually includes waxes like carnauba and beeswax, which make the leather water and stain resistant. Alternatively, apply neutral shoe polish over a conditioner.
  • Do not apply tacks until you are satisfied with your markings.

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  • Photo Credit leather image by Andrii Oleksiienko from
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