Several years ago we began making rawhide lamp shades and selling them on the internet. Since those early days we have learned a lot about rawhide lampshades and have had the opportunity to help others also understand rawhide. There are reasons why it is sometimes loose or tight. And then, there is the care.
What is best to condition rawhide shades; and how do you do it? After all, you want to protect your investments in rustic lamps, lighting and home furnishings. When it is time to start that Arizona room project or bring in the western flavor to your space, it will be rawhide lamp shades that you will want because of their rustic design and functionality. Since shades made of leather and rawhide are also available in colors, they are one of the easiest ways to set the rustic decor of your room.
In choosing a rawhide lamp shade you want to use only lamp shades made with goat skin rawhide. It is goatskin that has the unique stretching qualities and translucency that make them the lampshade of choice. You will also want to insure that craftsman used heavy metal frames. The reason for this is that rawhide contracts or tightens in times of heat and dryness. It can be so strong that it will cause a regular frame to bend.
There are a few things to consider when your rawhide shade arrives. As mentioned, rawhide tightens when heated or dried. It also expands or loosens when humidity is present making the environment of the shade very important. When your shade arrives, it may appear to have loose hide or there may be ripples in the hide. This is normal as the shipping experience can be one that is very humid. It may have been routed through a thunderstorm or humid warehouse.
The packaging will retain the humidity and cause the hide to loosen. But once it is put into service the heat from the bulb and air will quickly tighten it. This brings us to the other extreme, over heating. Because heat causes the rawhide to tighten it is possible to overheat the hide causing it to split. While this is a natural reaction to environment, there are a few things that you can do.
Don’t use a regular incandescent bulb which creates excessive heat. Instead use a compact fluorescent bulb for the same wattage of light with a fraction of the heat. Avoid placing the shade in direct sunlight of the heat radiated by the sun through a window. And in the winter, be careful of heat ducts and very dry rooms. Many people don’t realize that air conditioning can also dry the air in a room too. And probably one of the biggest mistakes is to leave the shades in a closed up room.
When closing a cabin or summer cottage you can create a hot, dry environment. Caring for rawhide lamp shades is easy. A little common sense goes a long way, but even with the best of care rawhide will wear out because of the constant expanding and contracting. You can help increase the life of rawhide lampshades with regular conditioning.
People have tried many different ideas to extend the life of shades. Some people spray the shades with a coat of clear poly urethane to seal the pores and lock the rawhide in place. This does seem to work but the polyurethane has a very strong odor and also may be flammable. Others have used a variety of creams, lotions and oils. Because rawhide is animal skin, it can be helped and hurt by the same types of things that affect our own skin.
From our experience, the best course of action for rawhide lamp shade care is to condition regularly with neatsfoot oil. It seems to have unique qualities unlike other oils. Along with the use of fluorescent bulbs this can dramatically affect the life of the shade in a positive way.
The interval between conditioning varies according to use and environment. Arizona and Colorado seem to need conditioning more frequently, but anytime the shade becomes dried out it should be conditioned. It would be nice to be able to say once a month or every six months but it is better to check the shade and regularly condition it. If you keep these thoughts in mind when planning your southwestern style room or western design you will get the most out of your rawhide lamp shades.
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