Don't throw away your out-dated light switch wall plates just yet - reuse them and update them with leather! I thought of doing this several years ago. But when I told my husband what I wanted to do, I got this response...
Ummm-mehhh...I don't think so.
Well, he's not home today. And, I don't know if you know this but those stupid little wall plates are ridiculously priced if you want something nice and not ugly or cheap. We have a million outlets and switches in our little house and they are all that blindingly ugly high polished brass. This was supposedly "in" back in the 90s, but I don't remember ever liking it. I had a little bit of extra time and scrap leather recently leftover from one of my other projects. It would be a disservice as a leather crafter if I didn't AT LEAST upgrade the main switch wall plate in my leather studio...
Step 1: You Don't Need Much to Get This Done!
This super quick and easy project took me literally less than an hour - not including drying time for glue.
Supplies & Materials
- 5-6 oz Scrap Leather - 1/2 square foot+
- Ugly Ol' Switch Wall Plate - metal or plastic
- Contact Cement - Barge or similar
- 150 grit Sandpaper
- Straight Edge
- Marking Utensil
- Rotary Cutter & Mat (or heavy duty scissors)
- Householder Cleaner & Rag
- Leather Hole Punch - 3/16"*
- Edge Dressing*
- Utility Knife**
TIPS: Definitely use this contact cement - this is the stuff they typically use in the shoe industry! I have found no better substitute. It stinks though - apply in well-ventillated area.
NOTES: *These two supplies are the only leather specific items that I used. However, they are not necessary. A drill or the utility knife (used carefully) can replace the leather hole punch tasks. Simple Elmers white glue (or similar that dries clear) can replace the edge dressing, best applied by finger. **Utility knife can essentially replace the rotary cutter/scissors too.
Step 2: Retrieve & Prep Old Wall Plate
Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Old Wall Plate, Sandpaper, Cleaner & Rag
- Remove all of the screws and save them for later
- Clean off any surface dirt with windex or similar and dry
- Use the 150 grit sandpaper to scuff up the entire front surface of the plate
- Wipe off metal dust with clean rag
NOTES: If the wall plate being updated is plastic, do not scuff with sandpaper. Scuffing up the metal surface allows the glue to adhere better; plastic already adheres very well without the extra help.
Step 3: Cut & Prep 5-6 Oz Scrap Leather
Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Scrap Leather, Straight Edge, Old Wall Plate, Marking Utensil, Utility Knife, Rotary Cutter/Scissors, Hole Punch, Sandpaper, Edge Dressing
3a - Cut Out Rough Shape from Scrap Leather*
- Align plate on leather so that there is plenty of excess around all four sides
- Use a straight edge to mark off a 3/8" - 1/2" perimeter around the plate onto leather
- Trim off this excess, outside of perimeter - do not cut right up plate edges
3b - Cut Switch Slots & Punch Screw Holes
- Lay out leather piece, flesh (ugly) side up
- Center plate over leather piece
- Mark inside outlines for light switch slots & points for screw hole placement
- Use utility knife to cut out light switch slots
- Use 3/16" leather punch to make holes for the screws
3c - Apply Edge Dressing**
- This is not an optional step for this project
- Use sandpaper to clean up and smooth edges of light switch slots
- Apply edge dressing to inside edges of screw punch holes and light switch slots
- Flip leather over, ugly side up and apply edge dressing around perimeters for all cut outs/holes
TIPS: Place some contact cement on a popsicle stick and wrap it with some sandpaper - voila - flat sanding stick!
NOTES: *A rough cutout around the plate with excess is necessary to insure that the leather can wrap around to the sides and fit flat against the wall when reinstalled later. **Edge dressing or other medium to properly mat down the leather edge fuzz is necessary due to close proximity to electrical components.
Step 4: Glue Leather to Wall Plate
Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Leather Piece, Old Wall Plate, Contact Cement
- Lay out wall plate and leather, ugly and back sides up
- Place a layer of cement on both pieces, fully coated
- Allow cement to dry on both pieces just until tacky
- Place pieces together, aligning switch slots and screw holes, smoothing leather out from center
- Smooth leather down and around onto sides of wall plate and pinch around corners
- Allow glue to set up firm, at least 1-2 hours but 24 hours is best
TIPS: For an even stronger hold , apply the first layer of cement and let dry. Apply a second layer, let dry until tacky and then glue pieces together.
Step 5: Trim, Finish & Install New Wall Plate
Tools/Materials Needed for this Step: Leather Wall Plate, Rotary Cutter/Scissors/Utility Knife, Sandpaper, Edge Dressing, Old Screws & Screwdriver
5a - Trim off Excess
- Use scissors, utility knife or rotary cutter to trim off excess up to edges of plate
- If the corners are round, use scissors to cut around them
5b - Finishing Touches
- Use sandpaper to smooth cut edges and shape corners
- Apply edge dressing
5c - Install New Wall Plate
- Find those screws and grab a screwdriver
TIPS: I used the hard edges of the plate as a guide for a close cut that will fit against the wall nicely. Just hold the plate up at about a 45 degree angle and then cut against plate for easy miter cut edges.
Showed my husband when he got home - he ended up liking it.