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Ask Doug & Kian

Who are Doug and Kian? Doug Snow and Kian Amirkhizi lead a company called MATRI-X. MATRI-X is dedicated to the education and training of interior repair industry technicians. Doug and Kian have a varied and extensive background in training and almost 50 years combined experience as expert repair technicians themselves.  Each are past winners of the Mobile Tech Expos’ Leather Repair Contest.

There are four critical steps in the repair process of virtually every substrate. These four steps become the pillars that your repair rests on. Learning to make better repairs is just good business, unless you are a hack and the only thing you know is baking soda and super glue repairs.  Then I would suggest an article on “How to walk on egg-shells without breaking them”. But, if you want durable repairs that are as beautiful as they are strong, then contemplate the four steps. See how you are implementing the steps now and how might you improve upon them in the future.


Consistent quality repairs are accomplished when you can control the variables in the repair process.  Segmenting the repair into four parts allows us to study each element individually. Perhaps some weaknesses in your repair process will be exposed when you dig deep and examine what you are doing. Let's dig in…




1. Density Matching


Density Matching: (An original MATRI-X term) The process of selecting a repair compound that most closely matches the existing and surrounding material in density and flexibility. 


When using DM, you select a repair compound that is the most similar in its intrinsic physical characteristics. You are trying to match all of the unique physical properties of the surrounding material. That means in density, flexibility and thickness. Any repair compound that does not share intrinsic physical characteristics will be inherently inferior. Inferiority is expressed in compromised strength, longevity and visibility of repair. Properly “Density Matched” repair compounds will be less visible as repairs as they will assume the likeness of the surrounding material and blend in. It literally is the secret to win the Mobile Tech Expo Leather Repair Contest! To illustrate this fact, let's just look at repairing vinyl and leather with plastisol compounds. If you have ever attended one of our seminars you will see dozens of differing small vinyl pieces (EX: some are thick and some are paper thin, some are flexible and some are not, some are fabric backed and some are not, etc)  that have been repaired with three types of repair compounds-soft, medium and hard. And what are those descriptors-soft, medium and hard? Well those are densities-now you are getting it! We have our students examine and feel the vinyl samples with the three different compounds so that they can see the difference and learn to determine for themselves which compound would have been the right choice. Matri-x carries seven different plastisol compounds of varying densities. Leather is generally soft, average vinyl is generally medium density and interior console panels such as those found on armrests are generally hard. If you examine these sample pieces you will see and feel the difference between the compounds. These physical manifestations of the repairs enable immediate recognition of the proper repair compound for the proper substrate. This is why we call it “matching” as we are literally matching densities of repair compounds to substrate materials.



3. Texture

Textures are produced by a variety of means in the repair process. When we are discussing heat repairs, applying silicone grain molds creates texture. Obviously, the closer the match of original material the better the resultant texture when performing the repair. Have a wide variety of texture pads always making new ones when given the chance. Keep you texture pads a consistent size and thickness. Taping off a section, pouring the silicone into the area and then pulling the tape before the silicone cures keeps the pads the uniform.


Also, you can't sculpt if there is no clay to chip away at. That means that you must apply plenty of repair compound to the area being repaired. This is especially true for heat repairs. Often there a halo or ring outline around the damage because insufficient compound was applied.


Here are some tips when performing heat repairs

a.   When doing a heatgun repair, after heating the repair compound to desired temperature, apply texture pad quickly. This ensures the best transfer.

b    Be sure you use the proper temperature. By overheating the repair you can remove the plasticizer, which will compromise the flexibilty and durability. By underheating the repair, you will not achieve a proper cure and the repair could fall apart later.

c.   Hold and press evenly. Never press texture pad with the tips of your fingers. This causes un-even pressure. Also, never press too hard as this can deform the substrate irreparably causing a dip in the area being repaired.

d.   Patience is a virtue and a necessity. Take your time; hold the grain over the repair for about a minute. I know we are all so impatient and want to complete the repair as quickly as possible but you really need to allow the pad to conform the repair. This just takes time. The molding of the repair is a gradual process. 

e.         When doing an iron repair you want to make the silicone graining pad as thin as possible, paper thin and as smooth as possible. This allows the iron to transfer the heat evenly over the repair. The key to a good repair is using a thermostatically controlled iron, starting with a low temp hot enough to cure the compound completely. On your final graining pass, you want the iron as hot as you can without damaging the compound or the substrate. This will allow you to achieve the most perfect texture possible.



4. Color Matching

Interior restoration squarely rests half of its skill-set on the ability of a technician to properly mix custom colors. Whether doing repair or re-dye work the learned talent of custom color mixing is a much appreciated and needed aptitude. To prove my point, go to any restaurant with vinyl booths. Check out the seating and undoubtedly you will find some repairs. A tell tale sign is a mismatched color. Its like a neon sign saying “LOOK AT ME-I' DOWN HERE!”


You can have a perfect repair and if the color is wrong it's going to stand out. You can have an imperfect repair and if the color is right-on, most likely you will not notice the repair.


In a world that is faster and cheaper it is easy to be led into thinking that quality is not as important as it used to be. However, I beg to differ, as the work you do is a spiritual extension of yourself. In reality, the quality of the work you do in a large part is what you think of yourself. Perfectionists have the worst time in this industry, as this is not always a business of perfect. Many times it is relegated to a business of “better”. Perfectionist will continue to work on something until they screw it up again. Yes, work an hour to get to 95% then work another two hours to have the repair drop to 90%. Painful lessons when time is the singular most critical commodity that you trade in. Experience guided by proper training and unyielding desires for excellence are your greatest assets.