28 September 2010

Restoring a leather Filofax

One of the many things to get 'rediscovered' when we moved house recently was my wife Alison's 1980's Filofax. Alison (the hand of Philofaxy!) last used it about three years ago, it still contains her notes from her MA History studies, it travelled around with her to the British Library, Kent University and many other OU tutorials.

When I set eyes on it, it was looking a little tired and worst for wear. It once again got put on the shelf, until today that is.. I decided to use it as a typical model that someone might have been using for some time, or may be you have bought off of Ebay and you want to bring it back to its original condition or as close to that sort of condition.

As has been commented on before, the late 1980's Filofax organisers are well made and quite tough, just take the usual precautions of only using the tabs at the end of the ring to open the rings, don't just pull them apart, otherwise you strain the mechanism and they won't meet properly in the centre. They last for a lifetime almost and should with care continue to provide service for many years. 

Before I started I wanted to take as many photos as possible of the Filofax organiser to show the true state of the wear and tear on this organiser and also to show the 'before' and 'after' otherwise you might think I just got a new one out of a box in true Blue Peter style 'And here's one we prepared earlier' !!! Not that I would cheat!

Taking the photos was a challenge in itself, black small shiny things are quite hard to photograph, but after a few different attempts I think I did a reasonable job, but like all my photography I learn a bit more each time!

So here is the organiser as it came out of the cupboard. Click on the photos to see a larger version.

The outside had suffered normal wear and tear I suppose over a 20 odd year period, the inside is mainly just dusty. So out came all the pages, being careful to keep them in the same order, not wanting to get in to trouble with 'the boss' !

The first thing I did was to clean the inside with just a slightly damp cloth to remove the worse of the dust and soiling. Then I dried off the inside and outside and left it to dry naturally.  Normally I just use a light silicon polish to maintain the leather on my organisers, but I thought this one needed a bit more treatment of the leather to bring it back to life again and to remove some of the scuff marks.

For this I used a wax shoe polish in black. I used an old soft cloth bunched up the cloth to form a soft pad to coat the outside in wax putting a small amount of wax polish on each time, then gently rubbing it in in a circular motion, taking time to make sure it was well worked in to the leather. The surface now looked dull and matt. I then left the polish on for about 5 minutes to let the wax penetrate the surface scuff marks.

Then using a clean soft cloth I then rubbed off the wax and brought the leather back to a full shine, frequently turning the cloth to make sure I wasn't rubbing the wax back on to the leather. Again taking time to go over the whole surface to ensure no wax was left behind which will only attract dust and dirt.

I was unable to find a suitable press stud cap, which is missing. My own 1980's Winchester has suffered a similar loss. I am going to try sowing some leather over the press stud to cover it like current day Filofax organisers have.  But overall I think you will be able to see the difference. Again click on the photos to see the full size version.

I think the pair of photos that show the before and after best are these two:
Now I realise that some of you might like the 'worn' and tired' look, it's a personal taste thing I suppose. But for those of you that like your Filofax looking like new, then as you can see it is possible with a bit of effort and time to get the leather looking like new again.

What next for this organiser... well I think I will have some of the plain ruled paper out of it for starters!


  1. The black one is the same make as the Buckingham Personal which I bought 1n 1987 in Lewsisham in London SE. Even the press stud cap is missing in my Buckingham, too.

    I restored mine especially with "Ballistol", a traditional German allround oil orginally developed for taking care of firearms.

    Maybe you should add some oil to the mechanical parts and the rings - this will be very useful.

  2. Steve, for an upcoming post I want to hear how Alison loves using HER restored filo and not you finding your own use for it! Enjoy Alison!

  3. I wonder if my adelphi will last as long as that! Are the newer filos as good quality as the 80s versions?

  4. Blue Peter ... Billy No Mates... what will you come up next, El Zorro???? Hahah

    Jokes aside, I must say this post is really good, I am sure there are loads of readers who are lucky to have a Filofax from the good ol' days who will truly appreciate a post on maintenance.
    Personally, I don't think you should sew extra material to cover the stud. If it's Alison who's going to start using it again, maybe you could incrust some 'bling', ie a Swarovsky crystal, to give it that feminine touch? Just my two cents.

    And I love how the organiser is looking now! Great job!

  5. as for the press stud, I used my daughter's black nailpolish and continually apply a new layer when it's dry. It will build up and look great

  6. I have a late 1980s Filofax like yours with the popper button missing. Must have been a bad batch. Anyway, I carved a new one from a seashell with my Dremmel. I now have a lovely mother of pearl press stud on mine, I simply glued the carving in place with Araldite.

  7. Press stud caps-go to "crafting" or handicraft shops, they do the press studs, tools and caps in shades of black and brown.
    Now, has anyone ever seen a 1980's Filo with the descriptor line of
    6 CLF 1/2?
    I am sad enough to have a whole list of these descriptor lines gleaned over the years but this is a new one.
    Lastly, has anyone ever catalogued when the models were produced? When did the Winchester/ Balmoral/ Durham etc production runs start and end?

  8. I may have found a source for black 10mm press stud caps that could be used for restoring older Filofax binders. I've recently restored a black 1980's binder that came with black rings and hardware and leather credit card and pocket "jottas" and I'm waiting from the "caps" to arrive from Switzerland.

    If I'm successful, I'll have roughly 100 extra caps that I'll be happy to share with anyone who might need one.

    Jeff Richardson

  9. Jeff
    I would be interested in a few of your spare caps. If you could email me please (address in About) I will send you my mailing address.

    Many thanks

  10. @colin - I believe the end of production of the models Balmoral (10CLFJ), Argyll (2CLF), Durham (0CLF), and Buckingham (other codes begining 2)was 1990/1. Winchesters carried on into the mid 90's.
    As to when these all started being made, that's hard to say for the Winchester, the basic design of which pre-dates any info I've seen. Durham and Argll were introduced in 1988/9. Balmoral and Buckingham started in 1985/6, although the Buckingham name only came in 1987. (Before then, these were referred to as "Two pocket binders".)

  11. Well done!! I will be passing this around to my children, nieces, and nephews [the "just buy a new one" generation] as a fine example of a simple and elegant solution to extending a useful life. Well, to be fair, I have gotten them to a point where they and their friends will somewhat regularly call and ask this family curmudgeon for a fix or restore idea. Thank you.

  12. I tried this tip and it worked a treat. It looks almost as good as new for just the price of a tin of polish and some cloths.
    I'm going to do this regularly - one advantage of having a black filofax.

    Thanks for this post :D