There are many uses for a beer keg, but did you know you could turn it into a custom bar stool? That’s exactly what Kent Foster, owner of Fostergraphs and SportBrands, recently did for a customer loyal to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The challenge is the seat of the barstool and how to apply a custom graphic to it, especially since the seat is leather. Leather is usually decorated through a complex dyeing process that requires super-large production runs to be economically feasible.
Foster, however, has been experimenting with LexJet Avatrex 3500 Matte, a clear inkjet-receptive material that also has an adhesive and laminate built into it. Avatrex conforms to the substrate to which it is applied, retaining that substrate’s look and feel.
In other words, Avatrex is the only viable way to apply custom graphics to a textured surface like leather, so Foster gave Tom Snooks, LexJet’s Avatrex expert, a call for guidance.
“We tried bonded leather at first, but the problem is that it’s designed for book covers and is not very pliable and would wrinkle around the sewn edges of the seat. My upholsterer brought a leather hide and asked if I could use it,” says Foster.
First, Foster printed the Iowa Hawkeyes logo to the Avatrex on his Epson GS6000 low solvent printer. Avatrex is printed in reverse then applied, print-side down, to the substrate.
Foster sprayed a primer designed for Avatrex to the leather hide to ensure permanent adhesion, then bonded it to the Avatrex with a 40×60 vacuum press at a frame sign shop. The Avatrex was pressed to the leather at 225 degrees for 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
The upholsterer then wrapped and sewed the leather around the seat, applied to the keg – and voila! – a bar stool keg.
“Now I’m thinking motorcycle seats, leather jackets, tote bags… anything I can put a logo or image on, I can do with Avatrex. I don’t know where it will go from here, but I’m thinking, ‘What can I do next?’ The real leather look is priceless. I’m going to explore all corners of the universe with Avatrex because it’s so far outside the box,” says Foster.