Writing desks often used to feature leather tops. The leather provides a solid but cushioned writing surface and has the added benefit of making a desk look both elegant and unique. If you have an antique leather desktop and the leather is looking worse for the wear, it is possible to replace it. Keep in mind that once you do replace the leather, you will need to clean it periodically with leather cleaner to keep it looking new.
Remove the old leather desktop. Using a small chisel, gently pry up one corner of the leather top. If the top was affixed with glue, you may have to pull harder to get the adhesive to release. If the leather top was secured with upholstery nails, you can use your chisel to pop each nail out of the surface. Discard these nails appropriately when finished.
Smooth out the surface underneath the leather. You may notice some excess glue or warping under where the leather was. Use a fine or medium grade sandpaper to sand this area down until smooth. Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth and allow it to dry.
Cut your new leather to fit. Measure out the space for the leather on your desk and create a cardboard template with the measurements. Alternatively, you can place the cardboard on the desk, trace out the spot for the leather and then cut the cardboard into your template. Place this template on top of your leather and cut out the shape to fit the desk. Remember, it's easier to trim excess so it's all right to leave a little extra leather on each side. If you cut it too small, you will have to discard the piece and start over.
Decide how you want to affix the leather. If you are using a thin piece of leather or if it is a light colour, do not use adhesive as this will seep through and stain the leather. Only use adhesive if the colour is very dark or your leather is very thick. Otherwise, use upholstery nails for this project.
Attach the leather to your desk. If you are using adhesive, flip the leather over and dot the adhesive every few inches along the sides and the centre of the piece. Do the same thing on the wood and then carefully flip the leather over and lay it on the desk. Start in one corner and smooth it out to ensure that there are no wrinkles in the surface. Allow this at least 12 hours or more to dry completely. If you are using upholstery nails, line up the leather on the desk, start in one corner and begin setting the nails. Use a small hammer on each nail and carefully tap them into place. Keep the leather stretched and smooth as you proceed to completion of the installation.