The Skinny On Leather
Leather yeah we all know what that is, just cow skin…right? Well there’s a bit more to it than that. A few questions you should be asking yourself are: Is it good quality? Is it made from cow? Is it an exotic leather? How is it made and what are the types of finishes and leathers? We’ll show some things about leather you probably didn’t know.
Leather is classed as a byproduct meaning that it is second in value this usually means that the main value from the animal is it’s meat. In the fur industry it’s the other way around with the fur bing the valuable with the meat of little or no value.
The definition of leather is “An animal skin that has had been tanned or processed one or more times” This would actually mean that rawhide isn’t actually a leather as it’s made by simply scraping the skin clean of flesh before adding lime and stretching the skin till it dries. This is a fairly brittle and stiff material mainly used for drums and dog chews. Not something you’d like your shoes or wallet made from!
There are four main types of leather; Full grain, Top grain, Corrected grain and split leather.
The highest quality leathers are usually Full grain. This leather has the epidermis layer with the hair removed before being tanned and dyed. To qualify as a full grain leather the skin must not have any marks or scars which commonly appear as a result of animals fighting, biting or being bitten by insects.
Top grain leather has had the “split” leather removed so it will be thinner and more flexible than a full grain. The surface has a finishing coat applied to it after being sanded down which make it more stain resistant. Unfortunately this finish also means that top grain leathers are less breathable and won’t develop a natural patination with time. However both these leathers preserve the natural grain of the hide.
Corrected grain is used to describe a leather that uses an artificial grain on the surface. Any of the scars or marks get sanded off before the grain is applied. This is a common leather for solid colors as they also help to mask imperfections.
And finally we come to split leathers. This is when a hide is split into two or sometimes multiple layers. These layers often have and artificial layer added the surface of which is embossed with a leather grain effect. These splits are also known as by-cast leathers and are what is used for finishes like suede, nubuck, napa, patent and buckskin.