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Leather Buying Guide

Types of leather
Hide Shapes, Thickness & patterns
What kind of leather do I need?
   Upholstery Leather
       How much leather do I need?
Glossary of terms

 

 Types of Leather

No other fabric can compare with the unique textures, rich colors, strength, or smell of real leather. It's in a category all its own with different sizes, weights, types, and prices. The joy of working with real leather is all in the longevity of the finished projects, garments, and accessories that last well beyond the years of any other fabric or fiber.

 

 


Bridle

Firm, rich-colored leather with just enough oils to withstand weather. Great feeling leather can be oiled for darker hues.
Vegetable Tanned.

Great for: Belts, straps, fine pet collars, leashes, gun belts.

 

Chrome Oil Tanned

Beautiful, durable leather has just the right amount of oil for a soft, supple feel.
Chrome-Tanned.

Great for: Chaps, cases & bags, boots.

   

Kipskin

Very clean piece of leather that dyes and stamps beautifully. Produced from smaller calf hides.
Vegetable Tanned.

Great for: Belt liners, personal leather goods.

 

Latigo

Latigo leather is combination tanned to make it rigid but very pliable, great for use on products in which strength and flexibility are needed.
Chrome Veg Retanned.

Great for: Tack, straps, belts, pet collars, leashes, cinches.

 

Natural Vegetable Tanned Strap, Tooling & Molding Leather

Perfect leather for tooling, embossing, molding, dyeing & oiling. Uniformly absorbs dyes and oils. Dries to a firm, long-lasting shape.
Vegetable Tanned.

Great for: Belts, straps, holsters & sheaths.

  

Shearlings & Sheepskins

Beautiful quality wool sheepskins in a variety of thicknesses. Available in both veg tan and chrome tan in a variety of shades and colors.

Great for: Lining saddles, padding, ect.

  

Suede

Finished by buffing the flesh side of the hide to produce a “nap”.
Chrome Tanned.

Great for: Chaps, garments, trim.

 

Upholstery

Soft, supple leather is very strong and durable. Tanned in whole hides for little waste and for use in automotive and restoration upholstery where larges pieces of leather are desirable.
Chrome Tanned.

Great for: Upholstery, garments.

 

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Hide Shapes, Thickness & Patterns

 

 

 

   

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 What type of leather do I need?

One of the joys of working with leather is that most projects are only limited by the imagination of the crafter however we will do our best to give some basic suggestions for what leather to use for you own projects.

 

 

Primarily crafted from vegetable tanned leathers due to their added strength and firmness. Natural vegetable tanned leather can be dyed and oiled to achieve desired finish. Bridle leather will be VERY firm and it's tannage makes it more water resistant. Sides will achieve the longest straps possible.

Recommended:
Natural Vegetable Tanned Double Shoulders
Premium Natural Vegetable Tanned Sides
Water Buffalo Double Bends 8-9oz
Bridle Leather 9-10oz
Latigo Leather
Crackle Leather Hides 8-9oz

 


Light handbags, purses, wallets, and other lighter accessories tend to be crafted from thinner leathers such as garment and upholstery leathers as they are designed to stand up to the same types of use and wear. 

Recommended:
Bentley Upholstery Leather 3-3.5oz
Oxford Upholstery Leather 2.75-3.25oz
Manchester Upholstery Leather 3-3.5oz
Italian Lambskin Leather 1.5-2oz
Vegetable Tanned Calfskin 2-3oz
Suede Leather 3.5-4oz

 

 



Heavier bags and case goods are typically crafted from medium weight (4-6oz) leathers and can be contructed from just about any type of leather in that range. Below are links to our more popular bag and case leathers.

Recommended:
Renaissance Soft Vegetable Tanned Leather Sides 5-5.5oz
Calf Finish Vegetable Tanned Sides 5-5.5oz
Oil Tanned Leather Sides 5-5.5oz
Deersoft Cowhide Leather Sides 4.5-5oz
Oiled Heavy Leather Sides 5-5.5oz
Latigo Leather Sides


 

Leashes and leads are typically made from Latigo sides to attain long 72-92" strips and collars can be made from just about any vegetable tanned leather and even some thick chrome-tan leather. Natural vegetable tanned leather can be custom dyed to achieve desired looks. Bridle leather will make stronger leads & Collars.

Recommended:
Latigo Leather Sides
Bridle Leather Sides 9-10oz

Natural Vegetable Tanned Shoulders
Calf Finish Vegetable Tanned Sides 5-5.5oz
Water Buffalo Leather Double Bends

 
  


Antiqued upholstery leather is a type of semi aniline leather that is finished by rubbing layers of aniline dyes onto full grain leather until the desired color is achieved. This process is done by highly skilled artisans who understand the complex interplay of colors where a patina of multiple rich tones is desired. A protective topcoat is applied to the dyes offering protection against stains and wear. Because the cow hide is full grain, subtle natural markings such as healed scares and scratches, insect bites and brands can be present.

 

Pullup Upholstery Leather

Pull-Up is a type of semi aniline leather with a waxy topcoat added for protection. When this leather is pulled or stretched, these waxes cause the dyes to spread giving the hide a two tone or marble like effect. Pull-up leather is commonly referred to as "distressed" leather as the wax topcoat easily scratches through normal use. These marks will often be absorbed back into the leather and soften over time.
 

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How much leather do I need?

 

We always recommend speaking with an upholsterer prior to ordering so that they can give you a more precise idea of how much leather you will need to order for your upholstery project. For those that are more comfortable doing things on their own we have some general recommendations below you may find helpful.

 

Basic formula for figuring your material needs:

Length" x Width" / 144 x 1.25 = square feet required

 

 

 

Upholstery leather by the yard?

 

Many designers and furniture upholsterers are accustomed to purchasing fabric in yards, below is a conversion chart for converting yards of fabric to square feet of leather.

 

 

 

 

The following figures represent the approximate yards material and square footage of leather needed to upholster the type of furniture shown.

 

 

 

  

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Glossary of terms


 

 Aniline: A colorless oily liquid made from coal tar used in making dyes and resins in organic synthesis.

Aniline dye: The type of dye used to give the initial color to a skin.

Aniline leather: Aniline dying is the process of putting skins into a drum and allowingthe dye to soak completely through.

Semi-Aniline: Aniline leather to which a matching pigment is added to even out the color and add protection.

Back: A side with the belly cut off, usually 15 – 18 sq. ft.

Bark tanned: Leather which has been vegetable tanned mainly by means of tannins contained in the bark of trees.  

Belly: The lower part of a side, usually 4 – 8 sq. ft.

Bovine: An animal belonging to the cattle or ox family.   

Buffed leather: Leather from which the grain is removed by an abrasive or bladed cylinder. This process is used in altered or corrected grain leather.

Chrome tannage: Leather tanned with chromium salts resulting in soft, mellow hides receptive to excellent color variety.

Combination tannage: Leather which receives chrome and vegetable tannage producing suppleness and body in the hide.

Corrected grain: Commonly referred to as top grain. Lacking an intact full grain surface. Usually heavily pigmented.

Cowhide: Term specifically applied to leather made from hides of cows, although the term is sometimes loosely used to designate any leather tanned from hides of animals of the bovine species.  

Drum dyeing: The application of dyestuffs to leather by the immersion of the leather in a drum that is tumbled. This process allows full dye penetration into the fiber.

Embossed leather: Usually corrected grain, in which a pattern is applied by extreme pressure in a press to give a unique design or imitation of full grain characteristics. Sometimes leathers are embossed to make them appear to be another leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern into cowhide.  

Fat wrinkle: Wrinkles in the grain of leather caused by fat deposits in the animal, that create beauty in the leather. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation grain leather.

Finish: Generally defines a surface application on the leather to color, protect or mask imperfections. More specifically, it refers to all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.

Full grain: Leather in which the grain layer or dermis has not been altered. The grain layer gives each type of leather its distinctive appearance.  

Grain (leather): The outside of the hide or skin consisting of the pores, cells, wrinkles and other characteristics which constitute the natural texture of the leather.

Grain, embossed: An artificial grain pressed into the surface of top grain leather from which the original grain has been removed.  

Hand: A leather industry term used to describe the feel, i.e. suppleness or fullness of leather. Soft, medium, and firm. 

Hide: The pelt of a large animal.

Hump Hole: A narrow slit occasionally found along the spine area. The holes are due to certain breeds of steer having a "hump" on the spine that must be cut/slit so that the hide will lay flat during the tanning process. Commin to certain breeds of cow the split typically does not effect yields.

Kip: The hide from a grass-fed, immature bovine.

Leather: An animal hide which has been preserved and dressed for use. Typical hides include

  • Cowhide
  • Elkskin
  • Water Buffalo
  • Deerskin
  • Goatskin
  • Pigskin
  • Lambskin
  • Sheepskin

Matte finish: A flat or dull finish.

Milling: The leather is tumbled or "milled" in a large drum to produce a softer more pliable product. Many times this operation can create a slight "pebble" appearance in the surface of the leather.

Naked leather: A dyed leather which has received no topical application that may mask or alter the natural state of the leather.

Nubuck: A leather whose surface has been buffed and brushed to create a soft, velvety effect. Differs from suede in that while suede is created from the flesh (inner) side of a hide, nubuc is created using the grain (outer) side, giving it added strength and durability.    

Patent leather: Leather with a glossy impermeable finish produced by successive coats of drying oils, varnish, or synthetic resins.

Patina: A natural characteristic that develops on full grain leather through normal use over a period of time.

Perforated: In leather, this is the process of die-cutting small holes to form a pattern. The holes can vary in size, density and pattern.

Rawhide: Untanned or partially tanned cattlehides.  

Retannage: A modifying secondary tannage applied after intermediate operations following the primary tannage to further enrich and enhance the quality of the leather.   

Shrunken grain leather: A full, natural grain leather which is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain character of the leather.

Side: Half a hide cut along the back bone.  

Skive: The shave, slice or divide � to peel into a thin layer, or to reduce leather to a specific thickness.  

Split leather: Leather made from the bottom split, or reticular layer of the hide, which has an imitation grain embossed into a heavily finished pigmented surface to simulate papillary leather.

Suede: A fibrous leather, typically made from the reticular part of the hide.

Sueding: The process of raising fibers on the grain side of a hide or skin to give a velvet nap effect. This is generally called "nubuck" or "grain sueded."  

Tannage:

  • Chrome tannage: Leather tanned with chromium salts resulting in soft, mellow hides receptive to excellent color variety.
  • Vegetable tannage: The conversion of raw hide into leather by use of vegetable tannins. This process produces leather with greater body and firmness than the more general method of chromium tanning.

Tannin: Any various solvent, astringent substances of plant origin used in tanning leather.

Temper: Defines the pliability or softness of the leather.

  • FIRM: Leather that has hard and rigid characteristics. Firm leather represents products requiring very little flexibility. Belt, straps, ect.
  • REGULAR: Leather is slightly firm and having no rigid qualities. When worked, regular leathers display smooth, even folds. Shoes, boots, ect.
  • MELLOW: This type of leather is very limber and pliant. No snap when worked, tends to lack firmness. Hand bags, sneakers, ect.
  • SOFT: Leather that is extremely flexible and pliant. Garments, upholstery, ect.

Top grain: An over-used term commonly used to refer to corrected grain leather. See Corrected Grain.

Trim: The removal of the outer edges of the hide not suitable for making leather.

Tumbled: The leather is tumbled or "milled" in a large drum to produce a softer more pliable product. Many times this operation can create a slight "pebble" appearance in the surface of the leather. 

Upholstery leather: A general term for leather processed for many uses, including furniture, automobiles, aircraft, architectural applications, etc.

Vegetable tanning: The conversion of raw hide into leather by use of vegetable tannins. This process produces leather with greater body and firmness than the more general method of chromium tanning.

Weight: The thickness of leather is measured by it's weight in ounces per square foot. Weight's are approximate and may fluctuate up to 1oz depending on the type of hide.

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