Leather Types And Finishes. Whats Your Wallet Made Of?
Ever wondered about the quality of that new leather handbag? Generally, leather is sold in four forms; full grain, top grain, corrected grain and split leather. Let’s take a look at common leather types and finishes as well as some the lesser known exotic skins and products.
Full Grain Leather, undergoing minimal treatment in the tanning process, is considered the highest quality leather. This leather has had the hair removed and is then dyed. The Skins often have many imperfections and defects, as such, the highest quality skins must used to produce full grain leather products. Top-grain leather has had a layer removed, making it thinner and more pliable than full grain. The surface has a finishing coat applied for greater resistance to stains than full-grain leather. Corrected-grain is leather that has had artificial grain applied to its surface. Imperfections are corrected or sanded off with an artificial grain added to the surface. Split leather is leather created from spliting the hide. During the splitting operation, the top grain and split are separated. The splits can be further split into multiple layers until the thickness prevents any further splitting. Split leather then has an artificial layer applied to the surface and is embossed with a leather grain, also known as bycast leather. These common types and processes are then used to create a range of other finishes. Some of the less common finishes are worth noting.
Buckskin or brained leather is a tanning process that uses animal brains or other fatty materials to alter the leather. The resulting supple, suede-like hide is usually smoked heavily to prevent it from rotting. Slink leather is leather made from the skin of unborn calves. It is particularly soft and is valued for use in making gloves. Vachetta leather is used in the trimmings of luggage and handbags. The leather is left untreated and is therefore susceptible to water and stains. Sunlight will cause the natural leather to darken in shade, called a patina.
Napa leather is chrome-tanned and is soft and supple. It is commonly found in wallets, toiletry kits, and other personal leather goods. Patent leather is leather that has been given a high-gloss finish. The original process was developed in Newark, New Jersey, by inventor Seth Boyden in 1818. Patent leather usually has a plastic coating.
Suede is "fuzzy" on both sides. Manufacturers use a variety of techniques to make suede from full-grain. Reversed suede is grained leather that has been designed into the leather article with the grain facing away from the visible surface. It is not considered to be a true form of suede. Nubuck is top-grain cattle hide leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap of short protein fibers, producing a velvet-like surface. Shagreen is also known as stingray skin/leather. Applications used in furniture production date as far back as the art deco period. The word "shagreen" originates from France.
Belting leather is full-grain leather that was originally used in driving pulley belts and other machinery. It is found on the surface of briefcases, portfolios, and wallets, and can be identified by its thick, firm feel and smooth finish. Belting leather is generally a heavy-weight of full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather.
Deerskin is a tough leather, possibly due to the animal's adaptations to its thorny and thicket-filled habitats. Deerskin has been used by many societies, including indigenous Americans. Most modern deerskin is no longer procured from the wild, with deer farms breeding the animals specifically for the purpose of their skins. Deerskin is used in jackets and overcoats, martial arts equipment such as kendo and bogu, as well as personal accessories like handbags and wallets.
Kangaroo skin is used to make items which need to be strong but flexible; it is the material most commonly used in high quality bullwhips. Kangaroo leather is favored by some motorcyclists for use in Motorcycle Leathers specifically because of its lighter weight and higher abrasion resistance compared with cowhide. Kangaroo leather is also used for high performance soccer footwear.
In the 1970s, ostrich farming for their feathers became popular, and ostrich leather became available as a side product. There are different processes to produce different finishes for many applications, i.e., upholstery, footwear, automotive products, accessories and clothing. Ostrich leather is considered one of the finest and most durable in the world and is currently used by many major fashion houses such as Hermès, Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Ostrich leather has a characteristic "goose bump" look because of the large follicles from which the feathers grew.
In Thailand, sting ray leather is used in wallets and belts in the same way as regular bovine leather. Sting ray leather is as tough and durable as hard plastic. The leather is often dyed black and covered with tiny round bumps in the natural pattern of the back ridge of an animal. These bumps are then usually dyed white to highlight the decoration.
Bonded leather , or "Reconstituted leather", is not really a true leather but a man-made material composed of 90% to 100% leather fibers (often scrap from leather tanneries or leather workshops) bonded together with latex binders to create a look and feel similar to that of genuine leather at a fraction of the cost. Bonded leather is not as durable as other leathers, and is recommended for use only if the product will be used infrequently. One example of bonded leather use is in Bible covers.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Nasher bought a croc wallet from Real Skin Wallets and wrote this article in appreciation of their exceptional service.
Choose from an ostrich wallet, stingray wallet and many more.