If you are a new to the leather craft, this guide might be helpful. Please read it carefully in order to understand better how, what and why should you choose for your awesome leather craft projects.
This guid will help you to choose right leather, right thickness and right cut. Should you have any additional questions or concerns feel free to contact us from the Contacts page.
We offer the finest vegetable tanned leathers from the best tanneries in Europe and overseas. Our leather selection is full vegetable tanned.
Such leather tanning type has a long history, the leather is fully natural, biodegradable, durable and it is actually a by-product of meet industry.
These are the most common cow skin cuts that you can find in our shop:
- Double shoulders
The classic Italian cut, and fair to say, the most universal.
Double shoulders have the most consistent stretching direction, the leather is durable, dense fiber and solid.
Sometimes you can have neck wrinkles.
Might have irregular shape.
Bellies are long and narrow, have less consistent fiber than the rest of the hide, irregular shape and width variations.
Bellies (Fianchi (IT)) are typically used for small leather goods, where you don't need strength and solid structure.
Bellies are also ideal for training, lining, and inner parts of your project.
- Single butts (bends)
One of the most precious part of the skin, single butts are rarely being used in Italy, however, some tanneries specialised only on that cut.
The famous Tempesti is such tannery.
Sometimes called "Mezzi Vitelli" in Italian, this cut is typical for American tanneries such as Wicked and Craig and Horween, in Europe we can find half-calf skins (box calf) that are extremely fine and precious.
Simplifying leather manufacturing we can highlight the following aspects:
1. Raw hides. This aspect has no impact on the leather properties except for the grain quality.
2. Tanning type. The most common tannins are oak bark, quebracho, mimosa, chestnut, acacia - each tannin gives different properties to the leather. For example: Chestnut gives a hard and reddish leather. Mimosa bark and Acacia make leather rather pliable and supple. Every tanner has his own secret and a special blend of tannins that gives particular properties and character. The blend might be changed over season depending on temperature and humidity.
3. Greasing. The most important ingredient for the leather character, odour, durability. There are three main concepts for tanned leather lubrication:
- OILS. Mainly used: Sulfated vegetable oils. In Italian "solfonato". Such leather is more dry to touch, less "filled", sometimes feels like empty. The characteristics are: dry, stiff, non-stretchy. A great example of this leather type is famous BUTTERO by Conceria Walpier.
- ANIMAL GREASE. A mix of fish and animal fats, lard - every tannery has its own secret blend. Such leather has round feel, it's more soft, pliable, "filled". A classic Italian leather type Vacchetta is a great example. Such leather is also called "al sego" in Italy.
- MIX. Different mixtures of oils and fats which are designed to combine advantages of both leather types.
4. Finishing. You can follow these rules for figuring out what character you can expect from the leather:
- pullup/oiled finish gives more pliability and durability;
- washed leathers are softer than their original versions;
- textured leather (milled in dry drums) will be softer than it's smooth version*
*sometimes texture is given by hot plate stamping - in that case the whole area of the skin will have the same repeatable pattern and uniformity, such finish does not have any effect on character.
Now you know better what you can expect if it's written that the leather is: Bellies, Fat liquored (al sego), milled. Let's go further to the finishing types.
Crust - fully tanned but unfinished leather that might remain natural or dyed through in drums.
Aniline leather - leather type that is dyed with aniline dyes. Aniline dyes come a powder that you dissolve in water, alcohol, or petroleum solvents, depending on the formulation.
Aniline dyes penetrate the surface and might be applied by hand, spray or in drums. The dye is very light and almost transparent, so only the best quality skins can be used and typically you can see all marks, blemishes and imperfections of the skin.
On other hand, each skin is unique and has a natural appearance. Not every colour might be done by aniline dyes, for example, you cannot have white, most pastel and bright colours, difficult to make black because you need to use much dye to make the skin fully black and that might cause staining in the future. If you like patina - aniline leather should be your choice.
Pigments - In this process, the dye sits on top of the surface and covers it by a film making the look uniform. Pigmented leather is used for upholstery, garments, automotive leathers, often on goat leather and everywhere else if you need a uniform and durable finish. Such leather will have the same colour and look over long time.
As a downside when pigmented leather is being scratched, it’s very difficult to remove such damages.
Semi-aniline - leather that was dyed through in drums by aniline dyes and than the surface is sprayed by pigments.
Drum dyed - leather is dyed through in a big drums by aniline type dyes. Sometimes crust can be also drum dyed.
Tamponato - a traditional Italian finishing technique when leather is being dyed by hand using cloth or sponge tampons creating unique and natural aniline appearance with beautiful shades of tones and non-uniformed look.
Volanato - an Italian term meaning that the leather is tumbled (milled) in large dry drums in order to create a texture and make it softer. Depending on what properties you want to achieve, the process might be 1-8 hours long.
Pull-up finish - such leather is mostly buffed in order to help a blend of oils and waxes to penetrate the surface and give the leather pull-up effect. When being pulled or stretched, the finish becomes lighter in those areas.
Washed leather - is actually exactly how it sounds - it's leather that's washed, the process gives softens and the color gently fades. Washed leather looks crinkled depending on how long it was washed.
Printed leather - a leather type that has been hot “stamped” with a design or artificial texture under heavy hydraulic presses.
Full grain - is the highest quality grade of leather. The term means that you it has the top layer of the skin untouched. The structure is dense and natural, only the best skins can be used for such leather type.
Genuine&Buffed - both leather types are being corrected or buffed in order to hide natural imperfections. Genuine does not mean that such leather is bad. For example, shell cordovan is a genuine leather.
1.Thickness and weight
Depending on your location, you can measure the thickness by millimeters (inches) or weight. The easiest way to convert one to another is multiply by 0.4:
0.30 mm = 3/4 oz.
0.35 mm = 7/8 oz.
0.40 mm = 1 oz
0.5 mm = 1 1/4 oz.
0.6 mm = 1 1/2 oz.
0.8 mm = 2 oz.
1.0 mm = 2 1/2 oz.
1.2 mm = 3 oz.
1.4 mm = 3 1/2 oz.
1.6 mm = 4 oz.
1.8 mm = 4 1/2 oz.
2.0 mm = 5 oz.
Different leather might have different structure and density, thus a different weight. That is why we prefer to use thickness over weight as that is more precise.
Square meter = 100ds or 10.76ft²
1ft² = 0.09mt² or 9ds
European tanneries mark their leathers in square decimetres (ds) then US tanneries use square feet marking.
We sell our leather by square feet only because it's more comfortable for us and our customers: 1 square meter is a large area, 1 square decimetre is very small, 1 square foot is handy and comfortable to work.
We offer pre-cut leather panels easy to use and super handy when you want to try different materials without spending a fortune for full hides.
Please refer to the product's description for size options.
With increased meet production quality of raw skins has been decreased, now tanneries must deal with only 30% of first grade skins.
That means that all skins have imperfections such as marks, bites, dark and light spots, wrinkles, holes, scratches and more.
Perfect leather does not exist and the only option that we have is to deal with such reality of leather business. In order to keep the yield up we cannot throw away 20-30% of the skins that we cut into panels, but we promise that we involve our secret intelligent cutting methods and try the best to get around imperfections and offer only the cleanest panels.
Please be loyal to small blemishes on the edges of the panels that we ship and try to play with such distinguishing signs turning them into advantages.
If you are planning to make a large leather project using aniline leather, please order 20-30% extra material and be prepared to cut your pattern wisely. You should also consider using a pigmented leather with all its pros and cons if you project requires a perfect surface.
Colour difference. Yes, aniline leather is different from batch to batch meaning that the same colour from the same tannery might have a different shade from the one that you've bought previously. We recommend to order a sample if your project requires a perfect colour match.