Leather Information

The quality and type of the leather determines the price. To really understand the difference between the quality and types of leather, you have to know what the different types and qualities that are available, the main manufacturing purpose for that type of leather, and the cost for those products. The main types of leather used in manufacturing of Motorcycle Chaps are Split leather, Premium leather, Naked leather, and Patchwork leather. We will discuss each different type of leather in a different article: Part 1 - Split Cowhide, Part 2 - Premium Leather, Part 3 - Naked Leather, Part 4 - Patchwork Leather.

NAKED LEATHER has many of the same characteristics as top grain cowhide. NAKED LEATHER must be a minimum of 1.2 mil in thickness, but many brands will make them in a thickness of 1.5 mil. NAKED LEATHER, is also fuzzy on one side and smooth on the other. The smooth side is the side where the hair and natural grain is located. The difference between NAKED LEATHER and Top Grain Leather is that all of the natural grain in NAKED LEATHER is preserved. NAKED LEATHER has its own process to finishing in the tanning process too. It must be a natural "no" or "very few" chemical process and absolutely a "no heat" process. This means that the hides cannot have a stamped grain on them. They can be used for any color pigmentation too. These hides are usually blemish and bruise free.

NAKED LEATHER is very soft leather. NAKED LEATHER is known for it's ultra soft feel, strength, and durability. The top or smooth side of the cowhide has extra elasticity as compared to other types of leathers. When people talk about "breaking in" the leather that they have just purchased, they are NOT talking about NAKED LEATHER. NAKED LEATHER CHAPS ARE VERY SOFT LEATHER CHAPS. NAKED LEATHER CHAPS will arrive completely soft. The only parts of the garment that need to be worked a little, will be the seams. The seams of naked leather garment are usually put together with an adhesive, folded into 3 layers, then double stitched. Those areas will need to be worked for a very short time.

NAKED LEATHER can be stretched to great lengths also. You can probably stretch your NAKED LEATHER CHAPS several inches in both length and width if there is no lining. With NAKED LEATHER, stretching the leather can be done without losing the strength and durability to the hide, or causing damage. Real NAKED LEATHER garments will continue to soften even more over time.

NAKED LEATHER will last a lifetime. NAKED LEATHER is one of the most durable and versatile garment materials man uses. Chaps made from NAKED LEATHER will last a lifetime, unless you cut them or purposely set out to destroy them. These NAKED LEATHER will mold to your body over time to give you a fit that is truly custom.

NAKED LEATHER CHAPS are going to give you some protection from the weather. These NAKED LEATHER will be windproof for the life of the chaps or longer. Wind will never penetrate the top grain layer unless you put a hole in them.

NAKED LEATHER CHAPS do not shed water very well without treating. You will want to water proof, and condition the leather on a regular basis. It is generally recommended that mink oil be used for the water repelling properties. I have found that going to any farm or horse supply store will usually produce the best quality and lowest price on Mink Oil. DO NOT USE SYNTHETIC LEATHER TREATMENTS.

Some portions of the below have been plagiarized from 4hides leather. See a link to their site in the dealers and venders page.

Use this handy glossary to help you identify the types of leathers that best suit your leather needs...

Naked leather has only been dyed and has had nothing applied to it that would mask its natural state. Because of this, it is the softest and most supple leather available. It gives the unique natural grain of leather a distinct warm rich glow. With age well conditioned naked leather increases in beauty, growing softer and richer in appearance.

(versus plated, embossed, buffed or corrected leather)
This is the term for the leather surface without an attempt to hide or conceal the natural markings of the animal which it incurred during its lifetime. Life leaves its traces on cattle in the forms of healed scratches, insect bites, blood veins, growth wrinkles, and variation of grain, all of which constitute the character and charm of “Nature’s Signatures.” Full-grain leather can be either pure aniline or semi-aniline (or aniline-plus). It is sometimes plated to produce a special effect or even to enhance an already natural grain, such as a textured appeal versus a smooth appeal.

(versus full-grain leather)
When full-grain leather has too many of “Nature’s Signatures,” it is buffed or sanded much in the same manner as wood is sanded. The sanding or correcting process levels the high spots of healed scratches, etc., and removes some of the natural grain. A grain pattern is then embossed into the surface to replace what was lost in the sanding process. Plated leather is usually aniline-plus (or semi-aniline).

(versus split leather)
The thickness of all hides before tanning can vary quite a bit. To obtain a uniform thickness for upholstery, the hides are fed through a splitting machine with the grain side up, yielding a grain portion called “top-grain.” The underneath or flesh layer that is cut off is called a “split.”

(versus top-grain leather)
This is the flesh on top and bottom and possesses no natural grain. The tissue structure is not as strong as top-grain and is generally not recommended for the seating area of upholstery, due to this lack of tissue strength.

(versus semi-aniline or aniline-plus leather)
It is generally accepted that only five percent of the world’s hide supply is of high enough quality for pure aniline upholstery furniture. Aniline dyeing is the process of soaking the skins in transparent aniline dyes, which color or shade the skins without obscuring the natural markings or grain character of the leather. The hides are dyed all the way through, with no pigmented topcoat.

(versus full or pure aniline leather)
These are terms that define a supplemental step beyond aniline dyeing, which adds a topcoating of highly dispersed pigments and dyes to the surface of aniline-dyed hides. By dyeing the leather throughout before the final surface coating, a very even coloration can be achieved with only a thin layer of finish, and the leather remains softer.

Forms of leather

There are a number of processes whereby the skin of an animal can be formed into a supple, strong material commonly called leather.

Chrome-tanned leather, invented in 1858, is tanned using chromium sulfate and other salts of chromium. It is more supple and pliable than vegetable-tanned leather, and does not discolor or lose shape as drastically in water as vegetable-tanned. More esoteric colors are possible using chrome tanning. The type of chromium used in the process should not be confused with the hexavalent chromium (which is carcinogenic), but which does not have any tanning ability. Hexavalent chromium can be found in chrome leathers in rare situations but can become more prevalent if the chrome-tanned leathers are mistreated, e.g. if bleached.
Vegetable-tanned leather is tanned using tannin (hence the name "tanning") and other ingredients found in vegetable matter, tree bark, and other such sources. It is supple and brown in color, with the exact shade depending on the mix of chemicals and the color of the skin. Vegetable-tanned leather is not stable in water; it tends to discolor, and if left to soak and then dry it will shrink and become less supple and harder. In hot water, it will shrink drastically and partly gelatinise, becoming rigid and eventually brittle. Boiled leather is an example of this where the leather has been hardened by being immersed in hot water, or in boiled wax or similar substances. Historically, it was used as armour due to its hardness and light weight, but it has also been used for book binding.
Aldehyde-tanned leather is tanned using glutaraldehyde or oxazolidine compounds. This is the leather that most tanners refer to as wet-white leather due to its pale cream or white color. It is the main type of leather used in chrome-free leather often seen in infant's shoes and in automobiles that prefer a chrome-free leather. Formaldehyde tanning (becoming historic due to its danger to workers and the sensitivity of many people to formaldehyde) is another method of aldehyde tanning. Brain-tanned leathers fall into this category and are exceptionally water absorbent. Brain tanned leathers are made by a labor-intensive process which uses emulsified oils often those of animal brains. They are known for their exceptional softness and their ability to be washed. Chamois leather also falls into the category of aldehyde tanning and like brain tanning produces a highly water absorbent leather. Chamois leather is made by using oils (traditionally cod oil) that oxidise easily to produce the aldehydes that tan the leather.
Synthetic-tanned leather is tanned using aromatic polymers such as the Novolac or Neradol types. This leather is white in color and was invented when vegetable tannins were in short supply, i.e. during the Second World War. Melamine and other amino-functional resins fall into this category as well and they provide the filling that modern leathers often require. Urea-formaldehyde resins were also used in this tanning method until dissatisfaction about the formation of free formaldehyde was realised.
Alum-tanned leather is tanned using aluminium salts mixed with a variety of binders and protein sources, such as flour, egg yolk, etc. Purists argue that alum-tanned leather is technically "tawed" and not tanned, as the resulting material will rot in water. Very light shades of leather are possible using this process, but the resulting material is not as supple as vegetable-tanned leather.
Rawhide is made by scraping the skin thin, soaking it in lime, and then stretching it while it dries. Like alum-tanning, rawhide is not technically "leather", but is usually lumped in with the other forms. Rawhide is stiffer and more brittle than other forms of leather, and is primarily found in uses such as drum heads where it does not need to flex significantly; it is also cut up into cords for use in lacing or stitching, or for making dog chews.
Leather—usually vegetable-tanned leather—can be oiled to improve its water resistance. This supplements the natural oils remaining in the leather itself, which can be washed out through repeated exposure to water. Frequent oiling of leather, with mink oil, neatsfoot oil or a similar material, keeps it supple and improves its lifespan dramatically.

Leather with the hair still attached is called hair-on.

Leather types

In general, leather is sold in three forms:

Full-Grain leather, made from the finest raw material, are clean natural hides which have not been sanded to remove imperfections. Only the hair has been removed. The grain remains in its natural state which will allow the best fiber strength, resulting in greater durability. The natural grain also has natural breathability, resulting in greater comfort. The natural Full-Grain surface will wear better than other leather. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a natural "Patina" and grow more beautiful over time. The finest leather furniture and footwear are made from Full-Grain leather. Full grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: aniline(leather) and semi-aniline.
Corrected-Grain leather, also known as Top-Grain leather, is fuzzy on one side and smooth on the other. The smooth side is the side where the hair and natural grain used to be. The hides, which are made from inferior quality raw materials, have all of the natural grain sanded off and an artificial grain applied. Top grain leather generally must be heavily painted to cover up the sanding and stamping operation. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

Suede is leather that has had the grain completely removed or is an interior split of the hide/skin. During the splitting operation the grain and drop split are separated. The drop split can be further split (thickness allowing) into a middle split or a flesh split. In very thick hides the middle split can be separated into multiple layers until the thickness prevents further splitting. The strongest suedes are usually made from grain splits (that have the grain completely removed) or from the flesh split that has been shaved to the correct thickness. Suede is "fuzzy" on both sides. Suede is less durable than top-grain. Suede is cheaper because many pieces of suede can be split from a single thickness of hide, whereas only one piece of top-grain can be made. However, manufacturers use a variety of techniques to make suede appear to be full-grain. For example, in one operation, glue is mixed with one side of the suede, which is then pressed through rollers; these flatten and even out one side of the material, giving it the smooth appearance of full-grain. Latigo is one of the trade names for this product. A reversed suede is a grained leather that has been designed into the leather article with the grain facing away from the visible surface. It is not a true form of suede.

Other less-common leathers include:

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.
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.
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 and is commonly confused with a shark skin and stingray skin combination.
Vachetta leather is used in the trimmings of luggage and handbags, popularized by Louis Vuitton. 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.
Slink is leather made from the skin of unborn calves. It is particularly soft, and is valued for use in making gloves.
Deer Skin - This is probably the toughest leather in the world, given that most wild deer are constantly getting in and out of thorny thickets in the forests. Deerskin has always been prized across societies - notably the North American Indians who used to treat it with lime and other compounds to make the raw deer hide more supple, often "staking" it out in different weather conditions etc. Modern deer skin is no longer procured from the Wild as it were, with "deer farms" breeding the animals specifically for the purpose of their skins. Such farmed deer skins are usually procured from New Zealand and Australia in today's times. Deer Skin is prized for use in Jackets and Overcoats as well as high quality personal accessories like handbags and wallets. It commands a high price owing to its relative rarity as well as its proven durability.
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.
There are two other descriptions of leather commonly used in specialty products, such as briefcases, wallets, and luggage.

Belting leather is a full grain leather that was originally used in driving pulley belts and other machinery. It is often found on the surface of briefcases, portfolios, and wallets, and can be identified by its thick, firm feel and smooth finish. Belting leather is the only kind of leather used in luxury products that can retain its shape without the need for a separate frame; it is generally a heavy-weight of full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather.
Napa leather, or Nappa leather, is extremely soft and supple and is commonly found in higher quality wallets, toiletry kits, and other personal leather goods.
The following are not 'true' leathers, but contain leather material.

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.
Bicast leather is a man-made product that consists of a thick layer of polyurethane applied to a substrate of low-grade or reconstituted leather. Most of the strength of bicast leather comes from the polyurethane coating, which allows this material to be used where strength or durability are required.
The vast majority of leather is sold according to its area. The leather is placed through pin-wheel or electronic measuring machines and its surface area is determined. The unit of measurement is square metre, square decimetre or square foot. The thickness is also important, and this is measured using a thickness gauge (the unit of measurement is millimetres, e.g., 1.8 mm is a standard thickness for a school shoe).

In some parts of the world top-grain thicknesses are described using weight units of ounces. Although the statement is in ounces only, it is an abbreviation of ounces per square foot. The thickness value can be obtained by the conversion:

1 oz/ft² = 1/64 inch (0.4 mm)
Hence, leather described as 7 to 8 oz is 7/64 to 8/64 inches (2.8 to 3.2 mm) thick. The weight is usually given as a range because the inherent variability of the material makes ensuring a precise thickness very difficult. Other leather manufacturers state the thickness directly in millimetres.

Leather from other animals

Today, most leather is made of cow hides, but many exceptions exist. Lamb and deer skin are used for soft leather in more expensive apparels. Kangaroo leather is used to make items which need to be strong but flexible, such as motorcycle gloves. Kangaroo leather is favored by motorcyclists specifically because of its lighter weight and higher abrasion resistance as compared to cowhide. Leather made from more exotic skins has at different times in history been considered very beautiful. For this reason certain snakes and crocodiles have been hunted to near extinction.

In the 1970s, farming of ostriches for their feathers became popular. As a side product, ostrich leather became available. There are different processes to produce different finishes for many applications i.e. upholstery, footwear, automotive, accessories and clothing. Ostrich leather is considered to be of the finest and most durable in the world and is currently used by all the big fashion houses like 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 cow 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. Leather is also used for the clothing of many Thailand.

Buffalo leather is also used in America. It is used for gloves, jackets and some baseball gloves. It is rugged but supple and has a waxy feel.

Overall, leather comes from a variety of other sources, including the skins of cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, dogs and cats.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014 22:07



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