Understanding Leather

Leather is the longest lasting and most durable upholstery material you can buy, and it is perfect for any room of your home or office. It will withstand the rigours of daily life, including children and pets and still look great. Although the initial investment of quality leather is generally more than fabric upholstery, it is one of the best values in the long run. Not all leathers are created equal however, and with so many different leather products and imitations on the market it is imperative to have a professional help you choose the right leather for your application.


Understanding Leather: Terms and definitions

Aniline Dyed (an-a-line): Lovers of truly natural products are particularly fond of these leathers: their buttery, glove-soft textures add an extra dimension of comfort to your sofa or chair. To create this luxurious softness and their rich gem like colors, aniline dyed leathers are tumbled for up to 12 hours in drums containing only pure aniline dyes. These dyes are transparent in nature and they enhance the subtle textural and color variations of each hide. Through the years, aniline dyed leather develops a distinctive patina which adds to its value as a focal point in your home.

Aniline-Plus: Sometimes called ‘Semi Aniline’, these leathers are first drum dyed in penetrating aniline dyes. Then a thin matching topcoat is applied to even out the color of the hide surface. The topcoat also serves to protect against fading and stains. Semi-Aniline leathers are available in hundreds of colors. They retain most of the softness of their aniline dyed cousins because the natural top grain is left intact. A much larger proportion of the world hide supply is suitable for this class of leathers and as a result they are more moderately priced.

Antiquing:  A method of aging the appearance of a hide by applying a darker color over a lighter color in order to create dramatic highlights.

Bonded LeatherA mix of leather scraps and either polyurethane or vinyl on a fabric backing: often referred to as genuine leather, but this is misleading.

Buffing: A mechanical process that reduces the appearance of surface blemishes from leather hides. Leather that is not buffed is called “full grain” because the natural grain retains its marks and characteristics.

Bycast: A split leather with a polyurethane protective coating.  Like splits, bycast leather is inferior as it lacks the natural characteristics, elasticity, breathability and durability of a top grain leather. Often referred to as genuine leather, but this is misleading.

Corrected Grain Leathers: Many hides are marred by naturally occurring imperfections. Insect bites, barbed wire scars, scrapes and other defects make them unsuitable for your home. To remove these imperfections, corrected grain leathers are first sanded or buffed, then embossed to restore a natural-looking grain pattern. Finally, a dense protective coat is applied. Some natural softness is sacrificed in this process, but this makes for the most economical grade of top grain leather.

Cowhide: an entire animal hide which averages 45-50 square feet.

Crust: Leather that has been tanned, dyed, and dried, but not finished

Dyeing: The application of color either by spraying, hand rubbing or immersion.

Embossing: A process in which a design or motif is added to leather by pressure to alter or correct the surface resulting in visually exciting designs.

Fat Wrinkles: Natural wrinkles in the leather grain that are a part of its unique beauty.  These are only visible on a top grain leather.

FinishingAny post tanning treatment, such as dyeing, rolling, pressing, spraying, lacquering, antiquing, waxing, buffing or glazing.

Full Aniline: Leather receiving its color from aniline dyes only

Full Grain: A term which indicates that leather possesses its original natural grain; leather which has not been altered.

Grain: The distinctive pore and wrinkle pattern of a hide; may be either natural or embossed. Graining, like human fingerprints, is unique to each individual hide, and is the hallmark of quality full-grain leather hides.

Hand: A term that describes the leathers softness and feel.

Hand Antiqued: Also referred to as hand rubbed.  The process where a skilled craftsman rubs a contrasting color onto the surface of the leather to accentuate the natural grain or embossing.

Leather: A hide or skin that has been tanned into a non perishable material.

Liming: The process of removing hair from a raw hide.

Milling: Process in which tanned hides are tumbled in rotating drums using a combination of heat and a misting of water to soften the hand or enhance the grain.

Natural Grain: Leather whose natural grain has not been altered in any way.

Nubuck aniline: A top grain aniline-dyed leather from which the top hair cell layer has been removed through buffing to create a soft nap effect.

Patina: A lustrous glow on the surface of the leather that develops on full anilines, and nubucks with time and use

Protected: Leather whose surface is coated with pigment or another opaque solution for uniform color and cleanability. The natural marks of the hide cannot be seen.

Pull-Up Effect: When the leather is pulled during upholstering, oil or wax dyes dissipate and become lighter in some areas, creating a multi tone effect.

Pure Aniline: Leather which receives its only color from dyes and exhibits natural markings and characteristics.

Sauvage: Leather with a marbled appearance

Scars: These form usually as a result of barbed wire damage the horns of other cattle and other variations in grain pattern that occur during the life of the animal.

Shade Variations: No two hides are alike and due to the varying grain structure mentioned below, the dyes and finishes penetrate to differing degrees in different parts of the hide to give an attractive variation. While every attempt is made to achieve uniformity this is not always possible.

Splits: Underlying layers of leather, usually used for suede.

Stretch Marks: Stretch marks appear in cowhide for the same reasons they do in humans. The process of calving requires the stretching of the skin to accommodate the new calf. Nothing could be more natural.

Suede: Leather produced from the flesh split, exhibiting a velvet like nap.  Sueded splits are not top grain leathers, and do not have the same strength and integrity.

Tanning: The process of converting a raw hide into a stable non-perishable state.

Top Coat: Synthetic transparent resins applied as a protective coating from a high gloss to a matte finish.

Top Grain: The top layer, and highest quality part of the hide.  When leather is split in processing, the top grain is the upper portion of the hide.  Because of its strength and beauty, this supple layer is the standard of fine upholstery.

Leather Care:

Leather is a natural product therefore it needs reasonable care during normal usage. Do not expose the leather to sunlight. We do recommend frequent dusting to eliminate clogging of pores. For spills and stains, blot with a clean dry absorbent cloth or sponge. For matte leathers if necessary, wipe with a clean cloth and damp lukewarm water. Do not dry wet areas with hair dryers, etc. For natural or non-protected leathers, blot liquid with a clean absorbent cloth. If a stain appears it will dissipate in time.

Do not apply water to clean butter, oil or grease spots.  Do Not Use: Furniture polish, varnish, ammonia, saddle soaps, oils, abrasive cleaner soaps, etc… The leather has been permanently preserved in the tanning process and needs no maintenance other than the simple cleaning recommended. The use of some leather care kits can void your warranty claim. Only Authorized Leather Care Kits should be used, when cleaning any leather.

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