Types of Leather Definitions Explained

Types Of Leather

Types of Leather
5 different leather types and 2 tanning processes were use to create the leather used here.|

Genuine Real Leather is just a catch all term which covers all leather products but what are you really buying?

The quality of the leather is determined by how it is tanned and finished and which part of the skin it is made from.

Types of Hide

It would be reasonable to assume that the terms “Full Grain” and “Top Grain” refers to a grainy finish on the leather but this is not so. The top of the hide just below the hair is called “The Grain” and the underside “The Flesh” so leather described as “Full or Top Grain” is made from that best and strongest section of the hide just under the hair.

“Full Grain” leather is tanned and dyed but left very natural so any brands and blemishes that the animal has sustained during it’s life are seen (obviously the cleanest and least blemished hides will be chosen to be finished as full grain), as this type of skin ages it will change a little taking on it’s own beautiful natural patina and showing the use and blemishes acquired during it’s time with you. Some maintenance maybe required in the form of cleaning and polishing depending on your usage.

“Top Grain” leather is tanned and dyed but some “correcting of the grain ” is carried out, this may be minimal, just enough to clean up any blemishes or it may involve embossing a subtle grain or full on Ostrich, Crocodile or snake design (as shown in the featured image) this leather may still change a little over time taking on it’s own beautiful natural patina and showing the use and blemishes acquired during it’s time with you but less so than a full grain leather and it will require less maintenance.

Be it Buffalo, Cow, Sheep or Pig it was not bred for it’s skin, leather is a by-product of the meat industry and as a keen environmentalist I think it should not be wasted, there is a place for bonded and split leathers just as there is a place for chipboard and plywood but you will not find it on this website, my products are handcrafted by me in Scotland not mass produced as cheaply as possible so it doesn’t make sense to use a budget product. I won’t work with trophy skins either for me it has to be farmed and tanned under strict regulations and sourced as close to home as possible.

The Tanning Process

When people enter my workshop and exclaim ‘Oh I just love that smell’ what they are smelling is beautiful “Veg Tanned” leather, it’s an ancient process going back thousands of years and uses the bark from trees (traditionally Chestnut in France and Oak in Britain) to make a solution in which the raw hides are soaked, this process can take anywhere from several months to a year but produces a wonderful, strong and supple leather.

Here at John Dick Leather I am fortunate to be able to buy British Bridle Leather direct from the manufacturer.

Traditional and Modern Veg Tanned Bridle leather from Joesph Clayton & Sons Ltd of Chesterfield.

Traditional Oak Bark Tanned Bridle Leather from J&FJ Baker of Colyton Devon (check out their YouTube video describing the tanning process it’s fascinating.

I also purchase Veg Tanned Saddle Hides made in Italy and Belgium, these come from a UK stockist in a wonderful range of colours, so if you have a specific colour in mind contact me and I will see what’s available right now.  Saddle Hide is a little softer than Bridle Leather with more of a Matt finish and makes up beautifully.

The majority of leather produced is Chrome Tanned, it creates a strong but supple finish and the leather has a long life with very little maintenance, the process can be fully automated and takes as little as a day from start to finish so is very cost effective, as the name suggests it uses acids, chemicals and chromium so if not well regulated it can have negative environmental impact so if I am buying Chrome tanned hides I make sure they are made within Europe so environmental concerns are reduced.

Faux and Vegan Leather

As I mentioned earlier Leather is a by product of the meat industry and as such I am happy to work with it as long as there is a plentiful supply however I appreciate that not everyone feels the same and there are plenty natural products available as substitute. Tweed, Tartan, Cotton canvas and waxed cotton, cotton webbing for belts etc. You will see many of these materials used with leather and on their own on my website as I upload my products. However Leather look Faux and Vegan leather is currently made using petrochemicals so from an environmental perspective I wouldn’t encourage it’s use.

Check out DunmoreScotland.com for their range of Harris Tweed, Tartan and Canvas bags all Handcrafted in Scotland and sent worldwide.

Contact: Margaret J Dick,T/a John J Dick Leather Goods, Lochgelly, Fife, KY5 0AU 01582 784 278

How to care for your tawse

The Tawse are hard wearing and durable, but by following proper procedure you can make sure they look the best for as long as possible.

Caring For your tawse