HAND-CRAFTED LEATHER GOODS
Some of the many kinds of leather
Alligator:- Alligator, crocodile and related types are mostly vegetable-tanned and finished in a variety of colours. They are not easy to obtain and are expensive. Mock varieties are freely available, made from embossed cowhide, and virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. All the reptiles are produced in great varieties. Water snakes and small python make excellent belts. Chameleons, lizards, toads and frogs, though small, are used for small fancy goods. Their granulated grain has a beauty with which few other leathers can compare.
Aluta:- Roman name for tawed (alum tanned) leather. Aluta was used for sails in Venice, and for shoe uppers in ancient Greece.
Amazonica Crackle:- A full grain buffalo with a combination of oil/wax. This tanning method creates a soft waxy finish, providing a pull-up effect with a more dressy than casual appearance. It has a little sheen to it.
Aniline Leather:- Leather which retains its colour only from dyestuffs rather than from pigment, and as a consequence looks more natural.
Apron Leathers:- Any one of several varieties of leather used in connection with textile machinery and blacksmith aprons. Comber and Gill Box (“Comber” means a machine for combining fibres of cotton, wool, etc. The essential parts are a device for feeding forward a fringe of fibres at regular intervals and an arrangement of combs or pins, which, at the right time, pass through the fringe. All tangled fibres, short fibres, and nips are removed and the long fibres are laid parallel. “Gill Box” means a machine used in the worsted system of manufacturing yarns. Its function is to arrange fibres in a parallel order. Essentially, it consists of a pair of feed rolls and a series of followers where the followers move at a faster surface speed and perform a combing action.) apron leather is soft, mellow, tough leather, tanned from steer hide, heavily stuffed and boarded or otherwise softened. Rub Roll apron leather is a flexible but firm, dry, strong leather.
Bag leather:- A form of vegetable tannage in which the skins are sewn together in pairs to form bags and floated in tan liquor. This method avoids drawn grain and gives good spread of leather.
Basil:- Bark tanned pickled sheepskins.
From the Arabic bîtana, from which the
Provençal bazana and the French basane were derived, “basil” is a leather
made using small hides, mostly sheepskins and tanned with agents of 100%
Bating:- The process prior to tanning proper where the fibres of a hide
or skin which have been plumped or swollen by liming are reduced and softened, thus assuring
pliability in the product. The word is a form of "abate" in the sense of reduce.
Bonded leather:- Known also as "reconstituted leather", is composed of 90% to 100% leather fibres (often scrap from leather tanneries or leather workshops) bonded together with latex binders to create a look and feel similar to that of leather, at a fraction of the cost. This bonded leather is not as durable as other leathers and is recommended for use only if the product will be used infrequently. Bonded leather upholstery is a vinyl upholstery that contains about 17% leather fibre in its backing material. The vinyl is stamped to give it a leather-like texture. Bonded leather upholstery is durable and its manufacturing process is environmentally-friendly.
Bougie leather:- Leather from the town of Bougie in North east Algeria. Famous in the fifteenth century.
Bovine:- Cow, ox, steer, bull, buffalo or closely related animal. Axilla: Thin stretchy areas between the legs — usually has a coarser grain pattern.
Buckskin:- Deer and elk skins, having the outer grain removed. Sometimes also cowhide. Though it might be tempting to think that the name comes from buck, a male deer, the name buckskin comes from the alkali soaking process, called bucking. Strictly speaking, this is oil-tanned frized (in some leathers the grain is partially removed by abrasion, a process called "frizing" or buffing) grain leather.
Bullhide:- Hide from a male bovine animal that was capable of reproduction, about 70 sq ft.
Cabretta:- A hair type sheepskin, typically from Brazil. (Any variety
of sheep growing hair instead of wool. They yield hides with a finer and tougher
grain than those of wool sheep). When the Portuguese first went to Brazil they
mistook the indigenous hair sheep for goats and called them cabrettas (kids). The skins
were exported to the USA by the Blue Funnel Line (later the Booth Group) and the name
cabretta stayed with them. Now all hair sheep skins have taken the generic name cabretta.
The acknowledged superior material for gloving and soft shoe leather it also comes from Ethiopia and other sub-tropical regions. This material offers all the features required, its
thin tough structure giving it strength and maximum flexibility, it is hard wearing and comfortable.
Finished on the grain or flesh side. Soft, but has less "body" than sheep. This is very soft and stretchy.
Calfskin:- The skin from a young bovine, male or female, about 9 months old, fine grain, smooth surface, durable. Also Boxcalf:- This normally refers to black calf, chrome-tanned, boarded in two directions. (Boarding by the way, is the process of folding a leather grain to grain and working the fold across the leather to crease and enhance the natural grain.) Willow calf:- This is brown or coloured and willow bark was originally used for its tanning. Hunting calf:- Suede upper leather with the suede on the flesh side, made from a larger calf skin or from a veal. Somewhat coarser than suede calf. Reverse calf:- Water-resistant suede calf leather finished on the flesh side.
California Banknotes:- In "Two Years Before the Mast" Richard Henry Dana describes how he sailed from Boston to California in 1834 to collect hides. He also explains how the hides are dried and loaded onto the ships before returning to the East Coast. Since California had nothing else of wealth at that time the dried hides were known as "California Banknotes".
Hides were valued in Boston at 12½ cents a pound dry salted, and the captain got 1% commission. Ships would spend nearly a year collecting and accumulating hides up and down the California coast to make the journey worthwhile. On Dana's ship they brought back 40,000 hides.
"The hides are brought down dry, or they will not be received. When taken from the animal they have holes cut in the ends, and are staked out, and thus dried in the sun without shrinking. They are then doubled once, lengthwise, with the hair side usually in, and sent down upon mules or in carts, and piled above high-water mark: and then we take them upon our heads, one at a time, or two, if they are small, and wade out with them and throw them into the boat."
Camel Leather:- The commercial tanning of camel leather was pioneered in Australia. It is a very versatile leather which has two unique properties. These are its exceptional tensile strength and the attractive grain pattern on the tanned product. These features ensure its demand for the manufacture of a wide range of products such as; shoe and boot uppers, upholstery, fashion accessories, brief cases, garments, harness and sporting goods
The first commercial tanning was undertaken in 1992, facilitated by the CICS and Wamboden Abattoir which is about 30 kilometres north of Alice Springs. The hide needs to be split in half so the hump section can flatten to enable tanning through commercially available machines. Hides have been tanned both as "Fur On" to form skins and "Fur Off" as leather.
Vegetable tanning produces soft leather for the craft and tourism industries. Chromate tanning produces harder leather with commercial and craft uses. It has been shown that camel's hides are very strong with a pulling strength 5 times greater than cattle hides.
Camel leather has been used for centuries in the desert regions of the world where camels are plentiful. Locally, camel leather has been used to make crafts, bowls, jugs, and even shields. Commercial production of camel hides began in Australia, and commercial exportation of camel leather and camel suede has begun to increase worldwide. The largest market for camel suede seems to be clothing designers and crafters who routinely utilize other forms of leather as well. Camels are not raised solely for their hides. The leather is a by-product when the animal is raised for transportation, meat or other uses; because of this, camel leather and camel suede can provide a relatively cost-effective alternative to bovine leather in some circumstances. More information on the development of the camel meat industry can be found at Camels Australia Export, website Camels Australia Export
Carding Leather:- A special type of side leather used on the cards of cotton machinery. The leather lies flat against the beds of the cards, the teeth being forced through.
Carpincho:- The water rodent of Brazil. The skin as a leather has excellent
stretch and is soft but hard wearing. A distinguishing feature is the hair-holes which are in groups of three to seven.
It is the biggest rodent inhabiting several regions of South America. It is very similar to a pig, having the same stiff, rather bristly hair and general body shape. It lives on the banks of rivers, lakes and swamps. They splash into the water when any danger threatens them. They are coveted by tigers and hunters, the latter not only want its meat but also the skin as there is a market for it. The main characteristics of these animals are a regular head, small ears, short neck, round, small eyes, a round snout, short legs and short big teeth. It does not have a tail and it eats vegetable matter. (back)
Cattle Hide:- In the strictest sense, any leather made from the hide of a mature bovine animal is cattle hide. It is used as a general term for hides before tanning.
Chamois leather:- A soft leather originally made from the skins of the Alpine antelope known as the chamois but at the present time from the fleshers of sheepskins. Certain grades were used in gloves and fancy articles but its usual employment is for cleaning and polishing, primarily automobiles. Chamois is characterised by its ability to absorb at least three times its own weight of water.
Cheverel, Cheveril:- A soft, flexible, kidskin leather, a leather which stretched easily.
Chicken/Hen Leather:- The name for leather made from chicken skin is Poulard. As improbable as chicken leather sounds it's as thick as emu leather and can be used to make a range of items from souvenirs to shoes. Chicken/hen skin provides a versatile and elegant skin for exotic leather products such as watch bands, belts, wallets, etc. Hen leather is beautiful and durable. Chicken skins are used to make luxury goods in some of the richest countries in the world.
Chicken Skin processing:
First, you take the skin off. This happens at the butchering/packaging plant. Then it is salted to be preserved, to be processed at the tannery. It stops bacteria from decomposing the skin, too.
There is the option to bring it to the tannery fresh. It is cleaned up, so both sides may in fact be shaved, so it might take the hair or feathers off one side and the fat and connective tissue off the other side and then it goes through a couple of processes that prepare it for receiving the tanning chemicals. The tanning chemicals are bonded on to the skin by changing the Ph level (level of acidity). Then it is ready for dyeing and finishing.
Skin from the chicken legs are taken, especially the upper part of the legs. They go through the same process.
Leather durability: When correctly processed, it's like any other leather.
Leather softness: It is soft to use for gloves, you could use it for steering wheel covers, or covers for mobile phones and so on. It has got what's called a grain and for most skins that’s what you pay for.
Other features: Chicken leather has a pattern of the grain. The feather follicles are distributed in feather tracts and that is what is meant by "grain".
Coated Leather:- This is a fairly recent development using split leather. It is produced from the lower split by first melting a type of glue on the surface, then rolling on a film of coloured polyurethane. It's normally produced in darker colours, and when stretched, it lightens. Its quality varies and it's also easily scratched. This type of leather is now being used to make furniture although it has been used to make handbags and belts for a while.
Combination leather:- Leather tanned by two or more tanning agents, e.g. chrome followed by vegetable (chrome re-tan), vegetable followed by chrome (semi-chrome), formaldehyde followed by oil (combination oil).
applied to a specific type of white leather from the Spanish town of Cordoba, in
the 8th century, which was also dyed red and later gilded. Generally today, is
from a section of a horse hide, called the shell; the bit behind the
saddle, the crup, often tanned with a sulphur tannage. As such it was a soft
vegetable tanned leather and followed by goat, sheep and pigskin leathers with a
similar formula. Cordovan leather has good wearing characteristics, and is non
porous. The horse product still tends to be called "shell cordoban leather".
Horween Shell Cordovan
Mouflon Mouflon skin Corinthian/Casino:-
Horween Shell Cordovan
Cordovan leather:-Developed in Spain in the 8th century, when the Moors arrived in Spain. Made from the skin of the mouflon (Ovis Musimom). Also known as: muflone (Italian), Corsican mouflon, European mouflon, musimon, musmon, Sardinian mouflon. It is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern sheep breeds. It is red-brown with a dark back-stripe, light coloured saddle patch and underparts. The males are horned and the females are horned or polled. It is now rare but has been successfully introduced into central Europe, including Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republics, and Romania. Originally this hair sheep only survived in Corsica and Sardinia. It was tanned with alum and later with alum and sumac. Best brilliant scarlet type was tawed with alum and dyed with kermes (Quercus coccifera). (see also)
Corinthian/Casino:-Almost everyone has heard of "Corinthian" leather or "Casino" leather, which came straight from Goliger Leather Company, Inc. (Here). Casino leather is fantastic, high-end, and antiqued. The finish has a nice, satiny finish that is simply perfect for any application where a subtle, warm look is desired. This particular leather is produced only from Austrian or South German cattle hides and is considered one of the finest leathers available around the world. These leathers may include some naturally occurring marks, caused from a healed scar or fat wrinkles, which are not considered defects as they add to the natural beauty of the leather.
Cowhide:- Hide from a mature female bovine that has had a calf, but loosely synonymous with the hide of any mature bovine. If one talks simply about "hide" or "cowhide" it is understood to mean stiffish natural vegetable-tanned cowhide suitable for tooling, for example, not the thin flexible kind used for garment making.
Cuir Bouilli:- (kweer-boo-ee) One really cool thing you can do with bark tanned skins is known as "cuir bouilli", meaning boiled leather. The boiling makes the leather become hard and brittle, giving it some resemblance to the properties of wood. However, since the leather remains flexible and stretchable for a brief period after boiling, forming it to the needs of the armourer is simple. Thus it's a cheap, light and convenient alternative to bronze and other historical materials. Here's a description from R. Reed's Ancient Skins, Parchments, and Leathers:
"Wet, vegetable-tanned leather begins to shrink above 75 degrees Celsius and so lose its shape. After thorough softening in water at ordinary temperatures the leather can be formed or moulded into the most remarkable shapes which on drying retain a fair degree of permanence. This shape can be set more permanently by drying under moderate heat, the skillful choice of temperature determining the degree of rigidity obtained."
"A quicker process which produces extremely hard and rigid articles is to dip the moulded shape into boiling water for about 20 to 120 seconds. This partially melts the tannin, allowing them to flow and redistribute throughout the fiber network. On cooling, it turns into a tough, three-dimensional polymer network or resin, not unlike more modern materials such as Bakelite and the aminoplastics."
To put it simply, Cuir Bouilli is a means of making hardened and stiffened leather. There is disagreement among some leatherworkers as to how this is accomplished, though a significant amount of evidence points to it being done by moulding wet vegetable tanned leather. The leather can be shaped into any number of forms, which, on drying, retains that shape. The wet leather can be set more firmly by drying it with a moderate heat, the degree of rigidity obtained, being determined by the drying temperature.
Cuirots:- Sweated, painted or limed, dried sheep skins. The cuirot is simply a fresh skin which has been dried. It looks a bit like a parchment. On this dry skin, there are still remains of wool (at the extremities of the members, around the neck...), and impurities too. The cuirots are therefore put into baths with a concentrated basic solution (sulphur) to clean the external surface of the skin (which is called "flower"). Then, to eliminate the remnants of flesh stuck on the internal surface, the skin is put into a special machine (echarneuse) which takes any flesh or fat out.
Then comes the tanning itself, which consists in treating the skin to prevent it
from decaying. This treatment can be achieved by vegetal tannin or mineral
tannins. Vegetable Tanning gives a skin that is not very supple, and which is
called basané. When looking inside leather shoes, one can often see what a
basané is because the lining is often made of it. But the basané is also used to
make leather for other things.
Culatte:- In Germany the rear part of a cattle hide comprising the butt with the side parts (shoulder and upper side parts removed). Sold chiefly in the form of crust leather.
Curried leather:- Leather, usually vegetable tanned, which has been subjected to currying, i.e. a series of dressing and finishing processes applied to it after tanning, during which, appropriate amounts of oils and greases are incorporated giving it increased tensile strength, flexibility and water-resistance.
Dantzig leather:- [danzick leather; danske leather; dansk leather] Probably synonymous with Spruce leather, since most exports from Spruce came through Dantzig. The state it started from was Prussia. The 14th century word spruce is a variant of Pruce, which was itself a shortened version of Prussia. Originally, things that were spruce were those items brought from Prussia; for example, spruce fir trees and, more to the point for this phrase, spruce leather. The adjective and verb senses ("trim, neat" and "to make trim, neat") are attested from 1594, and originate with spruce leather (1466), which was used to make a popular style of jerkins in the 1400s that was considered smart-looking. (Originally, things that were spruce were those items brought from Prussia; for example, spruce fir trees and, more to the point for this phrase, spruce leather.)
Deer and elk skins having the grain intact.
While deerskin is durable, it is more difficult to keep clean than cowhide
because of the softness of the leather. Also, it tends to lose its shape after
extended periods of rough wear, although this will take a fair amount of time to
Doeskin:- Nothing to do with does! It's from sheep or lamb skins, as an aldehyde tanned flesh split, usually with the grain removed. Very fine nap. Most often white or cream in colour.
Dogskin:- A trade name for selected best-quality English sheepskin, is a soft, lovely leather, which is very durable. It comes in pastel shades, among others, and is hard-wearing in the natural or darker tones.
Dongola tannage:- This gave the first successful water-stable leathers. Since Egyptian
times there was alum tanning which was soft, but had no resistance to water, and vegetable
tanning which was more resistant, but was very hard. A vegetable and alum tannage was developed
in Gloversville, New York, in the 1860's to compete with the expensive kid tannage for gloves. Dongola is a
town in the Sudan, and there is a breed of hair sheep named after it. Dongola
tannage strictly speaking is alum, salt and gambier only, used together in one solution. Dongola is especially applied to glazed and dull
kid. For full dongola the process is commenced in very weak gambier liquor, with
the full proportion of alum and salt, and the gambier is gradually strengthened. Dull dongola is ironed like
kid in the finish. It is said, sometimes, to be glazed with a blood seasoning, and then dulled by a mixture of
soap and oil, followed by slating with a smooth round-edged slicker, but it is generally sized.
The combination tannage of gambier, alum, and salt can also be applied in the following manner: The bated and washed skins are placed in gambier liquor in a paddle. From 3 to 5lb. of gambier are used for one dozen skins. After they have started to absorb the gambier, from 8 to 16 oz. of alum and 8 oz. of salt are added to the liquor, for each dozen skins, and the paddling is continued until the tannage is complete, which takes 18 to 36 hours. The leather is then washed in warm water to remove the adhering tan, next fat-liquored with acid fat-liquor, dried, wet-back, coloured, dried again, and finished. After the alum and salt have been added it is customary to put the skins, together with the tanning liquor, into a drum and run them for a few hours or until thoroughly tanned. Some soluble oil may also be added to the liquor and applied to the leather toward the end of the tanning process.
Excellent leather is also made by taking the skins out of the gambier liquor when they are well struck through, striking them out and then drumming them with a paste of water, flour, alum, salt, and either egg-yoke or soluble oil, drying and then colouring them with a basic dye and titanium-potassium oxalate. The colour of the leather can be modified by adding a solution of fustic or other dyewood to the gambier liquor, and the entire process may be reversed. The skins may be first drummed with alum and salt and then tanned with gambier. Heavy skins may be tanned with gambier, alum, and salt. After the leather is dry, it can be coloured with acid or basic dyes: and, if not fat-liquored immediately after tanning, drummed with acid fat-liquor or with an emulsion of oil and soap, staked and finished.
Dry leather:- [dryed leather; drye lethur; dry'd leather] Dry or dried leather as well as dry and dried skin in variety was carried up river on the River Severn for much of the period after 1660. It was presumably a way of preserving the skin for transportation, though it should not have been needed for leather. However, dried leather has been noted among the stock of tanners, including one who had 'Dry'd Leather at Liv'rp' [Inventories (1720)] as well as large quantities of 'Hydes wett', while another had 'Soale hydes' in the tan pits, 'Upper leather hydes', leather 'In the Lymes' and 'Dryed leather' [Inventories (1720)]. In these cases the dried leather seems to be called by this name to contrast it with the hides in process of tanning, which would have been wet. However, this does not explain the 'pere of black drye lethur bootes' found among the apparel of one wealthy Worcester tradesman [Inventories (1555)]. Possibly dry leather in this context was that not oiled the usual way to increase softness and suppleness.
Elk:- A trade term for cattlehide shoe leather of special tannage and finish. Genuine elk leather is made into one of several types of buckskins.
Entrefino:- Type of Spanish lambskin used for top quality leather and shearling products. Characterized by lightweight and fine leather side, and straight and glossy, wool/fur side.
Fish skin:- Fish tanning begins by collecting the skins from the commercial fish processors.
When the skins arrive, they usually have traces of flesh left on them. The flesh
is removed manually with a knife on a wooden block.
After the flesh is removed, the scales need to come off, so the skins are put
into drums with a special fluid that puffs them slightly. This process helps the
scales fall away without damaging the skins.
The tanning process turns raw hide (in this case fish skin) and turns it into
leather using chemicals. The chemical processes allow a preservative to enter
the skin, taking about five weeks. After this is finished the fish no longer has
a fish odour.
Even if the fish was colourful in life, after it dies the natural skin becomes
beige or grey and must be dyed to give it colour again. Soaking the skins with
vegetable dyes enhances them and forms a glaze or shiny finish in a bright hue
while the chrome process of dyeing the skins gives the hides the feel of suede
and subdues the colour. These dyes are colourfast and light fast which means
that the colours won’t fade over time.
After the skins are coloured, the leathers are then softened and dried and then
softened with oils again. Once the leather is dry, the skins are softened again.
Any stray fibres on the underside of the skin are removed with either a hand
breaker or a dry tumble machine. The leather must be very smooth and thin before
it is made into the final product.
The leather at this stage can be either suede or crust leather. It is not very
resistant to water and other stains so care must be taken to choose uses where
it is not exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Crust leather is able to withstand
hand washing and can also be ironed on a low heat.
If the leather is to be used in a tough situation (such as shoes) it must be
refinished. Refinishing leather is a very specialised trade and it takes three
years to learn how to do it properly. At the end of the special process the
leather becomes water resistant and stain resistant to such things as egg yolk, red
wine and even engine oil. The grain (or pattern) on the skin is also protected
and the fibres are now dry-cleanable.
Fish leather is an example of adding value to what was previously a waste
product. (see also, Tanning fish skin and Sea Leather Wear)
Final uses for fish leather include clothing such as shoes, hats, vests, pens,
wallets, purses, belts, buttons, earrings and polish cloths for wood and
Sizes are rough measurements, all the skins taper and the measurements are taken from full length and just above the middle of the full width.
Salmon: 23" long x 5" wide, thickness 0·8 mm – 1·3 mm
Carp: 18" long x 4" wide, thickness 1 mm – 1·5 mm
Perch: 18" long x 6" wide, thickness 1·5 – 2·2 mm
Flanky:- A characteristic of loose grain leather that forms coarse wrinkles on bending with the grain inward.
Foiled:- Foiled leather is used primarily for dancing shoes, a coloured metallic foil is placed on the grain side of the leather and permanently bonded to the leather, offering comfort with elegant shoes.