About the Leather

Leather is leather is leather, right? That's what I used to think. There was thick leather and thin leather and differently dyed leather, and leather from different animals, but that was about it, right?


Trying to get into leatherwork taught me a lot about leather. There are a ton of different cuts of leather, I mean, the skin is different thicknesses all around the animal and all of these give different amount of different quality (hardness, thickness, roughness, etc) 

You have backs, and bends, and sides, and shoulders, and bellys. Then you have all different grades of leather: Full grain, top grain, genuine and bonded leather. Then you have the different methods of tanning, be it vegetable tanned or chrome tanned (Pretty sure those are the main two, but I'm still learning too...)

So, lets just do a super short version of whats important to you, the consumer and wearer, of this leather:

The tanning process: Tanneries use either Chrome Tanning or vegetable tanning. Both of which are good for different things and different products.

Chrome tanning throws the hides into a large drum full of various chemicals (Including Chromium, hence the name) and tumbles the hides inside the drum for 10-20 hours until the hides are tanned all the way through, after curing the leather tends to be a bit more stretchable and is a good leather for making garments and handbags and things of that sort. 

Vegetable tanning uses the tannins from various barks and leaves. The tannins bind to the collegen proteins in the hide and make it less water soluable, more resistant to bacteria and more flexible. The hides are stretched on frames and submerged for several weeks in vats of increasing concentrations of tannin. These hides are strong and flexible and usually used for luggage and furniture. This is the leather that is used for Terminus Est products.

The types/grains of leather:

If you look at a cross section of leather (above and taken from a google image search) you will find the layers that make up a hide.

Full Grain: The grain is the toughest part of the leather, it is the outside layer and highest quality, but also the surface is the skin that the cow may have injured during its life. This means that full grain leather is the best leather you can get as it takes all of the best, toughest part of the leather (The grain) and includes all of it (Hence the term "full grain"). Full grain leather also tends to age the best and gain the best wear and patina as it is used.

Top Grain: Top grain leather cuts, sands, and polishes the top level of the grain down in order to remove blemishes (scars, brands, etc) and provide a perfectly uniform surface on the leather. In doing this some of the toughest parts are removed, and some of the softer corium is included. It is a step down in quality from full grain leather, but still pretty good, and can be an ideal solution for when the leather has to be uniform all over the surface. It also tends not to age and patina as well as full grain leather.

Genuine: Genuine leather consists of the parts of the hide that remain after the the Top Grain is split off. It is generally softer and larger filaments will fray and tear off. it can be painted to look like higher quality leather, or left soft. Suede is made from genuine leather, and it can have its uses, but has no place at Terminus Est Leather.

Bonded: Bonded leather is junk. Scraps of leather and leather powder are ground up and glued to cloth or vinyl backing and stamped to look like leather patterns on the front. it is weak and crappy, and barely deserves to be called leather at all. Don't use bonded leather for anything if you can avoid it.