Types of Leather - Italian Leather Grades
Posted on November 17 2020
Plan on testing your skills in crafting quality Italian leather bags? Or do you just have an errand to run at the leather supply store? Whatever the case, you will definitely need to train your senses to get more bang for your buck when shopping for materials.
There are thousands of booths and shops selling vegetable, chrome, and even brain tanned leather in Texas alone. They come in various colors and thickness - so how do you know which types of leather will suit your purpose like a charm?
In all candor, it is crucial to receive a proper education on these matters so you don’t get burned. After reading this blog post, we guarantee you will understand why some bags are so expensive and why some aren’t. You will learn why some bags easily suffer tear and cracks and some don’t. And, ultimately, you will know exactly what to look out for next time you go shopping for materials. Quality Italian leather is what maintains I Medici’s good name, so we say to you: keep calm and carry on reading.
Types of leather
I Medici products are made of the finest veg-tanned Italian leather. However, there are many leather grades on the market to choose from, so let’s determine the properties of each type if we are to craft something special out of them.
This type comes from the top layer of the hide and as the name suggests, it includes all of the grain. What is characteristic for this type is that its surface patina is known to burnish and beautify with use. It is safe to say, this is the best leather grade money can buy.
Bear in mind, though, that some companies tend to spray inferior leather materials to make them look expensive or substitute the real thing with look-alike vinyl. Truth is, only a small percentage of bags are made of genuine full grain leather so those labels that you see claiming how the product is 100% grain are most likely a hoax.
We at I Medici avoid adding artificial oomph to the bags at all costs. All our marks, scrapes, and scars are natural. Those full grain imperfections running through the hide is what makes each leathercraft so unique and full of character. The harder you ride it, the better it will look - that is a guarantee!
Top grain leather
The second highest grade leather found in supply stores is top grain. This type is split from the top layer of blemished hide before it is thoroughly sanded and refined. The sanding process rids the hide of its distinct scars and brands, which is why they don’t age as nicely as full grain. This material may be strong and durable but without the strongest fibers of the hide, it can still be pulled apart horizontally. And another interesting thing: leather shavings are used as filler in cheap dog food so be careful with what you feed your pups, ok?
This third leather grade is produced from leftovers after the top is split off. It can be smooth or rough and the surface is usually spray painted to have that top-grade glow. We all know suede, for instance, right? Well, suede may look good and is tougher than cloth but it performs poorly when enduring stress. Genuine leather is excellent for lining but won’t last long if you make an entire bag out of it.
As the name suggests, this type is just dust and shavings pressed and glued together. You can accomplish the same thing with water, flour, and - you’ll never guess - dog poop. Just mix and press it all together, let it dry in the sun for two days, spray paint it, and voila!
Truth be told, when it comes to durability and elegance, bonded leather looks like it just fell from a turnip truck. But it has a purpose here and there. Regardless of the fact that it is weak and degrades quickly with use, most book covers like the ones found enveloping the Bible are made of this material.
Step by step guide to leather tanning
In order to craft quality leather bags, cases, and accessories, we at I Medici receive our veg-tanned Italian leather straight from Florentine workshops. But if you ever wondered how to make yourself some leather, sadly, first imagine stumbling upon a recently deceased cow. How do we make good use of its remains and create quality leather grades?
Follow this step by step guide to learn more:
- The cow is carefully skinned and the hide is taken to the tannery where excess hair, fat, and meat is removed.
- The “Wet Blue” stage is when oils, moisture, and all other natural preservatives are extracted from the hide.
- Wet blue hides are then placed into a giant drum and baptized in new preservatives, coloring, and oils. Depending on the leather thickness, it can take up to 10 hours of tumbling in the drum for liquids to penetrate the hide in order to give it life and malleable properties.
- Lastly, the final product is heat-pressed, hung up to dry at a specific level of humidity, spray-layered with sealers and finishes, and pressed again for one final time.
Also, pay attention to leather that isn’t tanned long enough. It may look eye-pleasing but it can tear and crack in no time. Tanneries are supposed to thoroughly replenish the hide with oils and preservatives.
However, some tanneries let the hide tumble in the drum long enough for the outer layer to be properly coated, leaving the inner part rid of its necessary oils and preservatives. It’s like comparing a Porsche and a Dodge. Both look amazing on the outside but what’s going on under the hood speaks volumes in terms of durability and performance.
How tanneries cheat in creating leather?
Just one tanning drum usually costs over $100,000 USD, which explains why some tanneries are short on equipment. This is the main reason why they cut the tumbling time even by up to a staggering 90%!
This is cheating 101 and, frankly, a big money-making move. Not only does it take less time for such tanneries to create various types of leather but they also spend less dough on necessary oils, preservatives, and colors. And most people are oblivious to leather grades and qualities so they will shop pretty much anything as long as it catches their eye.
Proper tanning liquids are also expensive but there are cheaper alternatives, which can save companies huge sums of money on a yearly basis. Combine that with cheap dyes, and your leather bag will fade and crack with excess sunlight in no time.
We at I Medici have an arrangement with Italian leather supply stores which avoid using the chrome tanning technique. Instead, we are focused on promoting the vegetable tanned tanning technique, which has been used since ancient times. Sure, it may take them months to finish a batch but the end product is natural, the patina is brimming with unique qualities, and the environment doesn’t suffer for it.
How to tell good leather apart from cheap leather?
There are cases when companies truly believe they are selling quality leather grades without knowing they are being ripped off by the factory they have outsourced their production to. Naturally, the root of such problems is usually found at the top of the chain.
The general manager of the outsourced factory pays only for the cheap stuff but charges for the expensive stuff. It’s that simple. And considering that the materials are painted, folded over, and sewn at the edges, it is hard to tell the difference - until you get a lot of complaints by your loyal customers, that is.
We at I Medici are not looking for perfection but authenticity. Our Italian leather products may vary in shades and have distinct marks but our goal is to craft handmade pieces, which will gracefully age and last a lifetime. We opt for sustenance and class. There is no progress in perfection!
We hope this information helps you with finding the types of leather you need. Of course, we at I Medici are always at your service but if you wish to keep on searching somewhere else, we wish you all the luck in the world, nevertheless!
You take care, y'all!
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