Leather Types and Uses
When looking at leather goods to purchase, you will hear and read a lot of leather related terms you may be unfamiliar with. When we got into leather, it took several months to really understand what a hide was and how it was produced. The type of leather an item is made out of has implications on what it can be used for and how to care for it. In this section of our shop you will find a glossary of leather terms and explanations that will help you make informed decisions.
Types of Leather
Vegetable Tanned Leather- Vegetable tanned leather, commonly called "veg tan" is an animal hide that has been converted from an organic animal skin to a long-lasting material we can use. The hide is soaked in tannins, substances that convert the collagen in the hide and draw out moisture. In the case of veg tanned leather, these tannins come from plant sources- often oak bark in the United States. Veg tanning leather produces a hide that is moldable and can be tooled. Veg tanned leather is also used for holsters and sheaths because it is safe for contact with metal. It is also our bedrock in leather goods as we learned on it and most of we make is veg tanned.
Chrome Tanned Leather- Most of the garment, upholstrey, and handbag leather you see is chrome tanned leather. Chrome tan will be thinner, lighter, and more flexible than veg tanned leather and is easier to work by machine for that reason. This is why most factory produced goods are chrome tanned leather. Chrome tanned leather is much quicker to produce and available in many colors. Chrome tan can not be tooled or stamped (except by heat), but is more resistant to stains and water than veg tanned. It can not be used in weapon holsters or in contact with metal, as the chromium salts will damage metal finish.
Drum Dyed Leather- A leather which has been immersed in a dye within a drum and tumbled to ensure full penetration of the dye. This leather, when cut, will be "struck through"
Latigo Leather- Latigo means "whip" in Spanish and this leather was first used for that purpose. Latigo is highly resistant to the elements due to a dual tanning process that fills the leather with oils and waxes. This leather is used regularly in tack and saddlery, but we like to use it for other products as well. We normally get ahold of burgundy colored latigo, but it is available in brown and black as well.
Burnishing- High quality leather items will have the edges burnished for durability and beauty. A beveler is used on each side of the leather to get the desired angle. The edge is then "slicked" to a smooth, glossy surface. Each maker has their own method of burnishing, as there are a variety of tools and ways to do it.
Saddle Stitching- Saddle stitching is a process in which you hand stitch an item using a single piece of waxed thread. Each stitch results in a square knot in the middle of the hole in the leather. Holes are made using an awl, which must be kept extremely sharp. We use harness needles for saddle stitching and the item is held in a stitching pony.
Lockstitch- Industrial sewing machines used in our shop produce a lockstitch, which securely holds an item together. Both needle feed and walking foot compound feed machines are used here, depending on the item or step being completed in the creation process. High quality and well tuned Juki. Pfaff. and Singer machines are used. Top quality thread, either bonded nylon or bonded polyester, are used to ensure your item stands the test of time.