The quality of leather used can directly impact the durability of rather expensive leather products and accessories. Picking the right material is one of the most crucial factors to consider before you buy a leather jacket. A lot of leather jackets and products these days are made of full-grain leather. What are the stand-out features of full-grain leather? Let’s find out.
Like most other raw materials, leather also comes in several grades and types. Of these, full-grain leather is the topmost, premium quality leather. It is extracted from the thickest part of the animal hide. Full-grain leather is not buffed or sanded, thereby making it superior and naturally strong. The fiber is extremely strong, given that the grain surface is kept intact until the surface coating. As this leather ages, it is likely to develop a patina. Full-grain leather is likely to cost you a considerably higher amount of money, as compared to the other grades of leather but it is well above the other reformed and sanded types. The biggest global brands for bags and accessories prefer using full-grain leather products to give their product a dash of class and finesse.
Extracted from the thickest, most reliable part of the hide, full-grain leather is a unique specimen of nature. Natural markings and blemishes formed on the outer hide, beautify the skin of full-grain leather. Most other types of leathers are sanded and made to look uniform, which truly destroys the natural look of the leather. That is not the case with full-grain leather. Its beauty only increases with time. Full-grain leather starts slightly changing color over time, which is to say, it develops a patina. It is a highly desirable feature of this premium-grade leather. Another quality check you can use to confirm the authenticity of full-grain leather is a.close perusal with a magnifying glass. You will see the minuscule hair follicles and fat wrinkles indicating the premium quality of this leather. The surface may show other characteristics such as scars, shading, and natural variations of the full-grain texture.
Leather upper refers to the portion of a shoe right above the sole that is made out of leather. As the name suggests, full-grain leather uppers made out of full-grain premium quality leather are known as leather uppers.
The thickest, outermost part of the hide is where the full-grain leather is extracted from. It is not sanded or buffed to retain the natural thickness and rigidity. The extraction is from the part of the skin right under the hair. The animals used for full-grain leather vary based on region and availability. Alligators, bison, and ostriches are available regionally and scarcely, but the regular use animals are goats, sheep, or pigs.
When we look at a leather product, we see a nicely coated and leveled finished product. However, there are a few stages of production that help refine your product into a usable fine-touched finished product. Raw leather primarily goes through the process of preparation, tanning, and eventually crusting. Once these stages are complete, it is given a surface coating to polish or finish the product.
In this stage, firstly the skin of the animal is treated to preserve it. Thereafter, the treated skin is rinsed, soaked, cleaned, and then rehydrated again. This process makes the skin stronger and thicker. Next, the greases and fats in the skin are removed by soaking them in a solution. This process is called liming. It makes the skin usable. The leather is then groomed by removing the hair, fats, and subcutaneous materials. The next bit is the lining of the skin for the removal of proteins and chemicals which may affect the leather in the long run.
Thereafter, the skin goes through the process of slicking, which is essentially the removal of the fat inside the skin. Once the slicking is over, the skin is bleached.
After the rigorous preparation procedures, the skin/hide is sent for tanning to induce flexibility and stability into the rawhide. There are several methods used for tanning. The most commonly used method is soaking of the hides in tanning liquor in rotating drums. This ascertains that an equal amount of tanning dye is absorbed by the hide. Thereafter, the process of basification is initiated, where the pH levels of the hide are increased to turn the hide into proper leather.
Crusting is essentially the procedure where the leather is given a nice final touch. After tanning, the hides are thinned and re-tanned to soften the hides. Then, they're lubricated and colored. Once the leather looks fine and dry, it is surface coated by oiling, glazing, embossing, or spraying the required finishing.
Full-grain leather is sold at tanneries and leather distributor shops. These days everything is available online too. The countries that produce most of the leather in the world are the USA, Argentina, India, Italy, Russia, South Korea, and Brazil.
Leather that has had a pebbled texture embossed onto the surface after it has been tanned is known as pebbled leather. The pebbled embossing is used to cover the flaws on the surface of the product.
Burnishing is a process where pressure and friction are applied to the hide to give the leather a darker, more antiqued finishing. Spinning metal disks are commonly used to give smoother chafings and darker finishings to leather products.
When the leather is coated with un-emulsified oil or a combination of raw oil and emulsified oils the leather is called oiled full-grain leather. The oiling procedure hydrates the leather, making it flexible, well-lubricated, and water-resistant.
Tumbling is a process carried out in drums where the leather is rotated much more to create a smooth surface.
The most essential and underlooked part of the maintenance of full grain leather is the storage. Leather jackets, shoes, etc are often kept by the fireplace, radiator, or hairdryer. This can seriously damage the fibers in the leather. It is always advisable to keep your full-grain leather in humid conditions and even steam it once in a while. If you own a shoe, bag, or jacket, simply wipe it clean with a cloth. Leather conditioners, shampoo, and wax are all available these days to maintain the quality of your leather product. However, whenever you buy a new leather care product it is advisable to first test it on an inconspicuous patch to check if it is altering the natural blush of your leather.
You may use leather protectants and sealants to protect the skin of the leather and prevent essential oils from escaping. Polishing may be a personal choice for added protection, but it may dry up the natural fibers of the leather skin.
Being made out of animal skin, leather is permeable and can absorb water. In that sense, full-grain leather cannot be fully waterproof. Piling may help, but it may still absorb some water. Never use an air dryer. Let it dry itself out.
If cared for properly, pure quality full-grain leather can last between 5 to 10 times the durability of other fabrics. Some. museums today have well-preserved leather antiques that are over a century years old.
The thickness of full grain leather depends on the way it has been made and for what purpose. Tanned hides are usually split into 2 or more sheets so this is also a factor to consider. The strength of full-grain leather comes from the tightness of its fiber structure, rather than its thickness. The lower leather cuts have a looser fiber structure and are considerably less durable.
Leather is made out of animal skin. Naturally, there are chances there may be scars, blemishes, and bites on the hide. It is therefore required sometimes that such leather be corrected by sanding and buffing it. Thereafter, the corrected hide is embossed and stamped with an artificial grain. This type of leather is corrected leather. It is much smoother but the quality isn't as good as full-grain leather.
Kangaroo leather is found in only a few places across the globe. It has a very unique texture and is a lot more flexible than common cattle leather. It is used for laces, whips, shoes, and other accessories. It is much thinner and fragile when compared to cattle-based full-grain leather.
There are a few pros and cons of calf leather. The calves are young and much less likely to have scars or bites on the hide. The fiber is tighter than that of adult cattle. However, it is less durable than that of a matured ox, although it is fully waterproof.
Blended or bonded leather is one of the lowest grades of leather. It is put together by processing scraps of genuine leather which are made into leather sheets, and then embossed and artificially grained. It is of poor quality and much less durable.
When the hide of the animal is split, two layers form. The upper layer which is thicker and stronger is used to make top grain/ full-grain and nubuck leather. The lower split of the hide is used to make split leather. Split leather is poor in structure and less durable. It is coated and printed to make it look like top grain leather.
As mentioned before, full-grain leather is premium and superior quality leather. Genuine leather is much lesser quality leather. Contrary to what the name suggests, genuine leather is made from split leather and is built out of a loose fiber structure, and doesn't usually last long.
These two types of leather have a velvet type structure and bear resemblance to each other. However, there are some major differences. Nubuck comes from full-grain leather and is durable and strong. It is less flexible and permeable. Suede, on the other hand, is made out of a split layer of animal leather. It is weaker and not waterproof.