The leather manufacturing porcess is divided into three sub-processes: preparatory stages, tanning and crusting. All true leathers will undergo these sub-processes. A further sub-process, surface coating may be added into the sequence. The list of operations that leathers undergo vary with the type of leather.
The leather making process is in general restricted to batch processing, but it the surface coating sub-process is added then some continuous processing can be included. The operation flow has to follow the preparatory - tanning- crusting - surface coating order without deviation, but some of the sub-processes can be omitted to make certain leathers (or partially tanned / untanned products).
The quality of the leather varies greatly. You have most likely seen different labels on leather items, such as top grain or genuine These are simply different types of leather based on their quality.
Knowing where to buy leather is just not enough, you must learn to distinguish between different types of leather. You will need to understand why some materials last longer than others and why a particular leather bag costs thousandsm while others coas a fraction of that price.
So, what is the best leather? The best quality leather will depend on these important factors, most notably:
- Type of animal and breed
- Physical location and climate where the animal lived.
- The portion of the hide the leather was cut from
- The layer of the hide that is used (top grain, full grain, split)
- Quality and skill of the processing and tanning.
Different breed of cows will produce different quality hides due to their genetics and environment. Hot climates tend to hae insects that bite the animal and leave scars whereas cold climates don't suffer from pests as much. Certain breed might have more protective hair or thicker skins due to the weather.
Different portions of the hide also yield different quality leather. For instance, the lower portion, tends to have looser fibers that make up the hide. The looser fibers sponge and swell when wet. Lower portions of the hide also tend to get marked much easier from insects and scrapes like barbed wire fencing. There are also more weinkles in the hide aroung the legs, neck and head. These scars and wrinkles beome permanent and are almost impossible to remove in the processing of the leather.
In general, there are four types of leather. These includes Full Grain Leather, Top Grain Leather, Corrected Grain Leather, and Bonded Leather.