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Advanced Education

Leather Sectors
Industry use of all Hides harvested :
  • 70% Footwear
  • 11% Automotive
  • 8% Upholstery
  • Balance Clothing & Accessories
Only a small percentage of hides harvested are suitable for upholstery due to:
  • The large size of our cutting patterns
  • Clean selection required for natural finishes
For cost effectiveness tanneries use the ENTIRE hide, including flesh, ears, and hair. These portions are used in other products:
  • Dog Toys
  • Gelatin
  • Fertilizer
Leather Factoids
Comfort
  • Leather is a natural material.
  • Leather is a lot like our skin - porous.
  • Leather "breathes" by absorbing up to 15% of its own weight in humidity/water. It absorbs and releases moisture that never stays on the surface enabling it to adjust to our body temperature.
  • Leather has excellent temperature adaptation making it comfortable during the heat of the summer and cool of the winter.
conformability
  • Leather molds to a form, but will not stretch out of shape. Leather conforms to your body shape and becomes more comfortable with use. Only leather ages so that it becomes more supple throughout the years.
Uniqueness
  • Each leather hide is unique - No one hide is exactly like another. Leather comes with its own distinctive markings and characteristics making each purchase truly unique.
Durability
  • Leather has legendary tear strength making it one of the strongest upholstery materials known to man. Leather's strength and elasticity gives it high ripping resistance.
Flame Resistance
  • Leather is naturally flame resistant and will not readily burn or melt.
cleanability
  • When properly maintained, leather is easy to clean. Like our skin, leather has tight as well as strong fibers that prevent the penetration of dust, lint, animal hairs, or cigarette smoke. Leather is an ideal choice for those persons who are dust-sensitive or possess allergenic conditions.
The Stages of Transformation
  • Liming (Removing Hair)
  • Splitting
  • Tanning (Preservation using Chromium Salts)
  • Re-Tanning - dyeing of crusts for the intended base color
  • Correction (buffing out defects, adding stucco, printing a grain)
  • Finishing
    • Pigmenting (opaque paint as on your car)
    • Aniline Finishes (dye as in coloring fabric)
    • Addition of oils and/or waxes for
    • Pull Up and double tone effects
    • Buffing for Nubuck effects)
    • Hand Antiquing
  • Milling – Tumbling in rotating drums for softness
 
Tanning Hides Into Wet-Blues
  • Hides are transferred from de-hairing liming drums to wet-blue preservation drums.
  • Chromium Salts:
  • Penetrates hide and combines with proteins
  • Gives the hides a bluish tone
  • Hide emerges a stable material that will not putrefy or be attacked by bacteria
  • Hides 0are naturally Green as they are bio degradable.
  • Our ISO 9001 tanneries have treatment plants which return water to drinking stage.
Tanning Limed hides into Wet-Blues can take up to 24 hours. Hides are emptied from drums, and prepared for transport to next stage of production, “Splitting”.
 
Splitting

The average thickness of a cowhide is up to 5mm before splitting. (1/8 to ¼ inch thick)

  • Hides are split in a splitting machine which activates a fast running wire cutter. This operation divides the hide into two hides, top grain leather and split leather.
  • The top grain hides are then shaved on the flesh side to create a uniform thickness.
  • Standard top grain upholstery leather thickness can be 0.9mm-1.6mm. Split leathers are typically used on non-stress areas, such as outside backs and outside arms.

Trimming: Unusable portions are removed so they are not measured and invoiced to the customer
Buffing: Hides are buffed (light sanding) to a more precise thickness.
Note: Leather varies 0.2 mm in thickness throughout a hide.

 
Sammying and Sorting
Excess water is squeezed out using large rollers (Sammying). Upholstery hides are sorted into 3 Quality Grades (A, B, or C) according to how much of the hide is suitable for its intended use.
  • Full Grain hides are quality hides with the fewest markings and will require no correction A&B grade hides are 2 to 4 year old Bulls and Heifers which are harvested for meat as opposed to 20 year old dairy cows passing of old age.
  • Corrected Grain hides require correction due to their numerous markings
 
Crusts (Retanning)
Hides are again placed into drums for up to 12 hours to be Dyed a particular color. Various dyes are used to create a base color that the finishing process will build upon.
 
Drying the Crust
Toggle Drying: During Tanning hides have shrunk. Workers clip the hides to large screens, which stretch the hide back to shape, and pass it through a drying oven
Vacuum Drying: Hides are placed into a flatbed vacuum steam dryer. This type dryer is used for shoe uppers and upholstery leather where a flat grain is desired.
Staking for softening. Hides are run through a machine with many vibrating metal rods (think of the pistons in your car) which relax and soften the hide
 
Stages of Finishing Pigmented Leathers:

Filling Defects with Stucco

Buffing Stucco from the Hide
Application of Pigment
Embossing the Grain Print
 
Finishing Aniline Leathers: Adding Effects and Colors
  • Every aniline leather uses its own unique process to achieve color and uniqueness.
  • Although similar steps are used in many aniline leathers, it is the combination and ordering of these steps that give aniline leathers their unique appearance and feel.
  • Various effects are achieved with the addition of oils, waxes, hand rubs, micro pigmentations, ironings and embossed prints to the surface.
Hand Rubbing or Antiquing
Applying Oils & Waxes
Leather Glossary
Aniline:
  • Dye used to color fine leathers. No longer a toxic chemical. Current day dyes are water based.
Antiquing:
  • The method used of aging the appearance of a hide. Can be accomplished by either hand or machine.
Buffing:
  • A sanding process, which removes scares and scratches from, hides. It is also used to give leather a nap or suede effect.
Chromium Tanned:
  • The tanning process, which uses Alkaline Chromium - 3, Salts, which make modern day, leather so soft.
Corrected Grain Leather:
  • Even though all hides feature the natural markings of the animal, some of these less desirable marks are buffed out to create corrected grain leather. After buffing an artificial grain can be embossed onto the hide. Corrected grain leather offers the sturdiest finish and is the most economical leather.
Cowhide:
  • The entire hide of a bovine, varying from 30 to 70 square feet depending on the country of origin.
Leather Standards by the AHFA
American Home Furnishings Alliance - Leather Committee

In the mid 1990s, the upholstery industry asked AHFA to develop standards and guidelines for upholstery leathers. A leather committee was formed and ten years later, in December 2007 published, "Leather Standards and Guidelines". The committee consists of furniture manufacturers, leather suppliers and leather service companies (care and cleaning). Task groups from within the committee are formed to address specific evolving issues as the industry matures. As solutions are proposed, these are voted upon by the full membership. This committee continues meeting 2 times annually.


The Leather Committee has also developed an educational booklet for use by retail stores and retail sales associated.

Other
Why some leathers cost more than others?

Supply versus Demand (As people, each hide is different) Selection or the quality of the hide determines its cost.

  • Less than 8% of all hides harvested are suitable for Upholstery
  • Less than 30% of that 8% are suitable for Uncorrected - Full Grain, Full Aniline finishes which are so rare in today's retail market.

This man is inspecting every hide in Wet Blue stage and assigning it to a particular order based on the quality of the finish which that order requires. In today's market, demand is greater than supply for Full Grain quality hides in Soft Aniline, Oil and Wax finishes such as in the Walt Disney Signature Collection.

Revealing the Uniqueness of Hides
Every hide reveals the natural story of the animal’s life through its:
  • Scratches & horn cuts from fights with a jealous lover.
  • Stretch marks from birth and growth
  • Tick bites & barbwire nicks
  • Brands for ownership

These are the unmistakable hallmarks of nature which make leather so unique, natural and desirable. Skin Grain: size and appearance varies within a hide and from hide to hide depending on thickness. True grain appearance is more revealed in natural aniline hides (unlike corrected pigmented hides where it is covered with Stucco / Pigment & Print).