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Glossary of Leather Terms
     
 

alum-tanned leather: Leather that has been tanned with aluminum salts that are mixed with binder and protein sources such as flour and egg yolk.

aniline: Leather that is colored all the way through by being tumbled in vats, leaving the natural grain to show through. Normally, only the finest quality hides are used for this process.

antiqued: The application of color to create highlights.

back: The hide with the bellies removed.

belly: The thinnest, and therefore, weakest part of a hide.

bevelling: The removal of thin strips from the edges of leather prior to burnishing.

buffed leather: Leather that has had the top surface removed by abrasion to eliminate scars and surface scratches – often called suede or nubuc.

burnishing: The process of polishing the cut edges of leather usually using gum tragacanth and a plastic or wood slicker.

butt: Part of the hide with the shoulder and belly removed.

carving: The process of cutting a pattern with a swivel knife and then stamping and modeling to bring out the design – also called tooling.

corrected grain leather: Usually inferior hides that have the grain sanded off and an artificial grain applied.

creasing: The impressing of a thin, decorative line close to the edge of the leather.

crocking: The removal of excess dyd from a newly-dyed hide.

distressed: Another name for leather that has been antiqued.

drum-dyed: A dyeing process of tumbling the leather in a rotating drum which allows maximum dye penetration

embossing: A process in which the leather is stamped with an artificial grain under great pressure, such as an alligator grain – also the technique of applying pressure on the flesh side of the leather to make a design stand out in relief.

flesh side: The fibrous underside of the leather.

full grain: The natural top surface of the leather that has not been altered other than removing the hair.

grain: The distinctive natural characteristics, such as texture, wrinkles and markings – the grain can be either embossed or natural.

hide: The whole skin of a large animal, usually a cow or a horse.

leather: Any hide or skin that has been tanned.

modeling: The technique of impressing a design in low relief without cutting the leather – usually done by hand with a modeling tool.

molding: The forming of wet leather, with or without molds, to form shapes or to conform to an existing shape such as the bars on a saddle tree.

napa: A term for tanned sheepskin.

natural grain: A leather that shows its’ natural grain and flaws such as brands, wrinkles and barbed wire scars.

nubuc: An aniline leather whose surface (graide side) has been brushed to create a soft, velvety texture, making it strong and durable.

oil tanned: Leather that is tanned using oils, giving better water shedding properties and creating a soft, pliable leather.

patina: The luster that leather develops over time with use.

russet: Vegetable tanned leather used in handcarved leather goods that is left in a natural state.

side: one half of a hide.

skin: Leather from a small animal such as calf, pig, fox, etc.

split leather: The lower layer of leather (flesh side) that has been split away from the grain layer – usually used for suede.

skiving: The reduction of leather thickness over a small area - usually done with a skiving blade or a head knife.

splitting: The reduction of leather thickness over a large area – usually done on a machine.

stamping: The decoration of leather using a stamp and a mallet to create basketweave or other geometric designs.

tanning: A process designed to make hides or skins non-perishable.

vegetable tanned: The process of tanning leather using organic matter such as tree bark.

weight: A term that describes the thickness of the leather - In the U.S. we use ounces which originally was the weight of one square foot of a hide. We use a range, such as “5 to 6 oz.”, because of the natural variability of thickness of a side of leather. The English use millimeters, while the shoe industry used irons. See the chart below:












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