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Leather Terms

  • ANILINE LEATHER – Leather that has been dyed through with aniline dyes. Pure aniline leathers represent approximately 5 percent of all upholstery leathers produced worldwide. Sometimes topped with a protein, resin, or lacquer protective coating.  Can also be waxed.

  • ANTIQUED – Leather that is dyed with one color over another (usually darker over lighter) so as to create rich highlights and an artificial aged appearance. Also called distressed leather.

  • CHROME TANNAGE – Leather tanned in chromium salts, primarily basic chromium sulfate resulting in soft, mellow hides receptive to excellent color variety. Currently the most widely used tannage in the USA.

  • COMBINATION TANNAGE – Leathers tanned with more than one tanning agent, such as chrome and vegetable together, resulting in both softness and body in skins.

  • CONDITIONING – The application of products to oil and rehydrate leather to restore suppleness and help maintain structural integrity.

  • CORRECTED GRAIN - Leather, the outside skin of which has been sanded or abraded to minimize faults. It is then pigmented to cover the sanding and printed with an artificial grain. A spray sealer topcoat is then applied. Corrected grain material is usually called top grain leather.

  • CROCK – The coloring matter that rubs off of poorly dyed leather.

  • DISTRESSED – Another term for antiqued leather.

  • DRUM DYING – the application of dye stuffs to leather by the immersion of the leather in a drum that is tumbled. This process allows full dye penetration into the fiber.

  • EMBOSSED LEATHER – Usually corrected grain, in which a pattern is applied by extreme pressure in a press to give a unique design or imitation of full grain characteristics. Sometimes leathers are embossed to make them appear to be another leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern into cowhide.

  • FAT WRINKLE – Wrinkles in the grain of leather caused by fat deposits in the animal that create beauty in the leather. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation grain leather.

  • FINISH – A surface application on the leather to color, protect, or mask imperfections. Generally, all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.

  • FULL GRAIN – The term used for the outside original skin or hide which has had the hair removed, but otherwise has not been corrected or altered. Full-grain leather possesses the genuine original grain of the animal.

  • GLAZED FINISH – Similar to an aniline finish except that the leather surface is polished to a high luster by the action of glass on steel rollers under tremendous pressure.

  • GRAIN CHARACTER – The natural markings on the surface of the leather.

  • GRAINED LEATHER – Any leather on which the original natural grain has been changed or altered by any method, process or manipulation; also top grain.

  • GRAIN SUEDED – A process of sueding the grain side of the skin to achieve a buffed or sueded condition.

  • HAND – a term used in the leather industry to describe the feel, i.e. softness or suppleness of upholstery leather.

  • LEATHERETTE – A manufactured product which imitates leather

  • MATTE FINISH – A flat or dull finish.

  • NAKED LEATHER – A leather with no surface, impregnated treatment or finish, other than dye matter, which might mask or alter the natural state of the leather.

  • NAP – Describes the soft, “fuzzy” effect achieved in leather by buffing or brushing.

  • NATURAL GRAIN – A leather which retains the full original grain.

  • NUBUCK – A brushed, grain-sueded leather.

  • OIL TANNED – Leather tanned with certain fish oils. Produces a very soft, pliable leather such as chamois.

  • PATENT LEATHER – Leather with a glossy impermeable finish produced by successive coats of drying oils, varnish, or synthetic resins.

  • PATINA – A surface appearance of something grown beautiful, especially with age or use; an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character.

  • PERFORATED – Leather into which a pattern of small holes has been die cut. The holes can vary in size, density and pattern.

  • PIGMENTED LEATHER – Leather that has been coated with a flat surface color on top of or instead of the usual dye finish. Leather is usually pigmented to add durability and hide natural blemishes.

  • PLATING, PLATED LEATHER – Pressing leather with a heated metal plate under high pressure. Most furniture leather is usually sanded, pigmented and plated to cover imperfections.

  • PULL-UP – Describes the behavior of leather that has been treated with oils, waxes, and dyes in such a way that when the leather is pulled or stretched (i.e. on upholstery), the finish becomes lighter in the stretched areas. Considered a mark of high quality.

  • RECONSTITUTED LEATHER – Material composed of collagen fibers obtained from macerated hide pieces which have been constructed into a fibrous mat.

  • REFINISHING – Application of finish to leather usually done to correct fading or to cover stains and other damage or effects of aging. Also can be done to change leather from one color to another; usually with some loss of suppleness.

  • REPAIR – The use of synthetic filler materials to correct minor, isolated damage.

  • SEMI-ANILINE – Aniline leather to which a matching pigment layer is added to even out the color and add protection.

  • SHRUNKEN GRAIN LEATHER – A full, natural-grain leather which is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain of the leather.

  • SIDE – Half a hide cut down the middle lengthwise.

  • SPLIT LEATHER (SPLIT) – Hide sliced in layers of uniform thickness. Split leather can be trimmed and finished as suede. Cheap leathers are sometimes pigmented splits with embossed imitation grain.

  • SPOT REFINISHING – Application of finish to a small area to cover isolated damage of some sort.

  • STAINGUARDING – The application of a temporary invisible film to unfinished leather to enhance it’s resistance to stain penetration.

  • SUEDE – Leathers that are finished by buffing the flesh side (opposite the grain side) to produce a nap. Term refers to the napping process, and is unrelated to the type of hide used. See “Split Leather.”

  • TANNIN – Astringent substances of plant origin used in tanning leather.

  • TOP GRAIN – The term intended to define genuine grain leather, as opposed to leather which has been pigmented and embossed with a new grain. In reality, top-grain leather usually has had the original grain removed and an imitation grain embossed into the surface.

  • TWO-TONE: An effect created by applying layers of similar or contrasting dyes to a piece of leather in order to create a mottled or aged appearance. Antiqued and Sauvaged leathers are examples of two-tone leathers.

  • UNFINISHED LEATHER – Normally defines aniline-dyed, naked leathers with no additional application intended to finish, color or treat in a way that would alter the natural characteristics of the leather.

  • UPHOLSTERY LEATHER – A general term for leather processed for use in furniture, automobiles, and airplanes.

  • VAT DYEING – An older method of dying leather sometimes confused with drum dyeing.

  • VEGETABLE TANNING – A method of hide tanning which utilizes material from organic materials such as bark instead of the traditional chemicals. Vegetable tanned leather has greater body and firmness than traditionally-tanned leather.

  • WEIGHT – The weight of leather is measured in ounces per square foot.

  • WHOLE HIDE – Refers to leather created using a full hide, as opposed to a side, and typically intended for use as upholstery leather.