Leather Buying Guide For Leather Handicraft
Leather Handicraft

Leather Buying Guide For Leather Handicraft

If you are looking into leather working for either a career or as an enthusiastic hobbyist, then you need to have the proper leather for the projects. Understanding the variations between the grades of leather as well as understanding the different cuts of leather will help you greatly. However, picking the right leather for your handicraft can be a bit frustrating, especially if you are a novice to leather handcrafting. Here are a few things which every buyer should keep in mind when purchasing leather for handicrafts.

Determine the Type of leather you need

The type of leather that you use will delegate the results of your project. Typically the type of leather can be broken down into one of eight categories. These categories are bridle, chrome oil tanned, kipskin, latigo, natural vegetable tanned strap (tooling & molding leather), Shearlings & Sheepskins, suede, and upholstery. Belts are pretty diverse in in terms of the type of leather. Yet, boots are generally made of chrome oil tanned and paddings tend to be made of sheepskin. Have an understanding of the type of leathers and what their primary purposes are.

What thickness do you require?

Leather thickness is measured in ounces. For every ounce the product gains .015625 (1/64th) of an inch. While this may not seem to be a huge margin of difference, it does add up. If you were to pick a leather of only 1 oz it would equivalate to .40mm while picking a 15 ounce leather would equal 15mm. That is quite a difference. When choosing your leather thickness keep in mind that belts and high durability leathers tend to stay around 8 ounces while luxury leathers (apart from shoes) tend to range from 2 to 5 ounces. Knowing the thickness is critical to making quality leather products. Keep in mind that the thickness of the leather may disqualify certain types of leather from being used. For example, if you require a higher ounce of leather, sheepskin may be too thin to work for your handicraft.

When buying the right leather for your leather handicrafts, you will find that there is a common back and forth between the thickness and the type of leather. The thickness will be the main factor followed by the type. Once you have these two elements determined then you can start worrying about the aesthetic qualities such as dye, texture, cut.

The Cut

The thickness of the leather goes hand in hand with the cut of the leather. The closer that the cut is to the belly of the animal from which it originated, the more delicate the leather will be. Patterns of leather are generally associated with the hide pattern. These are Side, Back, shoulder, double shoulder, bend, double bend, culatta, double culatta, and bellies. If you are unsure about which cut to purchase, ask your local professional leather artisan for advice.

Finished or Unfinished?

Unfinished leather is a leather that has been strictly dyed. There is no protective coating or any other measures taken upon the leather. Finished leather has a protective coating put on the surface, usually pigment based. While the unfinished leather dye tends to have a more vibrant coloration and a “truer” color, it also has a higher potential to fade as UV lights hit it. Additionally, as there is no protective coating, stains and damage to the leather is higher. Leather artisans should restrict the use of unfinished leather to luxury items.

Finished leather due to the protective coating may be slightly off from the actual dye. However, the colors tend to last longer, do not scuff or fade as quickly, and are resilient to stains and absorbing defects. Finished leather is typically the choice of the leather artisan making upholstery, belts, and non-luxury items.

In the professional world, finished and unfinished leathers are sometimes referred to as Aniline Leather or Semi-Aniline leather. Ensure that the leather is full or top grain when this association is made.

How much leather will I need?

Perhaps one of the most critical decisions in buying leather is the quantity that you will need. Where you could buy yards upon yards of leather, the fact of the matter is that genuine leather is expensive and that purchasing too much is just not practical. When planning your project, do a rough estimate of the yards of leather you will need. My process is to add 20% to the total needed leather to account for mistakes, defects in the leather, and other additions which may be required. Larger projects, such as a sofa or a chaise should add a minimum of 50% to account for such. For example a tufted leather sofa requires 19 yards of material. To be on the safe side you would want to purchase 27 yards minimum.

There is not set formula

While this guide will help you in finding the best leathers for your project, there is no definitive set of rules to follow. You will have to learn as you go which leathers, cuts, dyes, and thicknesses work best for your projects.

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