As most hard working men and woman across the globe have come to know, leather is the best material used for heavy-duty manual work for many reasons.
In this article, we are going to explain the basics of the different kinds of leathers. Without further ado, let’s start by diving deep into the different kinds of leather that exist for various uses and their different properties. It’s incredibly important to understand the characteristics of the leather if you hope to use the correct leather for the right task or job. As you’ll come to see, leather has many benefits and characteristics both known and unknown.
To start with, natural hide has a high tensile strength and it becomes much more softer and pliable with ongoing use. Natural hide is also resistant to heat, tearing and punctures. The material stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, however there are many finer details which can create or destroy the experience that the right leather can provide you with.
- Aniline leather: This leather is the most natural-looking hide and even retains some surface grain based on the animal’s species, skin structure and pattern. Aniline leather is fully drum dyed and doesn’t receive a treatment or surface coating process for protection. Analine leather is known for being the most comfortable, but at the same time, one of the least durable. For rustic looking materials and graments.
- Semi-Analine Leather: the hide receives a paint surface coating for better visual uniformity throughout the hide. This results in a much less natural look, but a more polished and refined look for high fashion materials.
- Performance Leather: Performance leather can be treated to improve durability, grip, water resistance, and heat resistance depending on the treatment applied. For items that will undergo daily use, this material is most appropriate as it has incredible resitance to the elements.
Top grain, Full-grain and Corrected grain leather
Full-grain leather is the absolute strongest and most durable leather because it doesn’t get sanded or buffed to remove imperfections. Full-grain leather gloves are hardy and develop a gloss as they abrade with use.
Top-grain leather first undergoes a light buffing process to remove imperfections in the leather to create a perfectly uniform finish. Top grain leather is more pliable than full-grain leather but it is less durable, therefore limiting the time it takes to break down and abrade with use.
Corrected grain leather involves a process where artificial grain is applied to the surface of the leather to correct imperfections. To correct imperfections there are various sprays, foams, and foils on the market which can be used.
Common Animal Skins Used In Leather Work Gloves
Once a cow has been killed, the skin is removed. It is then selected in the raw state, at the very first moment when it is salted. It is organized by size and colour. In the tannery, a traditional hair on hiding tanning method is employed to ensure that the hide is soft and less susceptible to odour and moulting. It ensures that the cowhide will last longer. It is then naturally dried and the best hides are separated from the rest, with the ones that cannot be used in full as decorative items separated to be used as patchwork rugs. These are usually those with damage (for example cuts and other injuries to the skin during the life of the animal) that causes the skin to tear post drying.
Cowhide can be dyed to resemble skins such as tiger or zebra skins, but dyeing is usually reserved for the lower quality cowhides. The best quality hides are usually presented in their natural colours, which are based on the breed of the bovine.It’s one of the most common hides used for work gloves due to its price point, comfort, durability and abrasion-resistant characteristics. Cowhide is thick; therefore it has a longer break-in period and is warmer and more heat resistant than pig or goatskin.
Goatskin refers to the skin of a goat, which by long term usage, is denoted by the term Morocco leather. Kidskin, used for gloves, shoes and other accessories, is traditionally goatskin, although other leathers such as sheep and kangaroo can be used to make kidskin.
Goatskin Leather is known for its strength and dexterity. Goatskin is soft to the touch due to natural lanolin in the skin that delivers high abrasion and water resistance.
Tanned leather from goatskin is considered extremely durable and is commonly used to make rugs (for example in Indonesia) and carpet binding. It is often used for gloves, boots, and other products that require a soft hide. Kid gloves, popular in Victorian times, are still made today. It has been a major material for leather bookbindings for centuries, and the oldest European binding, that of the St Cuthbert Gospel in the British Library is in red goatskin. Goatskin is used for a traditional Spanish container for wine bota bag (or called goatskin). Traditional kefir was made in bags from goatskin.
Non-tanned goatskin is used for parchment or for drumheads or sounding boards of some musical instruments, e.g., mišnice in medieval Europe, bodhrán in Ireland, esraj in India and for instrumental drum skin named be dug in Indonesia.
Deerskin is known for its suppleness and its stretchiness as its also the thinnest, making it light in weight and extremely tactile. Deerskin is limited in natural supply and requires a more difficult tanning process.
Deerskin Leather is a leather created from the hide of deers. Historically, Deerskin Leather was popularised by Native Americans and the American frontier culture. They generally used it for clothing and moccasins. Today Deerskin Leather is used for a wide variety of items including shoes, coats and luxury handbags.
Deerskin Leather isn’t a mass-produced material, therefore it has exclusive connotations and luxury appeal. Due to this, Deerskin is popular with fashion houses and designers including Prada. For those looking for a cheaper version of Deerskin, Cowhide leather may be a suitable alternative.
Pigskin Leather is historical, one of the most versatile hides and offers great breathability, durability and water resistance. Pigskin becomes softer with use and offers the best breathability due to its porous nature.
The leather of domestic pigs, commonly called pork, is distinguished from the wild boar. Peccary leather is the most representative for the leather industry. The European domestic pig, especially, provides a leather which is very rich in fat. Domestic pigs are only slightly hairy. The grouped holes of the hair pores are a characteristic of pig leather. Usually, the hair follicles are grouped in packs of 3. The fibre structure within the pigskin is very different. The leather is loose and spongy on the head, while on the flank it is sometimes horny.
Preservation and conditioning
The natural fibers of leather break down with the passage of time. Acidic leathers are particularly vulnerable to red rot, which causes powdering of the surface and a change in consistency. Damage from red rot is aggravated by high temperatures and relative humidities. Although it is chemically irreversible, treatments can add handling strength and prevent disintegration of red rotted leather.
Exposure to long periods of low relative humidities (below 40%) can cause leather to become desiccated, irreversibly changing the fibrous structure of the leather. Chemical damage can also occur from exposure to environmental factors, including ultraviolet light, ozone, acid from sulfurous and nitrous pollutants in the air, or through a chemical action following any treatment with tallow or oil compounds. Both oxidation and chemical damage occur faster at higher temperatures.
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