LEATHER 101: LEATHER TYPES
Full Grain, Top Grain, Genuine and Bonded Leather Explanation
GodSkin Custom Leather products are made from Full Grain leather tanned with high grade oils and preservatives to keep it from being destroyed early by dryness and moisture. Basically, there are 4 types of leather: Full Grain Leather, Top Grain Leather, Genuine Leather, and Bonded Leather.
Notice in the drawing how the fibers near the bottom run horizontally and the higher you go, the more vertical they get? Well, the more horizontal, the more easily the fibers pull apart. The more vertical, the tougher.
What is Full Grain Leather?
Full Grain Leather comes from the top layer of the hide which has ALL of the grain, therefore, FULL grain. The natural surface of full grain leather burnishes and beautifies with use. It is the best leather money can buy and the only leather good enough for GodSkin Custom Leather.
Some companies sort of spray paint their inferior leather to try to make it look like full grain leather, but it just ends up looking like someone spray painted some cheap leather. From what I've seen, maybe 2% of all bags are made of Full Grain. This leather is expensive for me to buy and very difficult to work.
Caution: I once bought a recliner made with full grain leather. I sadly discovered later that only a few parts were made of leather. The back, sides and beneath the leg rest were made of vinyl that looked just like the leather. And I wondered why it was such a great deal. Technically, the manufacturer wasn't lying when he said "Made ‘with' Full Grain Leather". Watch out, they use the same trick with briefcases and luggage. All of our pieces are made completely out of Full Grain leather inside and out.
I haven't done anything to the leather to add character. The marks and scrapes and scars are all natural. Where the cow had been gored scraped by barbed wire, cactus or mesquite thorns ... bitten by a coyote ... or branded, the color sets in deep and stands out a bit. You'll be able to see the full grain running through the hide in the form of veins too.
Your item may have a few small scars and imperfections, but those just lend a tremendous amount of character to it. Some items have parts of the cow's brand here and there. Ride it hard; it'll look better.
What is Top Grain Leather?
Top Grain Leather is the second highest grade because it is split from the top layer of blemished hide then sanded and refinished. This is how they get rid of scars and scrapes and light cow brands. Top grain leather does not age nicely with use. It is strong and durable, but not good enough for Saddleback. They sanded off the strongest fibers of the hide leaving mainly the horizontal (easily pulled apart) fibers. By the way, did you know that leather shavings are used as filler in cheap dog food? The bigger the pile of shavings in the dog food, the bigger the piles elsewhere.
What is Genuine Leather?
Genuine leather is the third grade of leather and is produced from the layers of hide that remain after the top is split off for the better grades. The surface is usually refinished (spray painted) to resemble a higher grade. It can be smooth or rough. Ever heard of suede? Suede is tougher than cloth and is excellent for lining, but it's not a good idea to use it in areas where it gets stress.
What is Bonded Leather?
Bonded leather is the dust and shavings of the leather glued and pressed together. It is the PT Cruiser of the leather world... pure junk. Leftover scraps are ground together with glue and resurfaced in a process similar to vinyl manufacture. Bonded leather is weak and degrades quickly with use. Most Bibles are covered with this, (not my Bible Covers though, Full Grain only).
Little known fact, you can also mix up dog poop with flour and water, press it flat and let it dry in the sun for about two days and get a bonded leather equivalent. Genuine and bonded leather is usually spray-painted to look like full or top grain leather. Watch out!!!