Throughout the years, I've used many types of leather from many tanneries. Starting out, I used the cheapest, roughest vegetable tanned leather to practice with. It made dying, burnishing and a lot of other techniques difficult, but when I would move to better leather, I felt that much more confident working with it. I'm finally at the point where I feel comfortable working with the very best leather money can buy - Shell Cordovan.
So what is Shell Cordovan?
Shell Cordovan is as good as leather gets - the most beautiful, luxurious, durable and sought after leather - and for good reason. Unlike most of the leather that I use, Shell Cordovan is equine (horse) leather rather than bovine (cow) leather. It comes from one very specific area on the horse hide - above the hind legs in the rump section. In this area, the muscle fibers are extremely dense and uniform.
Why is it so expensive?
Only a few square feet of the horse hide can be processed into Shell Cordovan, so usable pieces are very small - only 2-3 square feet at the most. The leather is very hard to come by as the supply of horse hides available for tanning is lower than demand finished leather. Additionally, because of the density of the fibers, the leather takes much longer to tan so very few tanneries produce Shell Cordovan.
Why choose Shell Cordovan?
The allure of Shell Cordovan runs deeper than just the beauty of it - which is certainly still a factor. The very tight grain structure means that the leather is much less likely to crease, more water resistant, and won't stretch. The edges of Shell Cordovan will also burnish to a mirror polish because of its uniformity.