Quality leather is the foundation of all of our products. We purchase all of our leather from suppliers that we know and trust, so we know exactly what we're getting and where it's coming from. Whether you're purchasing a product made from vegetable tanned leather, Chromexcel, or another exotic leather, you can be assured that the leather is of the highest quality possible.
Grades of Leather
Cowhide is actually thicker than you might think. On average, a cowhide will be roughly 7mm (1/4 inch) thick. Unless you're making leather armor, this is far too thick to work with. Because of this, the hide will then be split into more manageable thicknesses. The very best quality leather is the topmost layer of the hide, and decreases the further down you go. The fibers at the top of the hide are far more densely arranged and tougher. At the bottom of the hide, the fibers are not grouped together as tightly and become stringy.
The four grades of leather are:
Full Grain Leather
This is what we use. Full grain leather is as good as it possibly gets. The piece of leather starts from the topmost part of the hide and is cut down to the exact thickness we want it. The outermost layer of the hide is what you see on our products, with all natural markings and character included. You can immediately feel the quality of this leather.
Top Grain Leather
While not as good as full grain leather, top grain leather is still pretty good quality. After the top most layer is cut out and used in a piece of full grain leather, top grain is what is left underneath. The surface will be smoothed and corrected to look nice, but it still doesn't have the durability that full grain does.
This is where things start getting ugly. Although you may think genuine leather means quality, it really doesn't. This is the lowest cut from the hide. It is not very durable at all, as the fibers are so loosely grouped. It will need to be refinished with fillers and paint to have a decent finish. This is why many genuine leather belts or wallets crack and fall apart after not much use.
Unfortunately, there is something worse than genuine leather. Bonded leather is made from everything else that is leftover. Trimmings and scraps are literally shredded and ground together into paste, mixed with glue and binders and is squeezed flat into a piece of "leather".
Types of Leather
Full Grain Vegetable Tanned Leather - A traditional process of tanning leather that involves vegetable and root extracts to tan the leather. This produces and very clean, natural looking leather that will stay rigid and keep it's shape. It may be hand dyed after the tanning process.
Chromexcel - Horween's Chromexcel is the original pull-up leather; using time honored techniques and formulas that were developed nearly 100 years ago. It is made from a proprietary recipe, and then hot stuffed with a secret blend of natural oils and greases. The term "pull-up" refers to the way that the colour deepens where the leather is bent and stressed - this produces some beautiful, natural markings. The leather is first vegetable tanned, and then chrome tanned afterwards.
Bridle - Bridle leather refers to full grain, vegetable tanned leather that is completely finished by the tannery. After tanning, the leather is dyed and stuffed with a blend of waxes, fats and oils to give a beautiful, deep colour and luxurious feel. Both the grain and flesh side of the leather match and feel very smooth. This leather is incredibly durable. This leather will have an extremely clean, consistent colour and finish and no pull-up like Chromexcel.
Harness - Harness leather is similar to bridle leather, but has more of a sheen to it. It will also have some pull-up, like the Chromexcel does. Like the bridle, it's a full vegetable tanned leather so it's very tough and durable.