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Leather Guide

TYPES OF LEATHER (and synthetics) USED FOR SOFAS
A simple explanation for “Joe Public “.
THE DEFINITION OF “LEATHER” IN THE DICTIONARY IS AS FOLLOWS : a material consisting of animal skin prepared for use by removing hair and tanned , OR
The dressed or tanned hide of an animal, usually with hair removed.
Tanning the hide , in simple terms.
A hide is tanned so that it does not decompose or putrify in the long term. Tanning is a process whereby the hide is put through a chemical process to make it into a finished ,long lasting and useable product ,ie , upholstery leather.
In the tanning process, hides are split or “sliced” to make them thinner for the use of upholstery leather. A raw cowhide is normally about 4 to 5 mm thick. This is usually too thick for upholstery leather, so it is split into 2 “slices”. Imagine a 5mm piece of cheese which is too thick for your toasted sandwich. You slice it thinner so that it won’t overflow when toasted. The splitting process is exactly the same, except that it is just a teeny bit more technical !
Now that you have split the hide, you are left with 2 “slices”.

THE TOP PART (the outer skin part) IS CALLED THE GRAIN SPLIT……OR simply , THE TOP GRAIN

THE BOTTOM PART IS CALLED THE SPLIT.
- TOP GRAIN = the nicest and strongest part ,as the epidermis “holds everything together” nicely and the fibres are tight.

SPLIT = the fibres are not held naturally together. This needs to be done mechanically, so the end result is a weaker leather.

REMEMBER THIS FOR LATER …..THE TOP GRAIN and THE SPLIT.
Got it? ………….GOOD!

NOW, to the reason WHY you are reading this:
Sofas are made from a variety of products. From GENUINE LEATHER to “fake leather” (synthetics) to fabrics and even from synthetic products that claim to be leather ! Yip, we’re going to explain the various products used to make sofas, so that you the consumer, are properly informed and cannot be misled into buying a synthetic product as LEATHER ! Even as passionate GENUINE LEATHER SUPPLIERS, we will tell you about inferior types of leathers, because we want you to be informed and to be able to make the right choice of leather for your sofa (that’s if you intend buying a LEATHER SOFA, of course)

THERE IS GENUINE LEATHER (THE REAL McCOY) and then there are the fakes (the wannabe’s )! It’s really as simple as that.

SO, HERE WE GO, the various types are:

FULL GRAIN LEATHER

• This is made from THE TOP GRAIN of the hide.
• The ORIGINAL GRAIN is visible on the top. It has NOT been altered.
• This is the strongest type of leather.
• Because nothing has been done to the surface to “enhance” it, it usually has a beautiful soft touch to it. It has a natural grain which generally has a “pebble” look to it unless it is upholstered tight in which case it smooths out a little.

THIS IS DEFINITELY 110%GENUINE REAL McCOY LEATHER!
SEMI CORRECTED LEATHER.

• This is made from THE TOP GRAIN of the hide.
• The original grain is lightly buffed off to remove imperfections , eg, scars, tick bites etc.
• A pigment (paint ,in simple terms) is then sprayed onto the surface to colour the leather.
• As the natural grain has been removed (SLIGHTLY, in this case), a texture needs to be added to make it look nice again. This is done by embossing a VERY LIGHT design onto the hide. A light emboss is used so that it can still keep the natural look of the original grain as close as possible.
• This type of leather is still very strong.
• THIS IS DEFINITELY 110% GENUINE LEATHER!

CORRECTED GRAIN LEATHER.

• This is made from THE TOP GRAIN of the hide.
• The original grain is buffed off to remove imperfections , eg , scars, tick bites , etc.
• A pigment ( again, a paint ) is then sprayed onto the surface to colour the leather .
• As the natural grain has been removed ( heavily, in this case) , a texture needs to be added to make it look nice again. This is done by embossing a selected design onto the hide so that it looks like a leather grain. The advantage here is , because most of the blemishes have been removed and a grain has been embossed ,you get a “cleaner” leather.
• Because of the mechanical and technical processes, this leather tends to be firmer than full grain and semi corrected leathers, BUT, still very acceptable and nice.
• This type of leather is still very strong.
• THIS IS DEFINITELY 100% GENUINE LEATHER!

PIGMENTED or FINISHED SPLITS.

• This is made from THE SPLIT (bottom part)
• There is no grain on the surface (just a suede effect) because the fibres INSIDE the hide are visible.
• These loose hanging fibres need to be “kept together”. A pigment (paint ! ) is sprayed on which acts as the colour as well as the “top skin” (or epidermis for the boffs).
• Like a Corrected Grain, it needs a grain, so a selected design is embossed onto the surface to make it look like leather.
• To make splits stronger, a lot of “foreign stuff” is put into it. This makes a split much, much firmer than any of the above leathers.
• Splits have a much weaker “tear strength”. In other words, it tears easier than full ,semi and corrected grain leathers. As a result, this is normally used on the outside, non contact areas of a sofa.
• So, if you feel that the leather is like “cardboard” on the outside of your sofa, you can bet your house that it’s a split!
• THIS IS GENUINE LEATHER, albeit an inferior type.

BYCAST LEATHER.

• Yes. Strictly speaking it can be called leather because it is made on a split, but………..
• Like pigmented splits above, it has a “coating” on top of it to simulate a grain. However, it is PLASTIC ! Or, more technically, it has a polyurethane coat or film on it making it quite a firm and not very pliable “drapey” type of leather.
• Because the fibres underneath the PU coating are not “tightly bound” you can get an “orange peel” effect . Yip , it looks wrinkly or pimply just like the surface of an orange peel when the split is stretched.
• The tear strength on this leather is very weak.
• Because this product is quite firm, it is limited to sofas and dining chairs that are not of the “soft and comfy” type.
• THIS CAN BE CALLED LEATHER , but is generally referred to as Bycast leather.

BONDED LEATHER!!!!

• Yeah right ! The BIGGEST LEATHER CON ON THE MARKET !
THIS IS NOT LEATHER. Repeat, NOT LEATHER, NOT EVEN CLOSE.
• In a nutshell, it is a SYNTHETIC PU material with leather shavings “sprinkled” on the back to make it look like leather when you look at the back of it.
• Bonded leather comes in 50m rolls and 140 cms wide……. STRANGE LOOKING AND VERY LONG COWS (30m long!) .
• Starting from the top surface and going down, Bonded leather is : a polyurethane (PU or plastic) topskin coated onto a textile backing. A sprinkling of leather shavings is then applied to the back of the textile. About 85% of the total thickness is synthetic, with leather SHAVINGS (not leather hides) making up the other 15% (and sometimes less !)
THIS CANNOT BE REFERRED TO AS GENUINE LEATHER. EVEN THE TERM “BONDED LEATHER” IS VERY MISLEADING. 15% OF THE TOTAL PRODUCT is leather shavings and the word LEATHER is included in the name ! It should be a crime to even mention the word leather in the same sentence.
So there you have it. The REAL McCOYS and the wannabes.

REMEMBER WHEN PURCHASING YOUR LEATHER SOFA ,TO ASK IF THE LEATHER THAT IT IS MADE FROM CAME FROM AN ANIMAL OR FROM A ROLL . IF IT IS THE LATTER, YOU ARE BEING CONNED.

IT IS THAT SIMPLE.

How to....... Hide

OUR LEATHER QUALITY

Superbly tanned leathers, imported and local cow hides, genuine zebra and springbok skins have been the cornerstone of our Supplier since 1998. Our Supplier has built a reputation for being extremely conservation minded and all hides and skins are sourced from reputable tanners to ensure the development of the various species.

KNOW YOUR HIDE

This diagram above is for guidance only. As a natural product, every hide differs in shape and size. Allow for a variation of 3.5 to 4.5 square metres.

CARE FOR YOUR LEATHER

By following these guidelines you can prolong the life of your leather items and retain their natural beauty.

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