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Leather Quality and Properties

post #1 of 2070
Thread Starter 
About leather grades and tensile strength;



A,B,C - This area typically has a lot of wrinkles and scratches. This is a durable cut with a lot of ability to stretch without tearing.

D,H,L and G,K,M - This “belly” area is generally referred to as the “waste” section. Depending on the supplier, you can ask to have the belly removed prior to purchase. They usually charge a fee to remove it, though this results in an overall smaller amount of billed square footage. Depending on your intended uses, this cut may or may not be of any value to you. Personally, I like to mock-up new holster designs with it to test my stitch lines and patterns.

E,F,I,J - This area is typically the premium area of the hide with the least amount of waste. It’s the thickest and firmest part, and is best suited to items that require minimum stretch and maximum firmness. The closer you get to the spine, the more firm the leather gets, which can also make it more prone to cracking.

From Direct Selling Shoe Manual (1940).


From Analysis of Leather and Materials Used in Making it (1931).

post #2 of 2070
Thread Starter 
About loose grain and coarse wrinkles;

Flanky: A characteristic of loose grain leather that forms coarse wrinkles on bending with the grain inward.

Loose grain occurs when the two layers of the hide with totally different structures, the papillary layer and reticular layer, no longer interconnect as strongly as before. For normal upper leathers this junction is strengthened or supported by retanning.


The side of leather includes the leather from the neck, shoulder and belly. These areas make the poorest quality leather as they are very wrinkly and the continuous leg and neck movement mean the hide is soft and thin and the layers easily separate.

On the other hand a croupon (double bend) is made up of a full hide which is not cut into two along the back bone. Instead it is left intact and the poor quality neck, belly and shoulder is removed. Trevor James uses only croupon leather. This means that when you buy a James saddle you can be sure each and every part is prime leather and that no second rate leather can possibly find its way into a saddle even by accident.

The best way to check the quality of leather is to fold the leather back on itself. The grain should remain tight and cohesive. If it separates and wrinkling occurs the leather is poor quality.

Above - Poor quality leather wrinkles when bent.

Above - This good quality leather when bent shows no wrinkling or separation at all.
post #3 of 2070
Thread Starter 
About testing the “break”(creasing quality);

From American Leathers (1929).


The below from Men's Ex magazine is written by a man who worked as a leather buyer for 15 years at Japanese shoemaker, Otsuka.


10 points to be checked

About leather;

2. Coarse wrinkles; loose grain (6) or loose leather (7)


6. Loose grain is a cause for cracking (Must-avoid)


9. Veins are hollow and liable to crack (Must-avoid)


3. Stretch marks are a proof of natural leather and less pigment


7. Using belly (loose leather) is cost-cutting


10. Shaggy suede


About constructions;

1. Loose or visible welt-stitches are a cause for penetration of water (Must-avoid)


8. Opening of top-line when wearing shoes is a cause for losing shape (Must-avoid)

(The dashed line means opening of top line)

4. Roundish outsoles are important for comfortable walking


5. Nails on top lifts should be hammered not to slip


Edited by VegTan - 7/9/13 at 9:46am
post #4 of 2070


post #5 of 2070
Thread Starter 
The below from American Leathers is a way to cut with the least amount of wastage.


Red wing uses whole steerhide as above, so some are better quality and some are poorer quality.


On the other hand, Grenson says shoulder “goes straight to garbage” because shoulder has more noticeable stretch marks than bend does. Can you see them around shoulder?


I think that shoulder and belly are not used by high-quality shoemakers such as Cleverley and Edward Green, who say “3 pairs” from each calfskin at best. As for Allen Edmonds, they say “6-7 pairs (09:10)”, so they may use shoulder or larger calfskin.


Usually three pairs of shoes are cut from each skin, so one set of uppers is cut at the bottom of the rump, one more just above it and a third either side of the first pair, towards the outer edges.

post #6 of 2070
Superb informative thread, thank you!
post #7 of 2070
Great stuff, thanks Vegtan fing02[1].gif
post #8 of 2070
Superb! subscribed
post #9 of 2070
Great place for "wtf's wrong wit ma shooze"!
post #10 of 2070

Wait for the Meermin MTO guys to show up in here and complain about the shit leather Meermin used from Ileca.

post #11 of 2070
post #12 of 2070
Very interesting. Thanks for posting.
post #13 of 2070

Very nice.

post #14 of 2070
This thread needs more info on scrotal sack leather. I bet it wrinkles.
post #15 of 2070

Great thread, very informative. Subbed!

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