Leather Quality and Properties - Page 5
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DWF - have you noticed a large decline in quality of hides over time? This was something that most but not all people in the industry commented on in the UK. In particular they mentioned stretch marks coming farther down the neck towards the butt than before. The animals grow faster than they used to, which may have resulted in poorer quality hides.
There's no question that the quality of leather has been declining for many many decades. June Swann talks about this and has stated that leather today is neither as dense nor as good a tannage as in years past. Anyone trying to stitch "64 to the inch" today would think it was a fairy tale. Despite documentation.
Most cattle raised in the US and in Argentina are beef cattle--faster growth is a primary goal. It affects the meat. And it affects the hides...which are, after all, just another form of flesh. Hides are integral to the profitability of the cattle industry.
Most cattle raised in Europe are dairy. Longer productive lives are the goal. The hides are only an incidental by-product.
The breed also has something to do with it. Dairy cattle tend to have thinner hides than to meat cattle.
I suspect there's a lot of truth in the accelerated growth theory. I see lots of hides where the stretch marks are well out of the shoulder and neck area. it's probably the most discouraging aspect of being in the Trade.
But when you think it through, you have to realize that even at this level...maybe especially at this level...the decline is driven by consumer demand or, perhaps more to the point, ignorance and/or indifference.
Edited by DWFII - 7/11/13 at 7:05am
Fat content increases the intercellular space between the fibers that comprise the fiber mat...hence a less dense leather.
Very few animals are slaughtered exclusively for their hides...even alligator meat is eaten (by human beings).
I also take issue with the idea of vein shadows being deemed poor leather. Especially on outsole leathers, vein shadows tend to be most prevalent in areas where the best of the best leather is to be found--I & J in the illustration. I suspect the presence of vein shadows is more indicative of improper or insufficient shaving of the corium than weakness or flaws.
Here are veins on a sole bend.
They say veins are due to insufficient bleeding or traces of dissolved blood vessels.
2 - After the animal has been killed, correct bleeding, hanging and curing must be implemented. Damage which can occur due to poor practises include: Vein marks due to insufficient bleeding, Flay marks and cuts if the animals have been poorly skinned, Poor curing resulting in localised rot setting in, 'Red heat' damage caused by the use of contaminated salt. Mined salt only should be used, since sea salt contains harmful bacteria.
In fact "bullhide" or "bullhide shoulder"...AKA "shrunken shoulder"... is a poor cut of leather. And it is seldom, if ever, actually bullhide. It can come from any older bovine animal. [There's nowhere near the number of actual bulls in the domesticated cattle herds being harvested for leather as there are cows. Not enough to meet even the marginal demand of the western boot industry. This is an instance where truth in advertising has triumphed and the term "shrunken shoulder" is now used in preference to the misleading "bullhide".]
How about Russell Moccasin's bullhide, which is used for the Snake Boots? Do you think it is not real bullhide?
Yes, the bone would have been cleaner. I suspect that metal would tend to tear the paper. You needed to be able to press quite hard on the paper/card but not tear it or leave marks on it. I suppose that, over time, printers found that the bone was just the right density for doing the job. Again, a bit like using a deer bone on leather. I note that bones for printers and bookbinders are still available on Amazon.
It's not entirely clear which side of the bend is being shown. Usually bends are shipped rolled with the grain side out. If that's the grainside in the photo I can see why you're concerned. But I've been buying and using outsole bends from England (Baker's), Belgium, Germany (Reddenbach), Italy and the US for over 40 years and I've never seen vein shadows on the grain of the leather. Nor have I ever seen vein shadows that were a problem...ie. hollow. Nor, come to it, vein shadows in belly, neck or shoulder.
On the other hand, I have seen vein shadows in the butt areas of Baker leather...which is widely recognized as the best outsoling in the world.
If those vein shadows are on the grain side, it's p-poor leather, period.
I really don't know but I've got even money that it's not. As I said, the raw hide would be smooth regardless of the age or gender. If the raw hide is smooth, the finished leather will also be smooth unless some mechanical or chemical process is used to alter the surface appearance. The leather in the Moccasins may be very good leather...may indeed be snake-proof but that doesn't make it bullhide. I suspect that it's a marketing ploy, just as the old "mulehide" leather was a marketing ploy.
With all due respect the question that arises in this discussion is "how much experience do you have using any of this leather?"
We've been through this numerous times before on this forum--people can search the web and come up with all sorts of photos and excerpts (and you've done a good job on that) but without the hands-on experience to go with the words it's just so much hot air.
I'm not criticizing you specifically...or at least, I don't intend it that way. Much of what you've posted is correct...and anyone can access it readily. But as I said earlier, there's a lot of misinformation on the web. Unless you're in the Trade, so to speak, you've no way of filtering it.
Edited by DWFII - 7/11/13 at 5:08pm
I know you can buy leather in different thicknesses, but I am curious as to the range of thickness for different parts of the shoe.
What is the typical range of thickness for a leather outsole (12 to 16 oz)?
What is the typical range of thickness for a leather insole (2 to 3 oz)?
What is the typical range of thickness of leather for the upper of a business/dress shoe (4 to 6 oz)? For a work boot (6 to 8 oz)?
I have also heard the term Iron used when specifying leather thickness, where does that come from?