Leather Quality and Properties

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by VegTan, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. cbfn

    cbfn Senior member

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    Thanks, this is what I was looking for. I have no plan on trying it, but the thought just crossed my mind, and I could not find any negative reasons for why it is not used; except for possibly darkening the leather.
     


  2. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    X-post from another thread. A question on cordovan. I always hear that cordovan lasts forever-is this really the case? My dad has some Alden tassel loafers and he said that he replaces them about once every 10 years after 2-3 recraftings because they get quite beat up. I was always under the impression that cordovan is leather's "steel." Does anyone have any pics of their *own* shoes that are ten years or older that have been somewhat regularly worn (i.e. more than 50 times per year)? And I'm not talking about old stock. Thanks.
     


  3. IrateCustomer

    IrateCustomer Senior member

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    Kind of a silly question, but I think one that merits asking. Does your father take good care of his shoes? Not just re-crafting, but leather treatments etcetera.
     


  4. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Not really any maintenance at all. But he takes similar care of his calf shoes and they seem to last about the same amount of time.
     


  5. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I guess it depends on somebody's definition of "not lasting". Beat up to one could be fine for another.
     


  6. dibadiba

    dibadiba Affiliate Vendor

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    [​IMG] posted some pages back would seem to indicate that it has poor tensile strength. Some shoe/bootmakers I've talked to have complained of it tearing while lasting, which would corroborate that post.

    Personally, as a leatherworker I find cordovan quite over-rated. I think it's a wonderful example of a combination of marketing and tradition coming together beautifully. It's terribly inconsistent in thickness both piece-to-piece as well as on each individual shell itself. I find that black shell tends to look pretty awful as it ages. Some of the other colours can look very nice over time, though, and I do like some of its properties.

    If you want 'tough as nails', I'd say look elsewhere in terms of leather choice.
     


  7. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Thank you for this answer and this is the type of answer I was looking for. How does tensile strength affect the integrity of leather over time? Would one turn to Kangaroo or vegetable-tanned steerhide for longevity? Is there any shoe that will truly last 30 years with regular wear? (50+ times per year?).
     


  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    My experience as well.
     


  9. dibadiba

    dibadiba Affiliate Vendor

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    I'll let someone more experienced answer the first part of your question. While kangaroo does have incredibly high tensile strength, you have to keep in mind that it's also very thin, so the benefit may be to use a thicker leather with a slightly lower tensile strength . I use it for wallets and it's wonderful to work with as it's strong, thin, and doesn't stretch much.
     


  10. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    That sounds like a reasonable useful life, not some exaggerated rarities like princely 30+ years patchwork, Marcos shoedrobe rotation, or 50+ years of shop wear museum piece. A two week rotation with 15 pairs of shoes and regular maintenance should last 20 years.
     


  11. SHS

    SHS Senior member

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    Speaking of leather thickness, what is the best thickness for calf upper leather? (and other leathers?) I can see that Vass uses 1,5 mm thick leather:

    http://www.vass-cipo.hu/Eng/Bemutatkozas.html (Scroll down)

    Of course there is a natural limit to how thick the leather can be, but is the thickness chosen as a balance of durability and flexibility?
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013


  12. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    We have discussed this, DWF says it has more to do with length of fibers, not thickness.
     


  13. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Also, the thing with cordovan is it doesn't crease like calf does. It doesn't crease sharply and as we know from was DWF has said dust, dirt, volcanic ash, sulphuric acid and such gets in there and it acts as sandpaper. Cordovan could be last longer because any of this that gets into highly stressed areas isn't bent in on itself with every crease. Just a thought.
     


  14. SHS

    SHS Senior member

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    Sorry, now I noticed the answer to glenjay. So the 4 ounce is equivalent to 1,60 mm. I thought that some of the Vass shoes I have seen have looked a little thin in the leather, but apparently it is probably average?
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013


  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Cordovan isn't really a hide/skin. It is a sheath that lies over the muscle group of the hip/butt. I am not fond of it. I think it tears much more easily than many other leathers and I also have never seen the percentage of stretch that is indicated in the chart (from the 1940's) above.

    I don't find the chart entirely credible, frankly. There are several assertions that are suspect...that aren't consistent with what I've experienced.


    Strictly speaking that's true...tensile strength is related to fiber length more than thickness. And a coarser fiber mat will break down faster than a finer, denser structure.

    That said, each leather and each tannage brings it's own characteristics that affect suitability for the making of a shoe. I would prefer to calfskins in the neighborhood of 3 ounce (3/64") for men's dress shoes although I have used leathers as light as 2+ounce and as heavy as 4 ounce. Some of this has to do with weight, with flexibility, some just has to do with the finesse with which a seam can be implemented.

    Very little of this is going to affect durability. For instance, a thinner leather will crease smaller than a thicker leather. Which in turn, may decrease the damage that dirt, grit, etc., can have on the leather.

    The theory is that the thicker the leather the looser the fit must be, as well, simply because thicker means that larger pipes and wrinkles develop during creasing and these will exert greater pressure on the foot...I'm not entirely sure I agree, given the leathers I choose, but the logic makes sense. By the time you line even a 6 ounce vamp with a decent 3 ounce, and then start factoring in seam overlaps, creasing, etc., you can have nearly 1/4" of leather over the foot trying to bend and move with the shoe. Not always comfortable. Such thickness are actually better on a pull-on boot.

    Why shell creases more finely than calf, I can't really say. I think it has something to do with the fact that it is a muscle sheath rather than a skin. Again, I'm not real fond of cordovan.

    DW...
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2013


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