An exploration of the sensual and versatile material that is leather, with a round-up of some of the technical terms and specific labels used in the profession. A precious leather glossary tool for making your sourcing more efficient and better adapted to your needs.
The technical leather glossary, from A to Z
This term is used for leather that has kept its original grain, and where the colour is applied all the way through the material via immersion, as opposed to leathers dyed only on the surface. Dipped is a similar term but applies only to lamb leather.
High quality chrome-tanned calf leather. A smooth and compact grain, made dense and firm by the tanning process.
A term used in the tannery industry to designate an unfinished leather that has been rendered rot proof by being tanned then dried. This leather measured “by dry weight” can be conserved before the dyeing, re-tanning, fatting and finishing processes.
Often used to describe a material produced from a plant. This is misleading as, by definition, such a product can neither be called nor considered as leather.
Grain/ Full Grain Leather
The grain is the structure of the dermis where the hair takes root. FULL GRAIN LEATHER has preserved its upper surface intact, leaving the wrinkles and natural grain of the skin visible. In contrast, a “CORRECTED GRAIN” refers to a leather whose grain has been transformed (nubuck, artificial grain).
This term applies to leather or split leather covered with a coating or a film. The thickness of the coating or film must not be more than one-third of the total thickness of the product but must be more than 0.15 mm.
A mechanical finishing process performed using an agate stone which gives the leather a very flat surface and a compact, shiny grain.
The name given to full-grain or split leather where the coloured finish is obtained by the use of pigments applied to the surface of the skin.
A mechanical process that involves tumbling the dry skin in a drum to soften it and accentuate the relief of the natural grain.
A treatment applied to the leather using a press to give it a pattern in relief that reproduces the grain or the natural vein of a skin.
Nappa is a full grain leather. A protective and lightly-pigmented finish is applied to the surface of the skin to give a soft, smooth and uniform result.
Leather where the grain has been lightly buffed in order to give a suede finish.
A quality that designates the elasticity of the skin, its predisposition to stretch and take on the desired form. The direction of stretch depends on the part of the skin being used (shoulder, side, butt).
Split Leather / Flesh Split
Flesh split is produced by splitting thick leather into two sheets, one containing the grain, called “leather” and the other made up of the flesh of the leather, called “flesh split”. The “suede” finish has a fibrous look. “Pigmented” or “laminated” hide is covered by a thick coating which gives it a smooth look.
A tanning method using chrome sulphate (chromium III) to produce a leather that is soft, elastic and sturdy with good dyeing properties and UV resistance.
Metal Free Tanning
A tanning method that uses neither chrome nor other metals, including vegetable tanning and synthetic tanning.
Tanning method based on organic polymers. There is no official formulation for this type of tanning, as each tanner has their own recipes, sometimes patented and associated with specific environmental standards.
Tanning methods using tree bark, leaves, fruit or roots. One of the oldest methods of making leather. Gives an authentic, firm appearance with limited elasticity. Vegetable-tanned leather is sensitive to light and develops a patina over time.
Leather or hide prepared in the opposite way, on the flesh side. Buffing produces the velvety texture typical of suede.
Term used to designate an unfinished leather immediately after chrome tanning that is kept damp, and before it has been coloured, re-tanned, fatted and finished. The “blue” makes reference to the characteristic grey-blue colour of the leather after chrome tanning.
Term used to designate leather immediately after vegetable or synthetic tanning and before it has been coloured, re-tanned, fatted and finished.
- BOOK: Dictionnaire technique de la maroquinerie – collection « Les indispensables du CTC » (Centre Technique du Cuir)
- Booklet : “Qu’est-ce que le cuir” from CNC
- Online glossary of the French Federation of Tanners
- Website of HCP