When you’re buying a leather product, be it a leather notebook, jacket, or shoes, you should know exactly what to look for in your leather. There are two key forms in ‘top-grain’ and ‘full-grain’ leather but what exactly does this mean? There are also a wide range of finishes that can be applied to leather.
Top Grain & Full Grain
As you can imagine, cow hides are thick. The hide is usually halved in thickness, creating two pieces of leather – ironically the top-grain leather is the underside of the hide, with a suede look to both sides. This leather is not as strong as ‘full-grain’ leather and is nearly impossible to make waterproof or even water resistant. Top-grain leather is usually sanded down to remove any imperfections and then imprinted with imitation grain to give it a more uniform look. The literal top side of the leather is the full-grain, considered to be the more premium product.
Only full-grain leather is suitable for aniline dying, a process that relies exclusively on soluble vegetable dyes without covering the surface with a topcoat. The result is a rich, luxurious finish that retains the hide’s natural surface grain and achieves a unique patina, a quality that can only be achieved with the highest quality leather.
It is argued that the finest leathers come from Italy, and only the softest and supplest leathers are suitable for bookbinding. Italy has centuries of experience and its commitment to using traditional dyes and tanning methods has given the country a reputation as the leading leather manufacturer in the world. A popular leather used is Nappa, that comes direct from the Italian tanneries, with a lovely natural grain and a soft wax finish.
Why choose leather?
Leather is the best choice for the feel of luxury, durability and endurance. As well as natural browns, leather can be dyed in a range of colours from reds, blues, yellows and greens. Leather is also available in many textures, grained leathers are achieved by tumbling, breaking down the leather and creating small bumps, whereas the ‘corrected’ grains or ‘exotic’ leather look finishes are created by using dye stamps. A large variety of producers means an unlimited range of leather options are available for your company or brand. Leather can be used all notebook types apart from volant.