August 30, 2019 | Ryan |

The Rebel’s Guide to Leather | Part 3: Types of Leather

Welcome back leather lovers, to the third and final installment of our revamped Rebel’s Guide to Leather!

While Part One focused on the history of leather and Part Two walked us through the leather manufacturing process, Part Three will discuss the many different leather gloves we find in the workplace everyday, the leather they’re made from and what can make each one unique: from the applications they’re used for, their hazard-resistant levels and even their coating types.

Sound a little complicated? Well, it can be. But knowing how the leather you’re using can impact your gloves can be incredibly important to both your safety and that of the workplace.

The question is, what should you be looking for?

Oh Leather, Where Art Thou?

If you’ve been with us since Part One, you’ll know that before you get to choosing your gloves or implementing safety practices, before your leather is even tanned, the first step is deciding on the “right” hide.

Now, when it comes to the animal, there can be quite of few deciding factors here: animal breed, age, country, climate and so on. Simply put, what works in one instance or in one work environment, might not work in another – and so it helps to make sure that your leather is the absolute best fit.

The general saying is that the bigger the animal, the thicker the resulting leather. So, for example, if you’re performing a high-precision task such as welding, gloves are made of a thicker leather, like a durable cowhide, this wouldn’t be as effective and continued use may put you at risk. Instead, you’ll probably need something lighter, like goatskin, which can provide greater dexterity.

While leather is not inherently cut resistant, with the help of modern technology, cut resistant liners made of Kevlar® or Dyneema®, can be woven right into the leather, providing protection to the wearer, while not limiting the glove’s existing properties. 

In Part Two, we briefly mentioned the practice of dividing the hide during the leather manufacturing process and promised we’d explain it later. Luckily, later is here! Here’s how it works.

Split, Middle and Grain: How Well Do You Know Your Leather?

When your hide is initially being turned into a usable piece of leather, it will be split into three distinct layers.

  • Split Leather: The bottom layer

  • Middle Split: The middle layer

  • Grain Leather: The top layer

Cows are commonly the animal of choice when making split leather, as smaller animals, such as goat or sheep, simply won’t have enough hide. The ideal choice for items requiring a healthy amount of abrasion resistance, split leather can often be found in jackets and shoes.

In contrast, grain leather materials are a great asset in wet and wintery conditions, thanks to a natural, water repellent quality. Usually, grain leather will be the more expensive option compared to split leather, although that may not always be the case.

A middle split cut, however, because of its gelatinous texture, makes it a poor choice for manufacturing purposes. Therefore, for almost all your leather needs, you’ll be most likely to come across standard split or grain leather.

Location, Cuts, Grades & Work Gloves

Depending where on the hide a piece of leather was cut from, the price and durability may change. These cuts are then placed into three distinct categories:

  • Side Split: Most durable, best quality and the most expensive.

  • Shoulder Split: Not as durable but a more economically friendly option.

  • Belly Split: The most economically friendly option but the least durable.

Usually, a side split cut will be about four times the price of a belly split cut but the enhanced durability it provides offers a much longer lifespan when additional protection from hazards could be needed.

When it comes to grading leather, specifically grain leather, there is a general system followed, which divides the leather into four grades, A through D.

  • Grade A: A large piece of leather, either mildly-blemished or perfect

  • Grade B: A large piece of leather with numerous blemishes

  • Grade C: A small piece of leather, either mildly-blemished or perfect

  • Grade D: A small piece of leather with numerous blemishes

When it comes to the blemishes or defects on a piece of leather, while almost all companies will remove these scuff marks before sale, some, like Saddleback Leather Co., may keep them, as they could be viewed as adding an extra layer of character or authenticity to the piece (as we talked about in Part 2).

So depending on where you’re purchasing from or what your specific leather needs might be, we recommend taking these things under consideration.

And that’s it! This concludes our revamped Rebel’s Guide to Leather trilogy, from covering the uses of leather throughout history, to the specifics of the leather manufacturing process and how your gloves can be affected by the leather you chose. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Knowing your leather is one thing but when you’re looking to prioritize safety in the workplace, having an idea of what gloves to wear or what safety protocols to follow can help to make sure that nothing or nobody gets lost in the shuffle – or seriously injured.

Our Glove Clinic was specifically designed to assist you through this journey, with a specialized workplace assessment plan, education sessions and a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) trial. Looking to further promote safety and glove use in the workplace? No need to look any further – take a look! 

About Ryan Milford