SEARCH Leatherworking


Where Leather Gets It's Strength

Cutting Lace
Cutting Lace

Contrary to popular belief, the top grain is not the strongest portion of the hide.

There was a short article in the October 2008 issue of Shop Talk! magazine (pg 57) about the misconception that the top grain is the strongest portion of the hide. I suppose that misconception gets set in our minds by the simplistic differentiation offered to consumers by merchants touting the superiority of their top grain leathers over the lesser stuff made of splits from deeper in the hide. At least it did in mine.

But it's not so simple.

In the article Shep Hermann, President of Hermann Oak Leather points out that the grain of the leather is the weakest part which can be illustrated by skiving a scrap down to the grain and seeing how easily it tears. The grain is made up of very fine fibers tightly packed to keep out the elements while allowing the animal to perspire. It's the larger interwoven fibers of the corium underneath the grain that gives leather its strength.

That's why the thinner hides of calfskin and kipskin (from a young cow, not yet fully grown) are used to make items like wallets where a thin but strong leather is needed. Younger animals have a thinner grain layer which leaves more of the corium to give strength to the 1 or 2 oz leathers used in wallets and dress gloves etc. Goatskins and sheepskin also have a thinner grain.

Vegetable tanned kangaroo

Vegetable tanned kangaroo has about four times the tensile strength of cowhide, making kangaroo a superior leather for use in lace work. Lace cut from kangaroo doesn't curl when stretched, unlike cow or calf leather which will curl so that the grain side of the lace becomes concave.

Kangaroo is great for gloves too. Glove tannage kangaroo has two to three times the tensile strength and three to four times the tear strength of deerskin. Kangaroo leather gloves will long outlast deerskin gloves.

Maximizing yield from kangaroo skins

David Morgan has a couple of articles with tips for maximizing yield when cutting kangaroo skins.

Tags: Leatherworking