|Leather: Journey from Rawhide to Objet d'Art|
The ultimate quality of a finished leather product is directly dependent upon three factors: the quality of the hide or skin, the processing of raw material, and the craftsmanship in the product manufacturing phase. Our affiliates place keen emphasis on all these value-addition phases.
The better the quality of a hide or skin, the less it has to be treated. In a premium quality hide or skin, the full natural grain is retained and exposed. “Fat wrinkles" are a natural part of better quality leather.
Turning hides and skins into leather requires three basic phases: pre-tanning, tanning, and finishing. Tanning involves steps such as soaking, fleshing, deliming, bating, pickling, chrome tanning, and piling. The tanning process may take about a week. Whatever is done to a piece of leather after it is tanned is part of the finishing process. In reference to this phase, one may hear terminology such as dyeing, rolling, pressing, coating, polishing, spraying, plasticizing, lacquering, antiquing, waxing, buffing, snuffing, embossing, toggling, staking, glazing, waterproofing, stain proofing, flame proofing, or any other post-tanning treatment.
Full-grain leathers are color-treated only by transparent aniline vegetable dyes which shade the skins without concealing natural markings or grain character. Most furniture leathers have been treated with a coating of pigmentation to help even out the color. Although many finish applications are administered for purposes other than altering or masking the surface of the leather, all applied opaque finishes and airtight surface sealants should be held suspect. Genuine, natural, un-pigmented, and un-plasticized leather will breathe and ventilate, thus dissipating body heat. If leather is able to breathe, it can absorb moisture, be nourished, and remain soft and pliable. Plasticized leather would not breathe and may become stiff.
Qualities of high-grade leather would include permeability, tear strength, finish adhesion, flexibility at low temperatures (cold-flex resistance), and resistance to vulnerabilities such as water (hydrolysis), chemicals, grain-cracking, and abrasion. Various accelerated-wear tests (such as the SATRA tests) could be employed to gauge leather performance in the above-mentioned criteria vis-à-vis acceptable industry standards.