Friday, December 10, 2010

Inside The Hide

When you look at a finished hide, whether in the natural or dyed to match a décor, the broad scope of processing it isn’t readily apparent. Sometimes, you may look at a piece of cowhide and think its one thing, when it’s really something else—the grain definition has been embossed into the leather. How is this done?

The original grain is removed and an artificial grain is pressed onto the surface. And several terms may mean the same thing. For example, when the genuine grain remains on the hide, the leather is called full grain or full top grain.

The better the quality of the hide, the less treatment it requires. Calfskins are finer than the hides of older animals—sort of like the difference between babies and their grandparents without the wrinkles. Actually, in a premium quality hide, you should see the “fat wrinkles”, the natural markings, and the hide ought to be supple to the touch. Those wrinkles create the unique beauty of each mature leather piece. Although calf skins are finer hides, they’re equal in durability and abrasion resistance to their elders. Why? Because the fiber structure of calfskin is by nature denser, tighter, and stronger than the mature hides.

Processing hides and skin into finished leather has three phases: pre-tanning, tanning, and finishing. (More on the processes of hide tanning later.) There is a fine distinction between each phase. Anything done to the hide after tanning becomes part of the finishing phase. This can include a wide variety of processes: dying, rolling, pressing, snuffing, embossing, glazing, water-proofing, stain-proofing, flame-proofing, as examples. Wow, seems like a lot of terms. Some are self-explanatory, like water-, stain-, and flame-proofing. Others you can figure out from everyday applications, like dying. However, some aren’t obvious and entail special equipment.

For example, glazing. This is a finish where the leather is put under tremendous pressure and the surface is polished to a high luster through the actions of glass on steel rollers. (Don’t get your fingers caught in that one.)

The final purpose of a cowhide determines how it’s finished. More than that, it dictates how it’s handled during the pre-tanning and what kind of tanning process works best for the end product. The Rawhide Company offers premium, genuine, full-haired cowhide rugs and cowhide home accessories directly to you—with free shipping. Peruse our website and select the perfect Christmas gift a special someone on your list.

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