Leather Guide

Leather is a wonderful, natural product.  Since the dawn of man, leather has always been used although the way it is produced has been refined over the years!

A by-product of the meat industry, leather is a versatile and diverse material used for a wide range of applications.


The skins arrive from the abattoirs to the tannery and are inspected and sorted.  They are put in to large drums and are soaked and hair removed if necessary.  Once they have been washed, they are ready to be tanned.  The skins are prepared and trimmed and placed back in to the drums with a chemical solution, including chrome to make a stable base and stop the skins putrefying.

The skins are generally then split.  A machine slices the leather into two layers. The layer without a grain surface can be turned into suede or have an artificial grain surface or laminate applied. The top sides are finished usually with the grain or buffed in preparation to have foil finishes applied.  Any shavings are sent to be used for bonded leather.

The skins are then ready to be dyed.  They are put back in the drums to be dyed through with specific colours and then have various finishes applied.

Minimum drum loads are generally 500ft, 1000ft and 3000ft.

In terms of the tanning, the two most commonly used methods are chrome and vegetable.  With chrome, there is a larger range of colours achievable which are more vivid with a better depth of colour.  Vegetable-tanned leather, using plant extracts, traditionally has more earthy tones.  These leathers are commonly used for saddlery, belting, and larger accessories.

Today the range of colours and effects available makes leather the natural choice when considering luxury items which improve over time.


There are various types of finishing methods such as: full grains, embosses, laminates and foils.

Nappa – The generic name given to the grain side of the finished leather of cow or lamb.  Generally this has a smooth surface.

Methods such as washing or shrinking are then applied.

Nappas are most commonly used for garments – in particular outerwear such as jackets although we do sell these products for small leathergoods and handbags

Aniline – The skins are drum dyed and dried naturally.  No finish is applied.  Buttery soft, it can be prone to taking up grease or moisture.

Pigmented – The skins are drum dyed and dried and then a spray pigment is applied to the top of the skin. This makes the skins more durable as the pigmented layer acts as a barrier to stop moisture being absorbed.

Nubuck – The grain side of the skin,  using very high quality leather. The grain is buffed to give a soft ‘sueded’ look.   It can stain, so needs a stain resistant finish applied , either at the tannery or when the product is made up.

Suede – The reverse side of the nappa – (inside of the animal). Generally, suede is split to make a fine finish.  In the case of lamb and goat, the grain side left is very thin and often used for skivers in the bookbinding industry. All animal skins can produce suede – often referred to as a split which can be used for garments, linings and accessories.

Shearlings  – The generic name for wool skins – generally used for garments. Fur is on the grain side. Reverse is often left as a suede but can have a finish applied.


All skins are graded on a table A-H.  This has no reflection on the finished leather – it is  sorted at the initial stages before the skins are tanned.  Our skins are normally an A/B selection.  Grade is reflected in the price – the higher the grade, the higher the price

Leather is a natural product and has natural marks on the skin. These can range from tick marks, scratches (from barbed wire), scars and brands.  They are what make leather beautiful and unique.






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Ashraf Leather is experienced Manufacturer & Exporter of All kinds of Leather Product & Clothing Since 1978.

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