Advanced Leather Repair and Restoration of Boise

Leather 101

Advanced Leather Repar and Restoration is considered by many in the furniture and automotive industry to be an international leader in leather repair and restoration. We strive to be the Treasure Valley's expert in leather restoration and this includes providing educational information about leather to our customers.

Leather is a natural material made from chemical and mechanical processing of an animal hide or skin. Leather used in automobiles and furniture can come from the same (tannery) source. A colder climate will normally yield a more desirable hide than a warmer climate because the animal's hair is thicker which results in a denser grain pattern.

There are also areas where electric fences are used to minimize the animals' scarring. Range cattle in warmer climates like South America will usually have apparent brand marks and scars from barbed wire fences. Too many natural scars and marks will prevent hides from being selected as premium aniline hides.

The average thickness of a cowhide is 5mm. Most hides are split to a uniform thickness (about as thick as a copper penny), which creates a top grain used for automobiles and furniture. The split grain will normally be used for shoes, luggage, belts etc.

At the tannery there are a number of steps required in processing a hide or skin before it's ready for sale. Soaking, fleshing and de-liming are just a few of the processes that lead up to the finished product. In preparation for finishing, all leathers are drum dyed with aniline dyes, tunnel dried for six hours and then categorized as a "crust". The crust is then subjected to mechanical and chemical treatments that soften leather.

These treatments allow the tannery to further separate the hide or skin for finishing with water-based or non-water-based pigments. A wide variety of color pigments, resins, lacquers and waxes are used to create finishes that give an impression that this leather came from an exotic and faraway place. After finishing and as a final step, leather is milled in a dry drum to further soften it and may also be plated (ironed) to increase the gloss and remove wrinkles.

How do I know if this is leather or vinyl?

Types of Leather Finishes

Fully Finished: Leather used in automobiles will have a full finish and will probably be constructed with a vinyl back and side panels. This type of finish simply means that the top finish applied at the tannery was done with an opaque dye and top coated with a clear coat.

Leather used for furniture with full finishes will not absorb water, resists staining, and will not leave a mark when scratched. Finished leather is much less susceptible to fading. Again at the tannery the finish is an opaque dye and top coated with a clear coat. A quick visual for protected leathers is that they are usually a solid color without any natural hide marks or blemishes showing. Opaque dyes cover natural scarring and other markings.

Fully finished leather is easy to clean, resists staining, and is less likely to fade. It is a great finish if you have children or pets.

Aniline Finishes: Aniline dyes are used to highlight the natural markings on a hide or skin that has limited scarring. They are usually higher end pieces with a variety of finishes that are frequently a sauvage (mottled) effect in appearance. Natural scars will have absorbed an equal amount of dye but will show a little darker in color similar to stretch marks on skin. An aniline finish can be further identified as full aniline, semi-aniline, pure aniline, and wax or oil pull-up. The hand (feel) of an aniline topcoat generally is buttery with a slight drag. The wax and oil pull-ups will feel "waxy" and "oily" and are usually a higher gloss. Note: Almost all aniline finishes will leave a lighter mark in the finish when scratched.

Aniline finishes will noticeably darken at varying rates when water is absorbed and will fade in color more quickly than protected finishes. Anilines are also quite susceptible to staining which becomes more pronounced as the furniture fades.

Nubuck Finishes: A nubuck is a solvent based aniline finish. Nubuck is the top side of leather where the animal's hair grows and is buffed with machines to create a velvet look and feel. Tanneries have also begun to produce nubuck hides categorized as a wax or oil pullup. They're not common, but be aware they are out there and not likely to have a successful repair made to them. As a point of information, suedes are the underside of a top grain hide or skin.

Nubucks will noticeably darken at varying rates when water is absorbed and in some cases will probably ruin the color/finish. Always test in an inconspicuous spot before attempting any cleaning. Color fade will occur more quickly than protected finishes.

For a free estimate on your repair, please call 208-890-1690 or email info@boiseleatherrepair.com