How to Grade Hides for Leather Upholstery

When you would like a piece of leather-upholstered furniture that lasts a long time, it can help to understand both the grade and finishes of the mask. It’s easy to be deceived into thinking that a lesser quality mask is high quality due to how in which the material looks. Just two distinct grades of leather masks can be used for upholstery, but four distinct finish choices may change the way it appears, making a lower quality hide look better than it really is. An average cowhide is about 3 feet, which requires sewing the leather together in longer pieces.

Top-Grain Leather

The highest grade leather available is top-grain leather, which can be taken out of the upper layer of the mask, its thickest part. Considered a premium level of leather, top-grain leather, after processing, may also be turned into full-grain leather that contains all organic debilitating or blemishes from the first mask. Corrected grain leather means leather that has undergone sanding to adjust surface blemishes or marks, making it appear smoother in comparison with full-grain leather.

Split Leather

Taken from the lower layer or bottom of the mask, split-grain leather is frequently coated or used for suede. Not as strong as top-grain leather, manufacturers save money by utilizing split leather since it isn’t premium leather. In high-quality pieces that contain top-grain leather around the seating area, split leather is frequently used in places like the sides and backs of seats and couches that do not receive as much wear and tear. Or, it is used all over the slice to resemble top-grain leather.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather has the feel of suede or velvet on its surface. But, unlike suede, which can be made from the bottom of the mask, Nubuck cannot be made from split leather. Nubuck leather requires thickness since it undergoes sanding or buffing on its own upper side — from the upper layer of the mask — to achieve a softer finish. If you enjoy the look of real leather with the natural scars and blemishes from the mask and the feel of a thicker surface, elect for Nubuck leather.

Aniline and Semianiline Leather

Aniline finishes are produced in two types: full aniline dyed leather and semianiline colored leather. Full aniline dyed leather involves using a penetrating wax which soaks into the mask’s surface, giving it color without changing the mask’s natural appearance. As the most expensive and highest quality leather, the aniline dyeing process doesn’t include a protective coat to the leather, making it vulnerable to staining. Since just a few hides attain the quality acceptable for a full-aniline permeating dye, furniture upholstered with this leather prices the most. Semianiline dyed leather just contains a little bit of surface wax along with a protective topcoat, making it vulnerable to wear.

Pigment Dyed or Safe Leather

Another way to dye leather involves coating the surface of the leather with a specific shade and a protective substance. Since this kind of finish operates much in the exact same way that a painted surface does, after years of use, you’ll more than likely need to touch the furniture’s worn surfaces or re-dye it to eliminate scratches and gouges that show the mask’s lighter shade underneath. Read fabric labels and ask questions about the leather’s quality when you’re purchasing your leather furniture so you will not be fooled.