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What is the meaning of Common Leather Terms?
 A Leather Terminology Glossary, explaining the meaning of these terms and their impact on Leather Care.
Full Grain Leather: When the outerskin, (the hair/fur/wool side) and the underskin are removed, the remaining leather is Full Grain Leather. The top portion is the Grain Side and the bottom portion is the Suede side. This leather is thicker than top grain or split.

Upholstery Leather is often cut horizontally through the Full Grain, producing two thinner pieces of split leather. Split leather will not have the same strength and durability that leather which is not split has.
  • Top Grain Leather: When leather is split sideways the top or grain side of the split is referred to as Top Grain Leather and is the better quality piece.
  • Split Leather: When leather is split horizontally the bottom piece of the split is called split leather.
Suede:
The underside of Full Grain Leather.

Aniline: A semi transparent dye used to color upholstery leather.

Aniline Leather: Leather which after being immersed in an aniline dye, and does not receive a top coat of pigment.

Nubuck: Pure aniline leather that has been buffed on the grain side to produce a velvety nap.

Wax Pull Up: Pure Aniline that has a waxy coating added.

Oil Pull Up: Pure Aniline that has an oily coating added.

Almost all upholstery leather is immersed in Aniline dye, which penetrates the leather from one side to the other. Ino top coat of pigment is applied to the leather, it is referred to as an Aniline, Pure Aniline, or Non Pigmented leather.        
  • Because the dye is semi-transparent, natural hide markings like scratches, scars, uneven tone and other imperfections will be visible, as they will not be buffed off or covered with pigment.
  • Only the best hides (Full grain or Top Grain) are chosen for Aniline Leather.
  • In the right environment this leather will age gracefully and even develop a rich and attractive patina. Aniline Leather is strong and durable, but it stains easily and these stains set quickly and become very difficult or impossible to remove. Repairs are a problem too because they cannot be concealed by aniline dyes. Some pure aniline furniture has a light synthetic protective coat that will help prevent staining but this will wear off and needs to be replaced.
  • Use Leather Guard when you buy unprotected leathers to make them stain resistant. 
     


Pigmented Leather: Hides that after being immersed in aniline dye, are top coated with a water based pigment are referred to as Pigmented or Top Coated Leathers
  • If the top coating is very light the leather is called a Semi-Aniline. The coating will be thin enough for natural markings to be somewhat visible. When the pigment top coat is a little heavier,it is called Protected Aniline. Heavily top coated leathers are called Protected Leathers. Most automobile car seats fall in the last category.
  • Semi Aniline and Protected Aniline. These beautiful, top coated leathers have a light protective pigment that make them ideal for high traffic areas. These finishes makes leather cleaning easy and if pets or children damage them leather repair is not difficult.
  • Protected Leather. The opaque top coating is very easy to care for, but it lacks the depth and softness of less coated leather. Ideal for car interiors which are often subject to a lot of wear and tear and family room/playroom furniture that receives a lot of rough use, especially by kids and pets
Leather/Polyurethane Combination Products

Bi-Cast (Bicast, ByCast)
Bi-cast Is a leather/synthetic combination product used to make upholstered furniture. Sometimes marketed as leather, (illegal in many countries including England) it usually consists of low grade split leather with a thick polyurethane coating or a combination of rubber and a thin layer of split leather that is topped by a thick polyurethane coating. Unlike pure leather, bi-cast is not fire retardant and like vinyl it does not ‘breathe'.
   

Bonded Leather
Leather pieces/synthetic combination product. Bits and pieces of leather glued together (think particle board as opposed to solid wood) and bonded to rubber or plastic and topped with polyurethane coating.

If made well (and most of is not), it cleans easily and is strong and inexpensive. Bi Cast with a high gloss finish can give a patent leather look to compliment very modern pieces. However, a lot of Bi Cast and Bonded leather is very poor quality and we have seen unbelievable damage (spider cracking over the whole surface and all over peeling) occur after only a few months of normal use. If you buy Bi Cast or Bonded Leather furniture make sure the company you purchase it from has been around a long time and offers an excellent warranty.

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