Top Grain Leather

Top Grain Leather

What is top grain leather?

Top grain leather is the second highest grade of leather. It has a uniform finish and is thinner and more workable than full grain leather, but it does not have its strength or durability.

What does top grain leather look like?

The imperfections which occur naturally in full grain leather have been sanded away and the top grain leather is imprinted with a regular imitation grain. The result is a smooth, uniformly patterned surface.

What is corrected top grain leather?

Corrected leather grains are a form of top grain leather. They are created using a lengthy process of sanding, buffing, stamping and dyeing to ensure that all-natural markings in the leather are removed, an imitation grain is then imprinted on the leather.

Where does top grain leather come from?

This question can be answered in three ways.

Where in the world does top grain leather come from?

The top six leather producing countries in the world are: China, India, Italy, Brazil, Korea and Russia. China produces 80% of the world’s leather.

Which animals are used in the production of leather?

Most leather is made from cows, because of their availability, their size and the quality of the leather. Leather can also be made from pigs, sheep, deer, horses and kangaroos. Small quantities of exotic leathers are also made from alligators, snakes, frogs and sting-rays.

Where on the hide does top grain leather come from?

As its name suggests, top grain leather comes from the top of the hide, but several millimetres have been removed from the surface in order to eliminate imperfections.

How is top grain leather made?

Several millimetres from the surface of the hide are sanded away, the leather is then buffed to create a smooth, blemish free surface. The leather will then be treated with an aniline dye, which is soluble and retains the hide’s natural surface or a semi aniline dye which has a thin protective top coat and will protect the leather from wear and staining but will reduce breathability.

How to protect top grain leather

Top grain leather will have an aniline dye or a semi aniline dye. An aniline dye colours the leather all the way through and because the leather remains porous liquids can sink in and stain the surface. Semi aniline top grain leather will be more resistant to stains, but it only remains durable as long as its finish is unbroken. The leather should be nourished every three months, depending on the type of item and its usage. First clean the leather, using either a commercially available leather cleaner or by using a solution of one-part mild soap to eight parts water. Apply the solution with a cloth, never directly on to the leather. Allow the leather to dry naturally. You should then apply a commercially available leather conditioner or if you prefer, homemade recipes can be found on the internet. If leather loses its natural oils and moisture, its fibres will lose their flexibility and the leather will crack. Good conditioning creams will moisturise and nourish the leather with a minimum of colour change. Conditioning oils such as neatsfoot will also nourish leather but will offer less surface protection. Wax conditioners do not penetrate and nourish leather but do provide good surface protection. Always apply conditioner to a soft cloth, never directly on to the leather and polish afterwards with a dry cloth. 

Disclaimer: You should always test any new products on a small inconspicuous area of the leather first, before applying all over, to ensure you are happy with any changes that may occur to the appearance and texture.  

Does top grain leather patina?

As a result of the finishing process, top grain leather will not develop the patina of full grain leather and its appearance is inclined to deteriorate rather than improve with age.

How long will top grain leather last?

Full grain leather will last a lifetime, top grain leather is thinner, the strongest fibres in the hide have been sanded off to create a uniform surface, consequently it will not last as long. The lifespan of your top grain leather will depend on the initial quality of the hide, the type of product and its usage and care. A good quality top grain leather sofa might last from ten to fifteen years. A top grain leather bag in daily use will probably only last about five years.

How thick is top grain leather?

The thickness of an animal hide will depend on the type of animal. A cow hide, the most likely choice for top grain leather, is about 3/64th of an inch thick, the thickness of a coin. Up to half of this thickness is then removed in order to create a uniform surface.

Can top grain leather peel?

Top grain leather which has a semi aniline dye and protective coating will peel over time. Aniline dyed top grain leather, though more susceptible to staining, will, with regular conditioning have a much longer life but will still peel eventually.

Can top grain leather be bonded?

Bonded leather is the lowest quality leather which is made by gluing scraps of leather together in the way that chipboard is made from scraps of wood. Top grain leather is not bonded, it is the top layer of the hide which has had surface imperfections removed.

Full Grain Leather

Top grain leather vs full grain leather

Full grain leather is the best quality leather and consequently the most expensive. It retains all the original blemishes from the hide and it will develop a rich patina, becoming more beautiful over time. Cared for properly it will last a lifetime. Top grain leather is the second-best quality leather and is cheaper to buy than full grain leather. It has a uniform surface which can be textured in any way, but it will not develop a patina. It is softer and more flexible than full grain leather, but it is much less durable.

Common uses of top grain leather

Top grain leather is supple and attractive and most items which we think of as leather goods are produced using top grain leather, such as: billfolds/wallets, bags, shoes, belts, furniture and clothing. Leather goods which require strength and durability will use full grain leather.

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