When you are on the hunt for the perfect leather piece to fit your wardrobe, whether that is a belt, a purse or a wallet, or even a piece of furniture to fit your new living room, you might be surprised in how the type of leather it was made out of affects its longevity, durability and most importantly – the price. In order to not fall into the trap of “genuine leather” tags, we need to understand a little bit about the types. And most importantly, we need to know what is bonded leather.
We have talked about this topic before in our “What Does Bonded Leather Mean?” article as well as we looked into differences between top grain and bonded leathers in the article “Differences Between Top Grain and Bonded Leather“. However, this subject is so important, that we will talk about it again here and now.
There are only a few main types of leather that you should know about. They can be further classified into sub-classes depending on their quality within types, like full grain leather, for example, can be of several totally different qualities that would severely affect the final price depending on the region it was extracted, the treatment of the animals, skill and traditions of the craftsmen, and so on. But we will not get into it today.
Each type of leather, from full grain and down to bonded, is confusing and look about the same in the pictures online to an average person, who does not work with leather. So, you may be asking yourself what’s the difference? Full grain leather is the best quality and comes with the highest price tag. Next is top grain leather, then split leather or suede, and finally bonded leather.
If all you are doing is paying a different price for the same looking item, it may seem silly for you to choose anything but bonded leather. However, it is very important that you know the difference between the leathers so you don’t end up having to pay more money to replace your cheap leather item later. By purchasing real and pure leather item may cost you more money at the beginning, but it will save you money in the long run.
So, what is bonded leather and how it is made?
[Good Read: How Do They Make Leather?]
Process of Making Bonded Leather
The process of leather making is important to understand the different qualities available to you when you are purchasing a leather item. When a leather hide is taken to a tanner, the hide can be anywhere from 5 to 10 mm thick. The tanner’s first job is to split the leather into its different types so they can be sent off to make different items.
The first and best split is the top part of the hide. If the animal was well treated and did not have too many accidents or incidents while growing, the very top part will be extracted, which is called full grain leather. In some cases the full grain cannot be salvaged for whatever reasons we are not going to talk about here, and therefore a top grain leather is obtained.
This leather is already quite smooth and is sent off to those manufacturers, who make higher-end leather products. The remaining leather is the flesh side, and it is rough on both sides. This is often used to make suede items and other lower quality leather items by putting a false grain coating on top of it to make it look like grain leather. For your information, such leather is called “hammered leather”.
The best way to describe the way bonded leather is made is to think of a wood craftsman’s shop. As the craftsman works to make his product, whether that is a chair or a guitar, or a table, he is constantly cutting wood, shaving wood, and sanding the wood. If the craftsman were to then take the pieces of wood that fell to the ground, the shavings, and the sawdust left add chemicals to them, and press them into a new piece of wood, this would be bonded leather. Bonded leather is made from all the scraps that fall to the ground that are then pressed together and dyed to make them look like a solid piece of leather. Bonded leather is commonly found in belts, furniture, or handbags.
Just Say No
Like Nancy Reagan taught us in the 80’s, it is best to just say no to bonded leather. If you are purchasing a piece of furniture or bag that will only serve as a decoration, you might be able to get away with it. However, if you are looking for a leather item that will be used with some frequency, it is best to save your money to purchase a better quality leather product.