Splitting Leather (Techniques and Tools for a Smooth Cut)

Phot of split leather. Splitting Leather.

When it comes to leatherworking, there are many techniques and processes that can be used to create different products. One of these techniques is splitting leather, which involves dividing the skin into several layers over its entire surface. This process is commonly used to create thinner pieces of leather that can be used for a variety of products, such as belts, wallets, and bags.

Splitting leather is typically done on thicker leather that is 5 to 10 millimeters in thickness. The process involves cutting the grain side away from the flesh to create an even thickness throughout the entire piece of leather. Tanneries and leather vendors often offer splitting services to their customers when purchasing leather to ensure that they receive the desired thickness for their project.

Knowing how to split leather can be a valuable skill for any leatherworker, as it allows them to create thinner pieces of leather that can be used for a variety of products. By understanding the process and having the right tools, you can create high-quality leather products that are both durable and aesthetically pleasing.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the process of splitting leather in more detail and provide tips and tricks to help you get started.

Key Takeaways:

  • Splitting leather is a technique used in leatherworking to create thinner pieces of leather that can be used for various products like belts, wallets, and bags.
  • It involves dividing the skin into several layers over its entire surface, typically done on thicker leather that is 5 to 10 millimeters in thickness.
  • Split leather is known for its grainy texture and is more affordable than full-grain leather, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious shoppers.
  • The leather splitting process involves preparation, splitting, and post-splitting steps. The hide or skin is prepared by removing hair, flesh, and fat and soaked in water to increase its water content.
  • Splitting is done using a splitting machine, resulting in two layers: the top-grain split and the flesh split, each with different uses in leather products.
  • Split leather is less durable than full-grain leather, but proper maintenance and care can extend its lifespan.
  • When purchasing split leather, it’s essential to look for even thickness, smooth edges, and a consistent texture to identify quality leather. Comparing prices and reading customer reviews can help in making an informed purchase decision.

What is Split Leather?

If you’re looking for a durable and budget-friendly leather option, split leather might be just what you need. Split leather is made by separating and thinning the hide of an animal, usually a cow. The process of splitting leather involves removing the top-grain layer, which is the most valuable part of the hide, and then splitting the remaining layers.

Split leather is known for its grainy texture, which gives it a unique look and feel. It is also more affordable than full-grain leather, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious shoppers.

There are different ways to make split leather, but the most common method is through hand splitting with tools. This method gives the leather a more natural and rustic appearance, as opposed to machine splitting, which can result in a more uniform texture.

One thing to keep in mind when working with split leather is that it is not as strong or durable as full-grain leather. However, it can still be a great option for certain projects, such as furniture upholstery or fashion accessories.

Fun Fact:

Split leather is also known as split-grain leather or suede, depending on the thickness of the split layers. If the split is thin, it is called suede, while a thicker split is called split-grain leather.

Leather Splitting Process

Leather splitting is a process that involves dividing a hide or skin into several layers over the entire surface. This process is commonly used in tanneries to obtain thinner and more pliable leather. In this section, we will discuss the preparation, splitting, and post-splitting process of leather splitting.

Preparation

Before starting the leather-splitting process, it is important to ensure that the hide or skin is properly prepared. This includes removing any hair, flesh, and fat from the hide. The hide should also be soaked in water to increase its water content, making it easier to split.

Splitting

Once the hide is properly prepared, it can be split using a splitting machine. Splitting machines come in both electric and manual varieties, with prices ranging from $75 to $3,500. The thickness of the skin should be taken into account when adjusting the machine because of the water content. The dry weight of leather is three times heavier than the water content of wet skin.

During the splitting process, the grain side of the leather is cut away from the flesh side, resulting in two layers of leather: the top-grain split and the flesh split. The top-grain split is the thinner of the two layers and is often used for making gloves, wallets, and other small leather goods. The flesh split is thicker and is commonly used for making suede.

Post-Splitting Process

After the leather has been split, it must be dried and finished. The leather is first dried to remove any excess moisture. Once the leather is dry, it can be sanded, buffed, and dyed to achieve the desired finish.

It is important to note that the thickness of the leather can vary depending on the type of animal it comes from. Thicker leather, mostly cow leather, which is 5 to 10 millimeters thick, is typically split. The obtained layers are designated as grain split or top-grain split and flesh split.

Characteristics of Split Leather

Thickness

Split leather is typically thinner than full-grain leather, ranging from 5 to 10 millimeters in thickness. The thickness of the leather can vary depending on the intended use of the final product. For example, a wallet or purse may require a thinner split leather, while a belt or shoe may require a thicker one.

Durability

Split leather is generally less durable than full-grain leather due to its composition. However, it can still be a durable material if treated properly. It is important to note that the durability of split leather can vary depending on the type of split used. For example, grain split is more durable than flesh split.

Texture

Split leather has a unique texture that sets it apart from other types of leather. It is typically smoother than full-grain leather but not as smooth as corrected-grain leather. The texture of split leather can vary depending on the type of split used. For example, grain split has a smoother texture than flesh split.

Split leather can be further divided into drop split, middle split, grain split, and flesh split. Drop split is the difference between the split and the grain split. The middle split is obtained by further splitting the drop split. Grain split is the top layer of the split, while flesh split is the bottom layer.

When it comes to tear resistance, split leather is generally less tear-resistant than full-grain leather. However, it can still be a strong material if treated properly.

Uses of Split Leather

Split leather is a versatile material that can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some common uses of split leather:

Footwear

Split leather is commonly used in footwear, especially for casual shoes and boots. It is often used for the upper part of the shoe, while the sole is made from a more durable material. Split leather shoes are comfortable, lightweight, and affordable. However, they are not as durable as full-grain leather shoes and are not recommended for heavy use or harsh weather conditions.

Handbags

Split leather is also a popular material for handbags, purses, and wallets. It is often used for the exterior of the bag, while the interior is lined with a softer material. Split leather handbags are stylish, lightweight, and affordable. However, they are not as durable as full-grain leather bags and may show signs of wear and tear over time.

Belts

Split leather is a common material for belts, especially for casual or dress belts. It is often used for the outer layer of the belt, while the inner layer is made from a sturdier material. Split leather belts are affordable and come in a variety of colors and styles. However, they are not as durable as full-grain leather belts and may stretch or crack over time.

Upholstery

Split leather is also used for upholstery, especially for furniture and car interiors. It is often used for the back and sides of the furniture, while the seat and arms are made from a more durable material. Split leather upholstery is affordable and comes in a variety of colors and textures. However, it is not as durable as full-grain leather upholstery and may show signs of wear and tear over time.

In the garment industry, split leather is often used for clothing such as jackets, vests, and pants. It is also used for accessories such as gloves and hats. Split leather is a versatile material that can be used in a variety of ways, but it is important to choose the right type of split leather for your needs.

Comparing Leather Types

When it comes to leather, there are several types to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and qualities. In this section, we will compare split leather with other types of leather to help you understand the differences and decide which one is right for you.

Split Leather vs Full Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is the highest quality leather available. It is made from the top layer of the hide and retains the natural grain pattern, making each piece unique. Full-grain leather is strong, durable, and ages beautifully over time. It is commonly used in high-end leather goods such as wallets, belts, and bags.

On the other hand, split leather is made from the lower layer of the hide and is less durable than full-grain leather. It is often used in cheaper leather products such as shoes and furniture. Split leather does not have the natural grain pattern of full-grain leather, and it is more prone to cracking and fading over time.

Split Leather vs Top Grain Leather

Top-grain leather is another high-quality leather option. It is made from the top layer of the hide, but unlike full-grain leather, it has been sanded down to remove any imperfections. This gives it a smoother, more uniform appearance. Top-grain leather is also strong and durable, making it a popular choice for furniture and bags.

Compared to top-grain leather, split leather is less durable and has a rougher texture. It is often used in cheaper leather products such as shoes and jackets. However, split leather can be a good option for those on a budget who still want the look and feel of leather.

Split Leather vs Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is made by shredding scrap leather and bonding it together with adhesive. It is a cheaper alternative to genuine leather, but it lacks the durability and quality of real leather. Bonded leather is often used in furniture and bookbinding.

Compared to bonded leather, split leather is a higher-quality option. While it is still not as durable as full-grain or top-grain leather, it has a more natural look and feel. Split leather can be a good choice for those who want the look of leather without the high price tag.

Maintaining and Caring for Split Leather

Split leather is a popular material for various items, including shoes, gloves, and hats. To keep your split leather items looking great and long-lasting, it’s essential to maintain and care for them properly. In this section, we’ll cover the basics of cleaning, repairing damage, and long-term care for split leather.

Cleaning

Cleaning your split leather items is crucial to keep them looking their best. Here are some tips to follow when cleaning:

  • Use a soft-bristled brush or a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust from the surface of the leather.
  • Avoid using water on your split leather items, as it can cause the leather to warp or shrink.
  • If your split leather item gets wet, let it dry naturally at room temperature. Avoid using heat sources like hair dryers, radiators, or direct sunlight.
  • Use a leather cleaner specifically formulated for split leather. Apply a small amount of the cleaner onto a clean, soft cloth and gently rub it onto the leather surface.

Repairing Damage

Split leather is prone to damage, including tears, rips, and holes. Here are some tips to follow when repairing damage:

  • For small tears or holes, you can use a leather adhesive to seal the area. Apply a small amount of adhesive onto the damaged area and press it firmly together.
  • For larger tears or holes, it’s best to take your item to a professional leather repair service.
  • If your split leather item gets discolored, you can use a leather dye to restore its color. Choose a dye that matches the original color of your item, and follow the instructions on the package.

Long-Term Care

To ensure your split leather items last a long time, here are some tips for long-term care:

  • Condition your split leather items regularly to prevent dryness or cracking. Use a leather conditioner specifically formulated for split leather.
  • Store your split leather items in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
  • Avoid exposing your split leather items to water or moisture for long periods.
  • If you’re not using your split leather items for an extended period, stuff them with tissue paper to help them maintain their shape.
Pro Tip:

To keep your split leather items looking their best, it's essential to clean them regularly and avoid exposing them to water or moisture. If your item gets damaged, consider taking it to a professional leather repair service for the best results.

Buying and Selling Split Leather

Identifying Quality Split Leather

When purchasing split leather, it is important to identify the quality of the leather. The quality of split leather is not as good as top-grain leather, so it is essential to look for signs of quality. Here are some tips to help you identify quality split leather:

  • Look for even thickness throughout the leather.
  • Check for any blemishes or scars on the surface of the leather.
  • Make sure the edges of the leather are smooth and even.
  • Check for any discoloration or uneven dyeing.
  • Look for a consistent texture throughout the leather.

Pricing and Purchasing Tips

When purchasing split leather, it is important to consider the price and quality of the leather. Here are some tips to help you make an informed purchase:

  • Compare prices from different suppliers to get the best deal.
  • Consider the quality of the leather when making a purchase.
  • Look for discounts or sales to save money.
  • Consider purchasing in bulk to save money on shipping and handling.
  • Read reviews from other customers to ensure you are getting a quality product.

Selling Split Leather

If you are looking to sell split leather, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips to help you sell your split leather:

  • Advertise your split leather on online marketplaces such as Etsy or eBay.
  • Provide clear and detailed descriptions of the leather, including its quality, size, and color.
  • Include high-quality photos of the leather to showcase its texture and color.
  • Offer competitive pricing to attract potential buyers.
  • Provide excellent customer service, including quick delivery and prompt responses to emails.

FAQ: Splitting Leather

What is the difference between split leather and genuine leather?

Genuine leather is made from the top layer of the hide, while split leather is made from the lower layers. Split leather is less durable than genuine leather and has a rougher texture. Genuine leather is more expensive and has a smoother texture.

What is the difference between split leather and bonded leather?

Bonded leather is made from scraps of leather that are glued together and then coated with a polyurethane layer. Split leather is made from the lower layers of the hide. Bonded leather is less durable than split leather and has a smoother texture.

How long can split-grain leather last?

Split-grain leather can last up to five years with proper care. It is less durable than full-grain leather but can still be a good option for certain applications.

Can split cow leather have a polyurethane coating?

Yes, split cow leather can have a polyurethane coating. This coating can improve the durability of the leather and make it easier to clean.

Is split leather the same as suede?

Split leather is not the same as suede, but suede is a type of split leather. Suede is made from the inner layer of the hide and has a soft, fuzzy texture. Other types of split leather have a rougher texture.

Andre from leatherninja.com

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.