Manufacturing Furniture With Leather

A COMMON DELIBERATION over new furniture purchases is leather or fabric. To make that decision, consider these three advantages to leather furniture: durability, maintenance and investment. Leather is more easily cleaned, as most spills remain on the surface area. On average, leather will last three to five times longer than a similar frame upholstered in fabric, providing a cost-effective investment for today’s consumer.


Leather Basics


Generally speaking, there are 2 types of leather that come from a cow hide:

  • Top Grain
  • Split Grain

To understand the different types of leather used to make products, let’s discuss how tanneries process cow hides.

Step 1: Separate the top and bottom cut (see Figure 1). The top cut is used to produce top grain leathers, divided into two categories: pure aniline and semi aniline. Leather from the bottom cut is often further split into additional layers to form the “split”. This part of the hide is weaker and primarily used to produce lower end leather goods and garments.

Step 2: The top cuts are [priced and] graded 1 – 4, with grade 4 being the highest quality. Grading is determined according to the amount of visible marks and scars prior to tanning.

Step 3: Determine the type of leather the top cut/grain will become:

  • Pure Aniline (Natural Leather)
  • Semi Aniline (Protected Leather)


Step 4: The hides will be finished by one of two methods: Drum dye or Surface dye.


What type of leather should your furniture be made from?


Top Grain.

This is the uppermost layer of the cow hide, valued for natural beauty, strength and durability. Maintaining our commitment to unsurpassed quality and durability, Classic Leather utilizes only premium, select, top grain leathers from the elite worldwide tanneries. It is our original belief, that combining quality leathers, handmade frames, and time honored craftsmanship, we can continue to provide a true furniture investment that will give consumers many years of enjoyment.


Wear it in, not out.


Other lower priced alternatives in the market place consist of bi-cast, bonded leather and leather match methods for upholstery.

Bi-Cast: A synthetic composite, created with a polyurethane top coat over a leather split or substrate.

Bonded Leather: Man made material consisting of 80% ground leather fibers, bonded together with a latex substance. Often found on Bible covers, desk accessories, and throughout the garment industry.

Leather Match: The combination of top grain leather on the surface areas of the product, and splits (lower level of the hide), or vinyl, on the outside areas of the product.


Top Grain Leathers: Pure Aniline vs. Semi Aniline


Pure Aniline: Top grain leather that is drum-dyed, and receives no additional surface pigment. Pure aniline leather is also known as “natural leather”. Although no additional color has been added, often times the tannery will include some slight levels of added protection, to allow easier cleaning and maintenance. Features of natural leather:

  • Among the softest leather selections available.
  • Shows natural beauty of the hide.
  • Color variance among hides.
  • Ages beautifully gathering patina.


The term patina describes the soft lister or shine that develops with product use over time. It is this rich patina that produces the warmth of vintage leather products. Patina can be curated by moisture, body oils, sunlight, dust, water and heat. It is important to remember while patina enhances the look of leather furniture, it does not affect the lifespan of leather furniture.

Semi Aniline: Top grain leather that is first drum dyed, then coated on the surface with a matching pigment. Features and characteristics include:

  • Color uniformity throughout the hides.
  • Easier to clean and maintain.
  • Lower susceptibility to fading in the presence of sunlight.
  • More practical in areas of high use.