Leather 101: Caring for Leather Furniture

Hello BestLeather readers! I’m Chris Repp, a second-generation leather restoration professional and the creator of LeatherHelp.com. I’ve spent 25 years cleaning, repairing and restoring leather furniture, automotive leather interiors, leather jackets, bags, yacht cabin leather and private aircraft leather seating. More often lately, I’m training others to do the same.

While you are a sophisticated audience here at BestLeather, I am a blue-collar leather guy. I don’t have a degree in leather technology or a comprehensive knowledge of the many types of leather tannage. In fact, I tweeted out the other day that I learn something new every time I visit BestLeather. It’s true.

What I will give you today is insight born out of 1000’s of living-room discussions with my real customers over the decades. The result has been lots of practical advice on:

  1. Choosing the right leather furniture for you,
  2. Caring well for that leather furniture so it lasts a lifetime
  3. Dealing with the inevitable leather problem.

So here’s 25 years of advice in short.

Choosing leather furniture

  • Buying quality leather matters most – For a leather restoration guy, I say no to a lot of leather jobs. Mostly because the people bought cheap, junk leather or faux leather and I can’t fix it for them. So my first piece of advice is buy good leather from a knowledgeable furniture retailer or none of the rest of this advice will matter. It’s only lipstick on a pig.
  • Leather furniture for active families – Lots of my customers ask, “I have small kids and we have pets, should we get leather or not?” I say, “Certainly”, but then I point them back to my first piece of advice. If you buy cheap leather, the family will tear it up in no time. If you buy quality, I can teach you how to care for it and it will last for decades.

Investing in leather barstools can add a touch of sophistication to your space. When caring for leather furniture, it’s crucial to follow proper maintenance routines to ensure the longevity and beauty of your barstools.

  • How much should you spend and why – For most consumers, I recommend mid-grade, mid-priced leather furniture from a good furniture or leather retailer. Spend more than you initially wanted to but not enough to break the bank. Heres why: Cheap leather from a warehouse is obviously going to be a mess in no time. But on the other end of the spectrum, the highest grade aniline (unprotected) leather sofa is beautiful and butter soft but very delicate and may not be appropriate for most buyers. I’d talk to a good salesman about investing in a mid-grade, top-grain finished leather. A mid-grade pull-up or distressed leather can also be a great choice if you like a leather that will distress and patina with age.



Caring for your leather furniture

  • Tips for cleaning your leather furniture – Some of these tips may sound elementary, but I’m just telling you the facts. These are tips I give because I get customers learning the hard way all the time!
    • Don’t use Windex, Simple Green or anything not made to clean leather. Only use cleaners made for leather.
    • Apply the cleaner to a soft, t-shirt material type cloth, not directly onto the leather. Clean an entire section at a time from seam-to-seam.
    • A good maintenance routine is:
      • Weekly – Dust off the leather with a dry cloth or soft-brush attachment to a vacuum cleaner.
      • Monthly – Clean the leather with a good leather cleaner
      • Quarterly – Condition the leather
  • Keys to conditioning your leather furniture – Most customers have the best of intentions but aren’t going to follow the rigorous routine above. So I suggest that they at least use a cream conditioner on their leather twice a year. However, if I see a fireplace or lots of direct sunlight in the home, I will urge they do the 4x conditioning a year. Dry heat will dry out leather if not treated. The final common suggestion I offer for conditioning applies to pull-up leather furniture. Pull-up leather has been “stuffed” with wax. After a few years, that wax comes off the seats and arms of the furniture. In that case, I suggest they get a thicker wax-paste conditioner and wax the leather almost like you would wax your car. Then I suggest waving a warm hair dryer over the wax to set it into the leather.
  • Unexpected household items can damage your leather furniture – I get calls each week from customers who just noticed a big discolored spot on their leather sofa. Once we trace it back, we discover it often is caused by a normal household chemical that they never guessed could take the color out of the leather. Here are several culprits I get all the time: Instant hand sanitzer, Dog flea and tick medicine, skin creams, hair gel or ointment, Windex, wood furniture polish, nail polish remover, and hot surfaces such as mugs or hot plates. All these items can easily remove finish from even a good quality leather furniture.


Dealing with damaged leather furniture

  • What damages can be repaired – If you are planning to keep your new leather furniture for decades, it is inevitable that something may go wrong. No matter the damage, re-upholstery is always a possibility. The challenge with upholstery is to find a color and grain pattern that match. The cost of upholstery can be prohibitive, so it’s important to check if it can be repaired before spending too much money. My expertise is in leather repair, so I’m familiar with type of damages that can be repaired: Scratches, cat scratches, dog scratching, transit scuffs, stains of all types, discoloration, punctures, small tears usually less than 2”, sun fading, normal wear and tear, ink stains and surface cracking. I’ve seen them all, and a good leather pro in your area can repair them so they are almost like new.
  • An easy DIY cut repair video – My claim to fame on YouTube is a video I made late one night that teaches you how to fix a simple straight cut in your leather furniture. Watch the video here.

full size half done

Save money by hiring a leather repair pro

As a leather repair pro I have to make a pitch for our trade. So, here are a few ways you can hire a good leather pro to solve leather problems and save you some money:

        • Restoration is a great, green alternative to replacing 5-10 year old leather furniture. The frame, the cushions and even the leather itself are often in great shape. Only the leather surface needs cleaned and spruced up for a leather set to have decades more use in int. This usually costs 20% of replacement.
        • Restoration is a often a great alternative to reupholstery- For the more minor damages I described above, restoration is a cost effective alternative to reupholstery. I know many upholsters and they do great work, but will readily admit it can cost just as much as replacement. Restoration is less and can often be done in one day in your home.
        • Check around online or in your local classified ads and buy a gently used but quality leather sofa. A good pro can restore it for you for 20% of the cost of new.
        • Color change is an option for those who still like their leather furniture style but could update the color scheme in a room. This usually costs about half the price of a replacement set.

So that’s it, a small slice of my best stuff to help you choose and care for your leather furniture for a lifetime. I’ll admit leather furniture that lasts a lifetime is not the norm these days. I’ve seen some leather 10, 5, heck even 2 years old that is a mess already. I hope my experience and advice will help you be the exception!   There’s nothing like having a still beautiful leather sofa that’s 20 years old and has served you through decades of life memories.

Chris Repp is a second-generation leather restoration professional and the creator of LeatherHelp.com. You can sign up for his newsletter here. Follow him on Twitter and YouTube.

Leather 101: The Different Types of Leather

Leatherworking has been around for as long as man has been eating meat. It’s an old craft with lots of tradition and terminology. This makes learning about the leather craft a whole lot of fun, but it can also make it confusing for consumers. When buying leather products, you want to make sure you know what you’re paying for. This often means wading through the marketing and learning some of the common terminology when it comes to different types of leather.

About Cowhide

A cow, if you’ve never happened to see one, is a pretty big animal, so it has thick skin, and a lot of it. A whole cowhide is quite thick, and generally too thick to be useful for everyday leather products. So it’s usually cut down to be thinner and more useful for different purposes. (You can learn more about this from our last Leather 101 topic: Measuring the Thickness of Leather).

Cowhide is made of two main integrated layers – the corium and the grain. Collagen fibers in the corium are thinner and more flexible, and become tighter and thicker as they move up toward the grain, where the fibers are tightly packed and very sturdy. The corium becomes thicker with age, which is why calfskins are thinner, smoother and softer than the hides of older animals.

Types of Leather Grains

The top part of the grain faces outward toward the hair, and can contain blemishes like insect bites, stretch marks, scars, and brands. This means that the very top part of the grain is often buffed off to make the leather look more uniform.

Types of Leather

  • Top grain
  • Full grain
  • Split leather
  • Bonded leather

When the leather is corrected in any way, it is called top grain. Leather with the entire grain intact is called full grain. Full grain leather, even though it may have blemishes, is more expensive and more sought-after than top grain leather because of its durability and longevity. Both full grain and top grain leathers are referred to as grain leather.

Among grain leathers there are three general categories: aniline, semi-aniline, and protected. Analine leathers (like Horween’s Chromexcel) are processed using soluble dyes to maintain their natural markings and texture, and do not have a surface pigment or coating. This makes them the most natural-looking leathers, but also more susceptible to scratching, fading and staining.  Semi-analine leathers (like most bridle leathers) are treated with pigments and thus conceal more blemishes and have a more uniform coating, as well as staying more protected. Protected leathers have a non-leather coating sprayed or attached to the leather as a protectant.

The bottom part of the leather, the part that is split off from the grain at the grain/corium junction, goes by many different names, and it can get really, really confusing. Many people refer to this bottom layer of leather as “genuine leather”, however, the term isn’t used consistently and is also used to mean real leather as opposed to manmade faux leathers. More terms you may see: split leather, corrected leather, embossed leather, coated leather, Suede, Napa leather (again, not a consistently used term), painted leather, and more. For our purposes, we’re going to refer to it as split leather.

Split leather can then be sliced down even thinner and used for other purposes. Often a polymer coating is applied and embossed to mimic a grain leather; however these leathers are not nearly as strong or durable. This is sometimes referred to as a finished split.

Another use for split leather is suede, which has been textured to have a napped finish. Suede is often confused with nubuck, which is a grain leather that is textured to have a similar nap finish. The difference is that nubuck is much stronger and more durable than suede, though suede’s softness and pliability make it useful for certain applications.

Bonded leather is the lowest grade of leather, because it is not really leather – just shredded leather scraps and bits reconstituted with a filler and backed with an embossed polyurethane coating. It’s very cheap, but falls apart quickly. Bonded leather is found in low-end furniture and accessories, and sometimes book binding. You may also see this referred to as reconstituted or blended leather.

An old Bible with a bonded leather cover

How to Spot Fake Leather

There are several ways to spot a grain leather mimic, where split or bonded leather is embossed to look like more durable grain leather. If the leather in question has a very uniform or monotonous pattern, it may be evidence of embossing. Artificial leather also doesn’t have a pullup effect, which is a slight color variation when grain leather is bent or folded. Painted or polyurethane layers are non porous and thus do not effectively absorb leather conditioners.

Again, a word of warning to consumers: many of these terms are not used consistently, and you can get confused easily. The most common mistake I’ve run into is the use of the term “genuine leather”. Genuine leather is most frequently used to describe low quality split leather, but to be honest, it’s a dumb word, because many people (including myself) have made the very easy mistake of assuming that the word “genuine” means the opposite of “fake.” So I’ve seen lots of leather shops use the term “genuine” in their product descriptions, in an attempt to convey the fact that they are not using faux leather. But that term just ends up scaring people off, even if they have a solid product made with decent leather.

Go out there with your newfound knowledge, but be aware that sneaky marketing terms, old-fashioned lingo, and honest mix-ups can make things difficult. So don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Measuring the Thickness of Leather

In our reviews, we often talk about the thickness of leather. The thickness of a piece of leather affects its durability and flexibility, meaning it’s important for the informed consumer to have a general idea of leather thickness is and what types of products each range is used for. There are several ways to measure the thickness of leather, which we will explain below.

The Ounce
We most frequently refer to the thickness of leather in terms of “ounces.” This can be confusing because the term actually refers to a linear measurement as opposed to weight. In the leather industry, an ounce is 1/64 of an inch. So, if you have a piece of leather that is 8 ounces, it’s 8/64 of an inch. An easy reference point is to remember that a U.S. quarter is 4 ounces in thickness.

Hides can be through a splitting machine that can skive a piece of leather down to the desired measurement. But each animal is different and a hide can vary in thickness, so most of the time you’ll see each measurement presented as a range, such as 6-7 oz. The image below, from the Tandy Leather Buying Guide, shows a conversion chart between ounces, irons, inches, and millimeters, as well as a visual representation of the measurement.

The Iron
The Iron is an old, but still occasionally used standard for measuring the thickness of leather. It is most often seen in shoe manufacturing, especially in the UK, although the millimeter is a much more common measurement now. There are 48 irons in an inch, so each iron is a little larger than an ounce.



What are different thicknesses used for?

An average leather outsole on a shoe is around 12oz (9 irons) thick. A leather insole is typically around 14oz in thickness to accommodate the welt. A shoe upper is around 5oz on a typical dress/business shoe, and the lining is about 1oz.

Of course, these thicknesses often vary with the type of shoe, type of welt, and type of leather used. Italian dress shoes are usually sleeker and thus use thinner leather in the soles and uppers. Blake stitched or bonded soles don’t require a thick insole like Goodyear welted shoes.

Bags are generally crafted from medium weight leather, and can be anywhere from 3-7 ounces, depending the desired weight and durability. Many bags are lined with pigskin or another thin layer of leather, which usually measures in at around 2 ounces.

The standard weight for a sturdy men’s belt is 7-8 ounces.

Wallets and Accessories
Most wallets, notebook covers, and billfolds are made with leather that is 2-4 oz. Heavy accessories like knife sheaths, hard sided cases, and holsters are in the 7-9 oz range.

All About Saddle Stitching

We love to talk about the superiority of hand-stitched leather products, but why exactly is this the case? Often times, machines can run circles around humans when it comes to speed and precision. But with many aspects of leather crafting, this just isn’t the case.

Illustration by Waskerd

Machine Stitching

When a sewing machine is used to stitch two pieces of leather together,  that line of stitching uses two separate pieces of thread that twist around each other in what is known as a “locking stitch.” If any piece of the thread snaps on a locked stitch, the entire thread can unravel, ruining the seam and compromising the strength of the product.

Saddle Stitching

A hand-sewn saddle-stitched line uses a single thread with needles on each end. The thread is pulled back and forth on either side of the leather in what is called a “running stitch.” This gives the seam extra strength and longevity. Often, the two pieces of leather are placed together then grooved or punched through in order to keep the stitch aligned and embedded in the leather for more durability.

Check out the video below for a visual example of saddle stitching.

If the thread breaks on a saddle-stitched piece, the thread won’t unravel because the other side holds the seam together. This technique has been around for centuries, and takes a lot of time and practice to perfect. The saddle-stitch is most commonly used on edges and can only be done by hand due to the complex nature of the stitch. Yet another reason it makes sense to pay a premium for hand-crafted products made by artisans who care deeply about their work.


Dave Munson from Saddleback Leather on How to Tan Leather Correctly

Dave Munson from Saddleback Leather recently put out a new video on leather tanning and how to avoid purchasing bad leather. The 13 minute video is informative and sports the same “tongue in cheek” spirit of Saddleback’s “How to Knock Off a Bag” video. This new video shows how some people cut corners and use cheaper quality leather (while at the same time conveying Saddleback’s dedication to using high quality leather).

Be forewarned, it is a little gross in a few spots. But, it is truly informative and education. It contains some similar information to the video we discussed a couple of weeks ago from the United States Hide, Skin, and Leather Association.

Here’s some details from the video description itself:

“Education is the best defense against low quality and that’s why I want to show you how high quality leather is made. This is a behind the scenes, step by step, explanation of how the professionals tan leather, and how they tan it right. There are a lot of steps, that if not correctly followed, will produce low quality and even dangerous carcinogenic leather. Hope you enjoy. Note: the tannery just let me know that it is not accurate to infer that hot dogs are made from this meat, but rather dog type foods after a great refining process. And the fats are not used in the raw for a chaffing lubricant between the legs or for a healing balm. And, they mentioned that there are a number of reasons why Chromium III could turn into cancerous Chromium VI and that it is a culmination of things rather than just that process. This is very rare and not a concern.”

So, without further words on this page…”here’s Dave”! (Yes, that’s my lame attempt at referencing Ed McMahon’s intro to the old Johnny Carson Show and dangit, I just really made myself feel old there).

Now that you’ve watched the video, be sure to visit the Saddleback Leather Company website and check out all of the great leather products they have there. We’re sure you’ll find something you like there!

United States Hide, Skin, and Leather Association

At BestLeather we’re always researching and attempting to learn more about leather, leather crafting, and everything associated with the industry. Recently we stumbled upon the website for the United States Hide, Skin, and Leather Association.

The USHSLA is an interesting entity combined of a variety of companies. The video below is a little long (about 15 minutes), but it’s full of interesting, relevant information. It contains a lot of great information about the entire process of creating high quality leather.

*Warning – there are a few clips in the video showing beef carcasses being processed. While we all understand where leather comes from, some may be uncomfortable viewing those clips.

It’s a helpful video to better understand just what is involved in the leather hides that you select from Horween, Wickett & Craig, Seidel, Hermann Oak, S.B. Foot, etc. It’s quite a process and an important part of the process that yields the beautiful leather bags, footwear, jackets, and other products that all of us find beneficial and enjoy.

All About The Types Of Leather Use In Shoes – Type, Thickness, And Grains

Many people love leather, especially in shoes. It’s a strong and durable material that can withstand the elements and wear and tear. It’s also resistant to scuffs and scratches. Leather shoes are often more comfortable than those made from other materials because they can mold to the feet’s shape over time.

Leather shoes are also versatile and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. They’re available in various styles, colors, and designs. Interestingly, they can eventually develop a unique patina, making them even more desirable. Such features are some of the reasons why they’re considered a great investment. So, if you’re looking for nice leather shoes, check out leather boots from Brand House Direct and other similar stores.

Unlike other objects made of leather, like furniture, coats, purses and so on, the majority of shoe leather is stretched over a last (a wooden or plastic form in the general shape of a foot) to create the shoe upper. To do this the leather has to be within a certain range of thickness. And, certain types of leather define the type and quality of the shoe. Lets dig into what leathers are ideal for shoes.

Types of Leather Used in Shoes

One of the most preferred leathers for dress/business shoes is calfskin. Because calfskin comes from a calf it has a tighter grain and fiber, and is thinner and lighter than cow hide; this makes for better shoe leather. Other types of animal leather include:

  • Kidskin (from goat) – Known for its delicate texture and suppleness, it’s a popular choice for high-end fashion and footwear. 
  • Pigskin/Peccary (from pig) – It’s known for its durability, strength, and resistance to wear and tear, as well as its unique grain pattern and texture.
  • Cordovan Shell (from horse) – Its unique characteristics, such as its durability, high level of water resistance, and ability to develop a beautiful patina over time, are its main selling points. It’s also known for its unique texture and how it takes the dye, resulting in a rich and deep color.
  • Bovine leather (cow hide / calfskin) – It’s one of the world’s most widely used types of leather due to its availability, durability, and versatility.

Those are the most common types of animal leather used in shoes.

Types of Animal Leather Used in Shoes

but you also have more exotics leathers such as the following:

  • Buffalo
  • Elephant
  • Kangaroo
  • Ostrich
  • Alligator
  • Crocodile
  • Lizard
  • Snake

Reptile skins tend to last longer and need less care than animal leathers, but they are also more expensive.

Where is Leather Used in Shoes?

A high quality, all leather, shoe uses leather in the following places:

  • The outsole of the shoe (the part that touches the ground)
  • The insole of the shoe (the part your foot rests on)
  • The lining of the shoe (between your foot and the upper)
  • The heel of the shoe (as in stacked layers of leather to create the heel)
  • The shoe upper (the rest of the shoe, excluding the items above)

Wolverine 1000 mile courtland boots1

Leather Thickness

Shoes that are not all leather may have rubber soles, insoles made of various materials, and heels made of wood, rubber or plastic. I would suggest going with all leather if you can, with the exception of perhaps rubber soles – if you need to stand in cold wet environments. Leather thicknesses is measured in ounces of weight to thickness in fractions of an inch:

  • 1oz = 1/64
  • 2oz = 1/32
  • 3oz = 3/62
  • 4oz = 1/16
  • 5oz = 5/64
  • 6oz = 3/32
  • 7oz = 7/64
  • 8oz = 1/8
  • 9oz = 9/64
  • 10oz = 5/32
  • 11oz = 11/64
  • 12oz = 3/16
  • 13oz = 13/64
  • 14oz = 7/32

wicket & Craig Leather1

A leather outsole on a man’s shoe is around 12oz in thickness on average. A leather insole is typically around 14oz in thickness to accommodate the welt. A shoe upper is around 5oz on a typical dress/business shoe, The lining is about 1oz.

All of these thicknesses can vary due to leather type, welt method, and shoe style. For example Italian shoes tend to be sleeker and therefore use thinner leather in the soles and uppers to achieve the look. Soles that are Blake stitched or bond welted don’t require as thick an insole as Goodyear welted shoes.

The quality of the leather used in a given line of shoes is determined by the grade of leather the shoe manufacturer purchased to make the shoes. The leather on a shoe upper is typically grain side out leather, but shell cordovan has no grain, waxed leather is used inside out (flesh side out), and suede leather has had the grain removed entirely. Leather that has blemishes in the grain are often buffed (sanded) of the grain side to remove the blemishes, which then requires the grain to be corrected.

About Corrected Grain Leather

Corrected grain leather is sometimes referred to as bookbinder leather. If the grain has not been corrected it is referred to as full grain. One of the final stages of tanning leather is applying the color and finish (although chromium tanned leather can be bought in the “wet blue” state” it comes out of the tanning process in). The high quality leather is typically aniline dyed, which saturates the color completely through the leather. The leather won’t have a coated feel to it. The leather is also pressed under high pressure to give it some shine, and a very thin coat of clear or colored acrylic is applied as a final finish, in most cases.

Some shoe manufacturers may also add an additional clear or colored finish coat. In the case of corrected grain, the pressing and acrylic finish is also where the corrected grain is applied. Because of this, corrected grain leather will have a thicker finish than non-corrected grain, and may also be a little shinier. Corrected grain finishes can range from a simple smooth surface to faux animal skin and pebble grain. Corrected grain leather is typically lower grade leather, simply because the grain and aniline dye would be covered up if done to a higher quality leather. And, the thicker the finish the poorer the leather quality can be. There are exceptions to this rule of course; for example: some pebble grain shoes/boots can be made of good quality leather, but it is hard to tell because of what the finish covers up.

The best way to tell if a shoe is made of corrected grain leather (actually, leather that has a corrected finish on the grain) is to flex the shoe. The finer the creases the more finish on the shoe (the greater the correction). Shoes come in all types and qualities of leather, so it helps to have an idea of what you are really buying. Another of the biggest indicators you can use for determining if a shoe uses corrected grain is price. Quality costs good money. Yet another way is to look at the shininess since corrected grain leather has a much thicker layer of acrylic.

Hopefully this article will give you some things to consider when you are you are looking to buy a shoe.

This is a guest post from Glen Tippets, the owner of the shoe care company, GlenKaren Care Products. You can learn more about his naturally made products at glenkarencare.com.

Ashland Leather’s Chromexcel Scratch Removal Guide

Chromexcel leather will scratch, scuff, and dent easily, which leads to a beautiful refined ruggedness. It’s all part of the life of leather. These scratches quickly develop a wallet into one that might be a lot like your grandfather’s– loved and used for many years. Scuffs will eventually smooth out through normal use, but we can definitely speed up the process with this method.

To make our point, we took a used Natural Chromexcel Tony the Ant, and gouged it with a fingernail. The result is a pretty obvious surface scratch. Continue reading “Ashland Leather’s Chromexcel Scratch Removal Guide”

Buy It For Life – Part Seven: 6 Rational Reasons to Buy An Expensive Leather Bag Instead Of An Inexpensive Bag

The thought of putting hundreds of dollars into a simple bag that will carry your goods is often understandably troubling. After all, why spend hundreds of dollars when you can just spend fifty to do the same thing? However, you should know these facts as you go about making a decision on how much to spend.

Personally, I have not seen another industry that more truly reflects the cliche “you get what you pay for” than the leather industry. Competition is so fierce that any attempts to raise prices dramatically over market rates will quickly result in bankruptcy.

longevity through durability

Because of the high quality components on a good bag you won’t have to buy another one again, until you want to.

There are leather organ bellows that are 40-60 years old that still work perfectly because they have been well maintained. The Swiss Army used leather bags in their pack trains and examples can be found in excellent condition over 100 years old. Is someone going to be carrying your bag in 100 years?

Saddleback Leather


For example; take a close look at a Basader bag vs a Cole Hann bag. Is there any comparison?

That Basader bag’s leather is thicker, the thread is better, the hardware is far superiour, the engineering is more robust, and you get to work with a small personal company. Philip & Elin are great. Their bag is going to last MUCH longer.



Time and use will destroy a cheap bag but a quality leather bag will keep on trucking. It is only going to look better with time.

Kenton Sorenson

Pass your lifetime bag on to your children.

Instead of a garbage pit.

Thrux Lawrence

Why have a bunch of cheap bags over your lifetime when you can have one far superior bag that you will greatly enjoy?

Use your leather bag every day and you will develop a working relationship with your leather bag that you would never have with a cheap bag. You trust it. It serves you well through the decades. It is your trusty leather bag.

Skytop Trading

It makes strong financial sense.

How many cheap bags and backpacks have you purchased so far in life? How many will you purchase in the remainder of your life? What does the value of all those bags add up to? What’s the cost of a quality bag again? Doesn’t sound so crazy now does it?

Whipping Post

For example:

7 nylon landfill bags X $50 each = $350 = one quality leather bag

So, what are you waiting for?

read more in the “Buy It for Life” series

Buy It For Life – Part One: Durability

Buy It For Life – Part Two: Aesthetics

Buy It For Life – Part Three: Design

Buy It For Life – Part Four: Cost

Buy It For Life – Part Five: Cachet

Buy It For Life – Part Six: Buy For Life Every Time?

Buy It For Life – Part Seven: 6 Rational Reason to Buy An Expensive Leather Bag Instead Of An Inexpensive Bag

Buy It For Life – Part Eight: What You Should Find In A Long Lasting Leather Bag

Ashland Leather’s Shell Cordovan & Chromexcel Polishing Steps

This is a syndicated article from the blog of Ashland Leather.

Shell cordovan has always been an amazing leather choice for footwear. Because of its beauty and durability it’s also the ultimate leather for a wallet. When used in a wallet, shell cordovan experiences a natural polishing effect from the rubbing action of being frequently pulled from your pocket. Furthermore, any moisture from your body will actually expedite the patina process. Developing a great looking wallet is as simple as just wearing it – it’s best to not over-think this one!

The process for polishing Shell Cordovan is identical to polishing Chromexcel.

Ashland Leather’s Shell Cordovan & Chromexcel Polishing Steps

1) Take a fine horsehair brush and brush the wallet for a minute or two to remove dirt and liven up the natural greases and oils within the leather. (Note: this may be all you need to do if the wallet looks great at this point!)

1Ashland Leather Co - Polishing shell cordovan Fat Herbie - first brush1

2) Take a very lightly dampened soft cloth and quickly rub down the entire wallet. This will remove more dirt from the wallet. We like to do this step to even out some of the color and help activate the grease and oil in the skin. This step is how we create the base luster in the shell cordovan.

3Ashland Leather Co - Polishing shell cordovan Fat Herbie - damp cloth

3) Get your fine horsehair brush out again and brush your wallet thoroughly for about 5 minutes. This step is important to bring out the deep luster in the leather.

4) Take your favorite neutral polish (Horween uses Venetian cream for every piece of shell cordovan – at Ashland we use Venetian Cream to finish every wallet) and apply only a very small amount. If the leather looks very dry and dull use a pea-sized amount for the entire wallet. We prefer to apply this with a finger as it gives more control of where the polish goes. Apply evenly to a cloudy haze.

6Ashland Leather Co - Polishing shell cordovan Fat Herbie - Venetian cream 1

5) Let the wallet sit for 10 minutes or more.

6) Buff off the polish with a dry cloth.

7) You can give a breath on the wallet to apply a small amount of moisture, give a quick, final brushing and enjoy your freshly polished wallet!

7Ashland Leather Co - Polishing shell cordovan Fat Herbie - buff cloth 1

Leather Shoe Construction Methods – Goodyear, Blake, Blake-Rapid, Bologna, Norwegian, Adhesive

There are five distinct ways of soling a leather shoe. Each shoe’s sole impacts its comfort, durability, and waterproofing. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Goodyear Construction

Goodyear welted shoes are distinctive for their waterproof soles since the stitch that attaches the sole to the shoe runs along the outside edge instead of piercing through to the inside of the shoe. The sole attaches to the welt (a strip of rubber, leather, or plastic) which then attaches to the upper. The welt forms a cavity which is then filled with cork or similar material. Because the stitch line runs around the outside of the shoe it is relatively easy for a shoe-maker to resole Goodyear welted shoes.


As you may suspect, the name comes from Charles Goodyear who patented the machine capable of sewing around the perimeter, replacing the need for hand-sewn welts. These days, it is rare to see shoes with Goodyear welting because of the time and difficulty, and the fact that it requires skilled labor.

Advantages: Waterproof, and durable. Easily resolable, extending the lifetime of the shoe for many years.

Disadvantages: Cost. Because stitching is done on the outside of the sole, Goodyear welted shoes tend to be bulkier and less sleek.

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Blake Construction (a.k.a. The McKay Method)

Lyman Reed Blake invented the machine in 1856 to make this method possible and later sold it to Gordon McKay. It is a simple process of joining the sole directly with the shoe’s upper with a large strong stitch. This makes the sole thinner than the goodyear welted shoes because they do not need an intermediate layer connecting the shoe sole to the shoe upper.


Advantages: Ease of construction, sole flexibility, and sleeker, more fashionable shoes (which the Italians are famous for).

Disadvantages: Less waterproof soles due to the stitching. Sometimes the thinner soles can be less comfortable on cheap shoes, and most seriously, the thin leather soles can wick water from the ground into the shoe (rubber soles negate this).

Many shoes made with Blake construction are of lower quality BUT there are many good makers who utilize this technique and are worth considering. Blake construction is most popular among Italian shoemakers, who dominate the high-end leather shoe market.

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Blake-Rapid Construction

Blake-Rapid is a synthesis of Goodyear and Blake methods, where the stitching technique of Blake is combined with the extra midsole of the Goodyear. Many manufacturers that utilize the Blake method will also use Blake-Rapid. Blake-Rapid shoes tend to be bulkier because of the midsole introduction and thus is typically used on more rugged shoes.


Advantages: Waterproof and more durable than the Blake method.

Disadvantages: Soles are less flexible and added bulk makes soles further from the upper.

Norwegian (AKA Norvegese)

The Norwegian method is an uncommon demonstration of shoemaking virtue. It was originally designed to make shoes more waterproof but has faded from common usage due to its difficulty.


The unique feature of the Norwegian method is the shoe upper is stitched to both the outer sole via the Goodyear method and by the insole. This effectively closes off the channel that water would otherwise use and makes the shoe quite waterproof compared to other methods.


Beware of Blake constructed shoes that knock off the Norwegian method by applying stitching around the base of the upper that does not connect it to the insole. Some manufacturers charge much more for this worthless feature.

Check out Sutor Mantellassi shoes in the United Sates. Santoni, A. Testoni, and Lattanzi also make Norwegian method shoes.


The Bologna style is suitable for shoes with flexible soles such as slippers or moccasins because of their simple design. The leather upper is wrapped around the bottom and sewn up. Then the sole is sewn directly to the upper. So, no sole touching your feet. Just soft leather all the way around your foot.

The stitch is very similar-looking to Blake, except the stitching is closer to the edge on the inside of the shoe so you don’t feel it.bolognascreensw9

Advantages: Very comfortable and easy to make. Suitable for moccasins and slippers.

Disadvantages: Not waterproof or very durable compared to other methods.


Cheap soles are glued to cheap leather uppers by cavemen.

Advantages: It’s cheap.

Disadvantages: Not durable and falls apart quickly. This method was officially banned by the United Nations in 1957 in the Resolution To End Crap Shoes (hehe). It is punishable by mocking.