There are so many factors involved in buying quality leather. A handy leather buying guide will help make the complex decision much easier.

A leather buying guide is a reference that walks you though the main elements of leather buying. They include leather types, qualities, thicknesses, weights, uses, cuts, sizes, costs, tips, and where to buy leather. Helpful knowledge on these will make the leather buying process so easy.

Jumping into a new leather project is fun. Let’s explore how to find that next great piece of leather.

 

Leather Buying Guide – Where to Buy Leather

Leather Buying Guide - Leather Thickness Weight and Cuts
Leather Pieces & Swatches

Virtually every leather working or leather craft project will involve leather. The most common places are online shops. This is mainly because they can be located anywhere around the world, and often offer a much wider selection of materials than you might find at your local shop. This is, unless of course, you live right near the huge leather store 🙂 In which case, it’s probably more exciting to go in person.

There are also local leather shops that offer basic materials, and you can just stop in whenever they’re open. This can be beneficial as you can physically hold the leather. It helps get a feel for thickness, softness, and flexibility to determine is a particular cut will work for the project you have in mind. Also, you can usually buy the exact piece you are looking at. So, you’ll know if the surface and finish will be consistent, since you’d looking right at it.

Where to buy leather is just one part of a good leather buying guide. It’s also helpful to know about the various factors that go into identifying leather needs, what to purchase, and what to look for.

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – What to Look for When Buying Leather

In addition to where to get it, it’s helpful to know to know about the options when purchasing leather. These include leather types, qualities, thicknesses, cuts, sizes, and costs. With a little knowledge, you’ll be able to find nice material that results in some great-looking projects.

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Types

Leather “types’ can be referred to in a lot of ways. For this context, we’ll refer to the very generalized references to different tanning methods and hide types folks often mean when talking about types.

 

Vegetable Tanned

Vegetable tanned leather is leather tanned with tannins (naturally occurring astringents) from plants and bark. The process can take from 2-30 days, and results in a stiff, strong, light yellow/brown colored leather. It is most often used in saddlery, luggage, tooling leather, sheaths, and belts.

Underside of a Leather Hide - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Underside of a Leather Hide

Chrome Tanned

Chrome (chromium) tanning is very popular and efficient. It was introduced around 1858, and due to the properties of chromium, it lends to a soft, thin leather. Different than the tannins used in vegetable tanning, the chromium binds to the collagen in raw hides and even increases the space between proteins in the hide. This allows them to be more stretchable, and resist shrinkage in heated water. Chrome tanned leather is used in almost every type of leather good.

 

Calfskin

Calfskin hides come from young cows. This type of leather is generally very soft and pliable, smooth, great for shoes, boots, and other similar leather applications.

 

Sheepskin

Sheep leather, also called sheep skin, is popular because it often has one side as leather and the other covered in wool. the wool naturally draws perspiration away from the wearer. This makes it an ideal leather for use in year-round seat upholstery, shoes, slippers, boots, and moccasins. Sheep leather, including lamb leather) makes up about 12% of the total leather production around the world.

 

Shell Cordovan

Horse leather is most commonly associated with the premium “cordovan” leather. It is made from the butt section of horses. Cordovan leather is very thick, smooth, and dense. It works excellently for fine shoes and gloves. Also, when compared to cattle hides, horse butts cover a relatively small surface area. This is why cordovan leather products are usually small items such as shoes, gloves, and small accessories.

Leather Belt - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Belt

Exotic Leathers

Since leather can be made from any animal, there are often a variety of leather types available. They are often referred to as “exotic” leathers, since they’re less common and sometimes difficult to obtain, make, or find. These leathers are often used for shoes and personal accessories. Examples of exotic leathers include alligator, camel, frog, kangaroo, moose, and snake.

 

PU/BiCast Leather

PU/Bicast is a type of leather made with a split leather backing and an embossed/impressed layer of polyurethane or vinyl on the top. This gives the appearance of a patterned/shiny leather, without the cost of a true top or full grain leather piece.

 

Faux/Vegan Leather

Faux leather is a synthetic leather, usually made from plastic. It is often manufactured in such a way that it looks and smells like real leather. Faux leather is available in a wide variety of colors, textures, and finishes. It’s used to make everything including shoes, clothes, and upholstery.

 

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Qualities

These are the most common ways leather is “graded”. The names, in reality, refer more to the way the leather has been split and the surface treated, than they do to actual “grades”. Though these variations do impact the performance and overall quality of a leather piece.

 

Leather Hide Cross-Section - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Hide Cross-Section

 

Thus, folks commonly refer to them as “grades of leather”. After, we’ll explore the actual grades that meatpackers use when evaluating hides for sale to tanneries. Below in this leather buying guide, we’ll explore more about each.

 

Full Grain Leather

This cut of leather contains the outer layout of the hide, referred to as the “grain”; it hasn’t been sanded or buffed to remove any imperfections. Generally, only the hair is removed on full grain leathers. The grain generally has densely packed fibers that are finer; this results in a surface that is very strong, durable, and can withstand tough use.

Because it undergoes no sanding, the surface can have minor imperfections. These might be from where a cow rubbed up against a fence, a small cut they might have received, or scrapes from everyday life. Full grain hides without many blemishes are the most prized, as they are least common and are the most visually appealing.

Those surface fibers are also what give it the most strength of any leather type. This makes it good for saddlery, footwear, and furniture. Since the outer layer isn’t removed, it develops a patina (a surface color change from use) over time that can be pleasing to the eye. The outer layer also provides some water-resistance qualities as well. Full Grain is looked upon as the highest quality leather available.

 

Top Grain Leather

This cut is very similar to full-grain, except that it has had the very top layer sanded and/or buffed to remove imperfections and irregularities in the finish. This makes the leather softer and more pliable, with various dyes and finished applied to it.

While this sanding makes it more visually appealing, it also removes a lot of the strength and some water-repellent qualities of full grain leather. This we begin to see a tradeoff between leather strength, and leather look and softness.

Given its softness and flexibility, top grain leather is often used in high end leather goods, including handbags, wallets, and shoes.

 

Genuine Leather (Corrected Leather)

Genuine leather can come from any layer of the hide, and undergoes treatment to the surface to provide a more uniform, “corrected”, appearance. It can be sanded or buffed to remove surface imperfections, then dyed (or spray painted) or stamped/embossed to give it a final surface appearance.

The process alters some of the preferred qualities of leather, so while not a top quality, it is often used for belts and similar goods.

Leather Duffel Bag - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Duffel Bag

Split Grain Leather

Split grain leather is a layered cut of leather from within the lower levels of the top grain area of the hide. It is usually a lower layer of the hide, above the flesh. Also, below the full grain and the best top grain cuts. Though, it still provides a useful leather material.

The natural surface of split grain leather is not as dense, tight, and useful as full grain and top grain. Thus, it is often used in finishes of leathers that are colored, embossed, and the surface altered in some significant way. This allows it to offer some of the helpful qualities of a leather material, while having a visually pleasing and often-functional surface beneficial for leather products.

 

Bonded Leather (Reconstituted Leather)

Bonded leather is like the scrapple or hot dogs of leather; it is made up of leather scraps that are finely shredded and bonded together using polyurethane or latex onto a fiber mesh or sheet. The amount of leather in the actual mix can vary greatly (from 10%-90%), and thus affect the functional and aesthetic properties of the finished product.

Bonded leather is often painted to give it color and could also be pressed/embossed to give it the appearance of a particular grain or leather style.

 

Faux Leather/Vegan Leather

Most faux and vegan leathers are made from plastic. They typically have some qualities that natural leathers do not (such as being water resistant/waterproof), though in general they wear out much faster and do not perform as well as natural leather. However, there are a lot of reasons someone might choose faux leather, so it has become a popular option.

 

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Thicknesses

Leather Worker - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Worker

Leather thickness has been measured with gauges in different units around the world, and across industries. These refer to it by actual thickness, and by weight. In general, leather hides are natural substances so their thickness across the entire width of the hide can vary. As such, leather thickness for a single piece is often stated in ranges, such as 2 – 3 oz, or 2 mm – 2.4 mm.

These variations in thickness can also be affected by the tanning process, raging from the chemical processes used to the types of drying and finishing performed. Also, thickness can be affected by how the hides are split. That is, how the hide separated into layers thinner than the original, usually by large cutting machines.

While all normal, there had to be a set of consistent measures so leather workers and tanneries around the world would know what they were buying, selling, and working with. A few different units of measurement were developed and used, mainly irons, millimeters, and ounces. You can reference this leather buying guide if needed, let’s look at a chart with each.

 

Leather Thickness and Weight Chart

OuncesInches Inches (decimal)Millimeters (mm)Irons
1 oz1/64″0.01570.400.75
2 oz1/32″0.03130.801.50
3 oz3/64″0.04691.202.25
4 oz1/16″0.06251.603.00
5 oz5/64″0.07812.003.75
6 oz3/32″0.09382.404.50
7 oz7/64″0.10942.805.25
8 oz1/8″0.12503.206.00
9 oz9/64″0.14063.606.75
10 oz5/32″0.15634.007.50
11 oz11/64″0.17194.408.25
12 oz3/16″0.18754.809.00
13 oz13/64″0.20315.209.75
14 oz7/32″0.21885.6010.50
15 oz15/64″0.23446.0011.25
16 oz1/4″0.25006.4012.00
17 oz17/64″0.26566.8012.75
18 oz9/32″0.28137.2013.50
19 oz19/64″0.29697.6014.25
20 oz5/16″0.31258.0015.00

 

To download a printable copy of the chart, click here. This version also includes a column that shows actual leather thickness, when printed at full size on standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

 

Leather Uses by Weight

Leather Bag - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Bag

Here is an example of some general uses for each type of thickness. You can reference this leather buying guide if needed when planning your next project.

Leather WeightCommon Uses
1 – 2 ozThinner wallets, watch bands, molding, shoes, thin purses, linings, bookmarks, boots, and small pouches
2 – 3 ozWallets, thicker watch bands, molding, thin purses, linings, boots, bookmarks, embossing, shoes, small pouches, light upholstery for chairs, couches, and other seating
3 – 4 ozThicker wallets, embossing, molding, smaller handbags and purses, boots, shoes, thin notebook covers, pouches, standard upholstery for chairs, couches, and other seating
4 – 5 ozBoots, notebook covers, smaller knife sheathes, shoes, keychains, pouches, wrestling masks, light chaps, smaller handbags and purses, light aprons
5 – 6 ozBoots, notebook covers, smaller knife sheathes, shoes, keychains, thicker pouches, thicker wrestling masks, chaps, smaller handbags and purses, light aprons
6 – 7 ozHeavier boots, larger notebook covers, knife sheathes, shoes, keychains, thicker pouches, heavier chaps, handbags and purses, aprons, bags and duffels, carrying cases, thin belts, thin sword and bayonet scabbards, thin armor
7 – 8 ozHeavier boots, large notebook covers, knife sheathes, light slings, thicker shoes, keychains, thicker pouches, sword and bayonet scabbards, typical handbags and purses, light pet collars, thin armor, thick aprons, bags and duffels, carrying cases, belts, light straps
8 – 9 ozHeavier notebook covers, knife sheathes, slings, keychains, sword and bayonet scabbards, typical handbags and purses, armor, saddle bags, pet collars, bags and duffels, slings, carrying cases, belts, straps, holsters
9 – 10 ozKnife sheathes, slings, keychains, sword and bayonet scabbards, larger handbags and purses, saddle bags, pet collars, armor, bags and duffels, slings, carrying cases, heavier belts, straps, holsters
10 – 11 ozHeavy knife sheathes, slings, keychains, larger handbags and purses, saddle bags, pet collars, thicker bags and duffels, slings, thicker carrying cases, heavier belts, straps, holsters, light saddles, thicker armor
11 – 12 ozHeavy knife sheathes, thicker slings, keychains, heavy handbags and purses, thick saddle bags, thick pet collars, thicker bags and duffels, heavy slings, thicker carrying cases, heavier belts, straps, holsters, light saddles, thicker armor
12 – 13 ozThicker slings, keychains, heavy handbags and purses, thick pet collars, heavy slings, thicker cases, heavier belts, thicker straps, holsters, typical saddles, thicker armor
13 – 14 ozHeavy armor, light shoe soles, light machine belting, tack, light shoe heels, thick belts and straps, typical saddles
14 – 15 ozHeavy armor, shoe soles, machine belting, heavy tack, shoe heels, thick belts and straps
15 oz +Heavy armor, shoe soles, shoe heels, thick belts and straps

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Cuts

A finished leather hide has a fairly large amount of leather to choose from when deciding where to cut from the use pieces on a project. Based on the area of the hide in relation to the animal’s body, some pieces will be a little higher quality and a little easier to work with.

Finished leather can usually be purchased based on cut type. This can include the full hide, or specific areas within it. Based on the type of project you are working on and the performance characteristics you want in the finished piece, it can be helpful to know what the different available cuts are.

Leather Hide and Cut Guide - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Hide and Cut Guide

 

Whole Leather Cut

A whole leather hide encompasses the entire skinned and tanned hide from an animal. Since it includes the areas from all of the other related cuts, the leather available will range from softer areas with various stretch characteristics, to thicker, stiffer areas of the hide. The range of leather thickness and weight will vary across the entire hide.

 

Side Leather Cut

The side cut of a leather hide is a half of an entire hide, cut lengthwise along the middle. since this includes at least parts of areas from all related cuts, the leather available will range from softer areas with various stretch characteristics, to thicker, stiffer areas of the hide.

 

Shoulder Leather Cut

The shoulder cut of a leather hide comes from the shoulder area of the animals. This area generally has a firm, yet malleable and flexible feel to it. Shoulder cuts work well for tooling.

 

Double Shoulder Leather Cut

The double shoulder cut of a leather hide comes from the shoulder area of the animals. It is essentially the entire shoulder area from the hide. This area generally has a firm, yet malleable and flexible feel to it. Shoulder cuts work well for tooling.

 

Bend Leather Cut

The bend cut of a leather hide is from the area ranging from the spine towards the belly, towards the middle of the hide. This is some of the best leather available in a hide, the prime sections generally towards the hind side before the butt. It is best used for across a number of leather product applications.

 

Double Bend Leather Cut

The double bend cut of a leather hide is from the area ranging from the spine towards the belly, towards the middle of the hide. This is some of the best leather available in a hide, the prime sections generally towards the hind side before the butt. It is best used for across a number of leather product applications.

Leather Shoes - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Shoes

Butt Leather Cut

The butt cut of a leather hide is from the hind leg portion of the hide, running around the butt and up towards the spine. This is the thickest and firmest area of the hide. Butt cuts make a good leather for thicker items such as heavy belts.

 

Double Butt Leather Cut

The double butt cut of a leather hide is from the hind leg portion of the hide, running around the butt and up towards the spine, on both sides of the hide. This is the thickest and firmest area of the hide. Butt cuts make a good leather for thicker items such as heavy belts.

 

Belly Leather Cut

The belly cut of a leather hide is from the left or right edges of the hide. The belly of animals naturally expands and contracts as food and water are consumed. This makes the belly leather a little softer, and stretchier, than from other areas of the hide. While not considered prime leather, belly cut leather can be used for a variety of leather working uses.

 

Double Belly Leather Cut

The belly cut of a leather hide is from the left and right edges of the hide. The belly of animals naturally expands and contracts as food and water are consumed. This makes the belly leather a little softer, and stretchier, than from other areas of the hide. While not considered prime leather, belly cut leather can be used for a variety of leather working uses.

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Sizes

Vegetable Tanned Leather Hide - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Vegetable Tanned Leather Hide

Leather can be purchased in a variety of sizes. What you’ll want mainly depends on the type of project you’re working on, and what parts of and types of hides will work best. The next area of this leather buying guide will provide on overview of leather sizes. In general, leather can be purchased in:

 

Scraps

These can be odd cuts and end pieces from a production run, or leftover pieces cut from samples or around blemishes on larger hides. For practicing, and smaller projects, these can be a great deal.

 

Strips

Pre-cut strips work well for making belts and bag straps. While it’s certainly possible to hand-cut strips at home, sometimes it can be easier and more efficient to purchase pre-cut strips.

 

Specific Cuts

Different areas of the hide have varying thicknesses and softness. If you’re looking to make a softer leather good, such as gloves, you might want leather from a softer area of the hide. If you’re making a stiff belt, you might want leather from a heavier part of the hide. Specific cut examples include sides, bends, shoulders, and bellies.

 

Whole Hides

If you’re looking for a larger volume of leather or want a consistent color across all of your material for a finished piece, a whole tanned hide could be helpful. It will offer a sizable amount of material and also allow you to choose the areas that will work best for your piece.

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Costs

Leather Buying Guide - Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt Blank
Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt Blank

Leather costs vary greatly based on the type of leather you’re purchasing. More common hides and cuts are generally less expensive, while rarer hides and higher qualities are usually more expensive. A leather buying guide describing costs can be just that, only a guide. Here is a very high level chart for reference comparison, of cost per square foot of material. This is by no means a finite list, prices and options vary all the time, especially by thickness.

Type of LeatherGeneral Cost Per 1 ft sq.
Vinyl$1.00
Lambskin$2.50
Deer$2.50
Elk$3.00
Suede $4.50
Calf Leather$5.00
Vegetable Tanned Leather$8.00
Bison Leather$8.00
Ostrich$15.00
Kangaroo$16.00

 

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Where Do You Get Leather? – The Best Stores

Leather in Store - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather in Store

Here is a list of some great places where you can buy leather. Options vary based on what type of leather you’re buying, looking to get it in-person or online, and how much you’re getting.

 

Where to Buy Leather – Recommended Options

For most common projects and leather working needs, here’s a quick reference list of retailers that will have good quality leather at fair prices.

Shop NameLocationDescriptionWebsite Link
District Leather SupplyUSA (Georgia)Leather retailer based in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. They offer a wide range of high quality leathers along with knowledge and expertise for questions when purchasing.Website Link
Springfield LeatherUSA (Missouri)Leather retailer based in Springfield, Missouri. They offer a very ride range of hides, types, qualities, and finishes.Website Link
Rocky Mountain Leather SupplyUSA (Utah)Leather and tools retailer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. They offer many high quality leather types and finishes.Website Link

 

 

Where to Buy Leather – Online Stores

This area of the leather buying guide dives into the online stores. Online leather stores often offer the best variety and prices. With a very wide selection, great pieces can often be found for leather working projects.

Shop NameLocationDescriptionWebsite Link
American Leather DirectUSA (Kentucky)Leather retailer based in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They offer vegetable tanned leathers and rawhide, bridle, harness, and specialty leathers.Website Link
Barbarossa LeatherUSA (Florida)Leather retailer based in Royal Palm Beach, Florida. They offer a wide range of upholstery leather.Website Link
Brettuns VillageUSA (Maine)Leather retailer based in Lewiston, Maine. They offer a variety of leather hides and scraps.Website Link
Buy Leather OnlineItalyLeather retailer based in Ponte A Egole, Italy. They have a very wide selection of leathers, focusing on a range of Italian leather.Website Link
Cuoio & Pellami eShopItalyLeather retailer based in Ponte A Egole, Italy. They have a very wide selection of leathers, including styles, and finishes. They focus on selling leather from Italy.Website Link
District LeathersUSA (New York)Leather retailer based in New York, New York. They offer various types and qualities of hides and leathers.Website Link
District Leather SupplyUSA (Georgia)Leather retailer based in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. They offer a wide range of high quality leathers along with knowledge and expertise for questions when purchasing.Website Link
Frog Jelly LeatherUSA (Texas)Leather retailer based in Arlington, Texas. They offer a variety of vegetable tanned leathers.Website Link
HidesnleatherUSAThey are a US based company with tannery facilities in Asia & Europe, offering hides including cow, buffalo, sheep, goat, and kangaroo.Website Link
Hornween Leather CompanyUSA (Illinois)Leather retailer based in Chicago, Illinois. They offer a very wide range of quality leather hides, from various tanning processes, and intended for many end uses (leather goods, shoes, bags, etc.)Website Link
Kentucky Leather HidesUSA (Kentucky)Leather retailer based in Sonora, Kentucky. They offer leather hides, lace, strips and straps.Website Link
Leather Hide StoreUSA (North Carolina)Leather retailer based in Hillsborough, North Carolina, offering a range of leather hides.Website Link
Leather HouseDenmarkLeather retailed located in Copenhagen, Denmark. They offer leather hides and furs.Website Link
Leather UnlimitedUSA (Wisconsin)Leather retailer based in Belgium, Wisconsin. They offer some raw hides and leather lace.Website Link
Maverick Leather CompanyUSA (Oregon)Leather retailer based in Bend, Oregon, offering a range of leather hides and types.Website Link
McPherson Leather CompanyUSA (Washington)Leather retailer based in Seattle, Washington. They offer some nice skirting and harness leathers.Website Link
Montana Leather CompanyUSA (Montana)Leather retailer based in Billings, Montana, offering a range of leather hides.Website Link
Rocky Mountain Leather SupplyUSA (Utah)Leather and tools retailer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. They offer many high quality leather types and finishes.Website Link
Roden Leather CompanyUSA (Michigan)Leather retailer based in Royal Oak, Michigan. They offer upholstery leathers.Website Link
Sedgwick and CompanyEnglandLeather retailer based in Walsall, England. They offer extremely high-quality traditional bridle leather.Website Link
Shell Cordovan Toscana ItaliaItalyLeather retailer based in Toscana, Italy. They offer some incredibly-high quality vegetable tanned leathers and shell cordovan leather.Website Link
Springfield LeatherUSA (Missouri)Leather retailer based in Springfield, Missouri. They offer a very ride range of hides, types, qualities, and finishes.Website Link
The Leather GuyUSA (Minnesota)Leather retailer based in St. Charles, Minnesota, offering a range of leather hides and lacing.Website Link
Universal LeatherUSA (North Carolina)Leather retailer based in High Point, North Carolina. They offer a variety of leather colors, styles, and finishes.Website Link
Weaver LeathercraftUSA (Ohio)Leather and tool retailer based in Mount Hope, Ohio. They have a rage of leather hides, strips, kits, and related materials.Website Link
Wickett & CraigUSA (Pennsylvania)Leather retailer based in Curwensville, Pennsylvania. They offer a range of english bridle and skirting leather.Website Link
Zack White Leather CompanyUSA (North Carolina)Leather and tools retailer based in Ramseur, North Carolina. They offer a huge range of leathers across finishes, colors, and qualities.Website Link

 

 

Leather Examples - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Examples

Where to Buy Leather – Online Marketplaces

Several popular online marketplaces exist where individual sellers, including some businesses, will make leather available for sale. Here are a few of the more common ones, they’ll usually have the most options available.

Shop NameLocationDescriptionWebsite Link
AmazonGlobalOnline retailer that offers a wide range of consumer goods, including leatherWebsite Link
eBayGlobalOnline marketplace of independent sellers for all kinds of goods. Some sellers offer leather pieces and leather hides for sale.Website Link
EtsyGlobalOnline marketplace of independent sellers for crafts and materials. Some sellers offer leather pieces and leather hides for sale.Website Link

 

 

Where to Buy Leather – Physical and Chain Stores

Some of the shops listed under Online Stores might also have physical stores in their specific locations. In general, there are some chain hobby and craft shops in the USA that has physical stores that might be near you. Selection will likely be more limited than in the Online Stores, though they are certainly options if you need something and are nearby. This area of the leather buying guide dives into some of the more popular stores.

Shop NameLocationDescriptionWebsite Link
AC MooreUSAArt and craft retail chain with about 140 stores across the eastern USA. They offer smaller leather pieces, straps, and kits.Website Link
Dick BlickUSAArt materials store with about 65 stores across the USA. They offer leather sheets, remnants, trim, cord, lacing, and kits.Website Link
Hobby LobbyUSACraft and hobby store chain with over 800 stores around the USA. They offer a variety of small leather pieces, strips, and kits.Website Link
JoannUSACraft and fabric store chain with around 850 stores around the USA. They offer small leather pieces, strips, kits, and tools.Website Link
MichaelsUSACraft store chain with over 1,250 locations spread across the USA. They offer a variety of small leather pieces, strips, and kits.Website Link
Tandy LeatherUSALeather goods company with retail stores across the USA. They offer leather hides, sheets, trim, pieces, strips, kits, and tools.Website Link

 

Supple Leathers - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Supple Leathers

Where to Buy Leather – Exotic Leathers

These sellers offer hides and skins from more rare animal types. A few include snake, alligator, camel, frog, and zebra.

Shop NameLocationDescriptionWebsite Link
PelgioThailandLeather retailer based in Chonburi, Thailand. They offer some very high-end exotic leathers.Website Link
Roje Exotics American LeathersUSA (Missouri)Leather retailer based in Branson, Missouri. They focus on selling a wide variety of exotic leathers.Website Link
Sea Leather WearCanadaLeather retailer based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They offer genuine fish leather skins.Website Link

 

 

Where to Buy Leather – Wholesale

This area of the leather buying guide gets into the wholesalers. These dealers often sell to retailers, or in large volume to individuals, companies, or production facilities. They can be great places to buy large amounts of leather at lower cost.

Shop NameLocationDescriptionWebsite Link
American Tanning & LeatherUSA (Georgia)Leather tanner and wholesaler based in Griffin, Georgia. They offer very large volume, high-quality exotic leathers.Website Link
Buckskin Leather CompanyCanadaLeather wholesaler based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They offer a huge selection of leathers from some of the top tanneries. They also sell to some of the largest retailers.Website Link
Carrol LeatherUSA (North Carolina)Leather wholesaler based on Conniver, North Carolina. They offer a huge range of volume leather materials for production clients, retailers, and high-volume individual purchasers.Website Link
Garrett LeatherUSA (New York)Leather wholesaler based in Buffalo, New York. They sell to large producers and transportation upholsters, as well as to other high-volume outlets.Website Link
Hermann Oak LeatherUSA (Missouri)Leather tanner and wholesaler based in St. Louis, Missouri. They offer high quality harness, skirting, bridle, raw hide, and other leathers. Their wholesale purchase minimums are not very large (some just 5 sides or more).Website Link
La Perla AzzurraItalyLeather tannery and wholesaler based in Santa Croce sull’Arno, Pisa, Italy. They offer leathers suitable for a wide variety of leather goods.Website Link
Tanneries HaasFranceLeather tannery and wholesaler based in Eichhoffen, France. They offer vegetable tanned, calf, and specialty leathers.Website Link
Waterhouse LeatherUSA (Massachusetts)Leather wholesaler based in Hyannis, Massachusetts. They offer a wide range of leather hides in various colors and finishes.Website Link
Weinheimer LederGermanyLeather tanner and wholesaler based in Weinheim, Germany. They offer some very high-quality shoe, handbag, and leather goods leather.Website Link

 

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Common Leather Buying Questions

Nubuck Leather - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Nubuck Leather

Here are some insights into some common questions folks have when looking to buy leather.

Where to Find Leather Deals

Leather deals are periodically available at most any leather retailer. Some opportunities include overstock, scraps, and blemished pieces. Sometimes they will sell smaller pieces by weight (pound). Other times they might have leathers in specific colors or finishes they are looking to sell at lower prices.

A good approach is to know what you’re looking for, then keep an eye on their sale sections. Also, fi you enjoy the random surprise, maybe periodically check the sale sections and see if anything catches your eye. Potentially a leather you might have never considered might be cheap enough to give it a try. It can expand the types of materials you work with, and can be fun!

 

What is the Best Leather?

The best leather is generally an opinion, based on preferences and needs. Especially in a leather buying guide, as personal tastes vary along with project needs. For example, a great leather for evening wear gloves would not make the best leather for a heavy-duty belt. That said, based on it’s performance qualities and durability, top grain, vegetable tanned leather is often considered a best leather.

The top grain retains the strength of the outer skin of the hide, while the thickness adds durability. It develops a visually pleasing patina with use, and generally gets better with time.

 

Where to Buy Leather for Crafts?

Leather for crafts can be purchased at local craft shops, or via online leather retailers. Choice will initially depend on the use for the leather. Basic crafts made for fun might benefit from lower cost leathers if price is a consideration. Finer leather pieces that will be used daily might benefit from higher-quality leather that will last a long time.

Local chain craft stores such as Michaels, Joann, Hobby Lobby, and Tandy leather usually have small natural leather pieces, and faux leathers (vinyl). If you’re looking for more natural leather options, online stores such as Springfield Leather and District Leather Supply have a good variety of leathers available.

 

Where to buy leather near me?

The best best for finding leather near where you live is to look it up online. Local shops will often be listed in search results, and you’ll be able to see their distance and open hours. You can also call ahead to see what they have available and if it will be what you need.

You also might live near tanneries, or local leather processors that could have hides available to purchase. Also, other leather worker friends might live nearby and be open to selling or trading leather.

 

How Leather is Shipped

Large leathers pieces are usually shipped rolled in tubes or boxes. This is efficient and easy. Smaller pieces or scraps are often packed securely in boxes. The key is that the hides surface arrives safely after being in transit. Scratched surfaces might make some leathers unusable for their intended purpose, so proper packing is a must.

Usually, limiting the ability for the leather to shift helps prevent scratching and abrasion to the surfaces. Also, covering the surfaces with a protective material or paper also helps limit the potential for scratching or rubbing to occur. All the time, though, leather packed well ships and arrives securely and in great shape.

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – How Can You Tell Between Real Leather and Faux Leather?

Bonded Leather Samples - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Bonded Leather Samples

Some faux leathers look incredibly realistic. Even when touching them, it can be hard to tell that they are faux leather. In the next section of this leather buying guide, we’ll help provide some tips that can make it easier to determine if leather is real or faux. So while it might not always be obvious, here are a few things to look at that might help.

 

Look

Since real leather is natural, it often has a somewhat varied grain pattern on the surface. Imitation leathers are produced by machines, so they could look extremely smooth and even. Also, if stamped with a grain pattern, faux leather grain pattern will usually look consistent and repetitive.

 

Smell

Sometimes, faux leather will have a plastic or chemical smell. This is due to the plastics and chemicals that are used to make them.

 

Feel

Faux leather might feel a bit rubbery, plastic-y, or synthetic. Real leather has a more “natural”, fiber feel to it. Imitation leather sometimes is very smooth and slick.

 

Layering

If possible to cut into a piece of leather, seeing the composition of the inside can help. If it’s made from multiple layers, it might be a type of faux leather.

 

Edges when Cut

Check out the edges of a cut piece of leather. Natural leather tends to leave a “hairy” edge with some of the natural fibers sticking out. Faux leather generally will have a smooth, even, clean edge. This is because the synthetic leather material cuts very cleanly and evenly.

 

 

Leather Buying Guide – Leather Buying Tips

Leathers with Different Textured Surfaces - Leather Buying Guide - Liberty Leather Goods
Leathers with Different Textured Surfaces

Order Samples

Some shops will let you order samples, so you can see a little piece before buying a larger one. This is important as you can confirm the look, feel, thickness, color, and surface texture before committing to bigger amounts. If you’re planning to do a large, expensive, or production-level project, it is recommended to order samples if possible.

 

Get a Leather Swatch Ring

It can be a huge help to physically hold and feel the different thicknesses and weights of leather. A really handy thing to have is a leather swatch ring. A swatch ring is a group of small leather swatches (around 3” x 2”), attached by a metal ring. Each is a different thickness, and is marked with the leather thickness and weight.

Generally available at most leather retailers, these are a relatively inexpensive and great way to really get a feel for the different weights. One can feel, bend, and see which leather thickness might work best for their next project.

 

 

Working with leather can be an incredible experience. Hopefully, information from this leather buying guide can helpful in your leather search for the next great leather working project.

 

 

Related Questions

Does genuine leather patina?

Genuine leather does not often patina. It can come from any layer of the hide, and undergoes treatment to the surface to provide a more uniform, “corrected”, appearance. This often limits how much patina can develop. Full grain leather retains the grain of the hide, which develops a nice patina over time.

Does leather look better with age?

Generally, yes, leather looks better with age. This is mainly for natural leathers that are handled well and properly conditioned. Unfinished full grain and top grain leathers develop a visually-pleasing deepened, tan color over time. It is called a patina and can look great.

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