It is helpful to know about leather thickness and weight when buying leather for a project. Different thicknesses and weights work better for different project types and working styles.
Leather thickness is generally measured in ounces. Each ounce equals 1/64” (0.4mm). For example, a 4 ounce weight of leather would measure approximately 4/64”, or 1/16” thick. To accommodate variations in thickness across a split hide, leather weights are often given in ranges. For example, 6oz-7oz.
Yes, it seems odd! Though you’ll get the hang of it easily 🙂 For easy reference, below is a chart of leather thicknesses and weights. After that, we’ll explore the different thickness units that exist, where they came from, and which can be most helpful to your projects and work.
Leather Thickness and Weight Chart
|Ounces||Inches||Inches (decimal)||Millimeters (mm)||Irons|
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.
How is Leather Thickness Measured?
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. Let’s look at each.
Leather Thickness in Irons
One measurement unit for leather thickness is in “irons”. The iron is an older unit of measurement generally used by cobblers in shoemaking. The iron is equal to 1/48”. For example, a piece of leather that is 6 irons thick would be 6/48”, simplified to 1/8”, thick.
Leather shoe soles and various leather parts are measured in irons. When developing the iron standard, it is possible that pieces of actual iron of uniform thickness were used for consistency. They could help ensure that leather thicknesses around the world matched and that everyone could rely on their accuracy.
Irons are not used that often in modern-day leather working. Though, it is still a standard that exists and can be found in use by those that are familiar with, or prefer that unit of measurement.
Leather Thickness in Millimeters (mm)
The most common leather thickness standard is the millimeter (mm). The millimeter is a unit of measure of length in the metric system, equal to one-thousandth of one meter. This is a very popular unit of measure as it directly relates to the thickness of the leather.
For example, if a leather hide is .2 mm thick, it is .2 mm thick. It does not require conversion and is a very straightforward and easy-to-understand way to measure leather thickness. Also, the metric system is the most popular standard for weights and measures in the world, so it is commonly understood and widely accepted.
Leather Thickness in Ounces
Leather thickness can also be measured in ounces. This unit of measurement, when relating to material thickness, is mainly found in the United States. The most common standard of weights and measures used in the USA is the Imperial system which uses feet, inches, pounds, and ounces.
When measuring leather thickness, or leather weight, each ounce is equal to 1/64”. For example, an 8 ounce weight of leather would measure approximately 8/64”. When reduced to the simplest fraction, this is 1/8” thick.
This is a little more complicated that using mm. For someone not directly familiar with the ounce weight measurement, they would need to convert the weight to thickness to understand the leather they’d be buying or working with. However, this leather weight based system is the most common in the United States.
Why is Leather Measured in Ounces?
Leather is measured in weight, as ounces, as it can provide a consistent value of thickness for a standard sample size of leather. For years, the garment and textile industry has provided fabric measurements in weight, often ounces.
This is to give designers an idea of the density and thickness of the material, and is usually measured in ounces per square yard (oz/yd2). For example, a heavy weave of cotton canvas fabric, cut 1 yard x 1 yard square, might weigh 12oz per square yard. A lighter cotton muslin fabric, cut 1 yard x 1 yard square, might weight 5oz per square yard. Leather is generally a much denser material, so there are some differences.
When measuring leather weight, the standard for the cut square is 1 foot x 1 foot (1’ x 1’). Since leather is much thicker and denser than most fabrics, this smaller square size for measurement allows the scale to start small, around 1oz.
For example, a thinner leather material good for wallets might be 2oz (1/64”, 0.8mm). This thinner leather is soft and flexible. A thicker leather that might be great for bag straps or slings might be 8oz (1/8”, 3.2mm). This thicker leather is stronger, stiffer, and more durable.
So while not as common as direct thickness measurement in mm, since the USA uses the imperial system, that’s the history of why leather is measured in ounces by weight.
Leather Thickness and Weight in Ranges
Now that we’re familiar with the units leather is measured in and why it’s measured by weight (in ounces), it’s important to know why it’s sold in thickness and weight ranges. Leather hides can naturally vary in thickness across the hide. Also, hides that are split might yield thicknesses that don’t fall perfectly into a single weight.
So, it’s important to communicate those variations accurately. Thickness can vary more widely across larger hides. Though, in general, they’re measured in next-size ranges. For example, 2oz – 3oz (0.8mm – 1.2mm), or 11oz – 12oz (4.4mm – 4.8mm).
Smaller pieces of leather and certain cuts from the hide will generally have a more consistent thickness. Even then, a hide might weigh 2.4oz, thus instead of having hundreds of leather weights available for sale, they are offered in more convenient ranges.
Uses for Different Leather Thicknesses and Weights
With all of the different thicknesses and weights available, it is helpful to know in general what they might work best for. Below is a chart that includes guidelines by weight. Actual use will depend much upon personal style and preference.
|Leather Weight||Common Uses|
|1 – 2 oz||Thinner wallets, watch bands, molding, shoes, thin purses, linings, bookmarks, boots, and small pouches|
|2 – 3 oz||Wallets, thicker watch bands, molding, thin purses, linings, boots, bookmarks, embossing, shoes, small pouches, light upholstery for chairs, couches, and other seating|
|3 – 4 oz||Thicker wallets, embossing, molding, smaller handbags and purses, boots, shoes, thin notebook covers, pouches, standard upholstery for chairs, couches, and other seating|
|4 – 5 oz||Boots, notebook covers, smaller knife sheathes, shoes, keychains, pouches, wrestling masks, light chaps, smaller handbags and purses, light aprons|
|5 – 6 oz||Boots, notebook covers, smaller knife sheathes, shoes, keychains, thicker pouches, thicker wrestling masks, chaps, smaller handbags and purses, light aprons|
|6 – 7 oz||Heavier 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 oz||Heavier 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 oz||Heavier 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 oz||Knife 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 oz||Heavy 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 oz||Heavy 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 oz||Thicker slings, keychains, heavy handbags and purses, thick pet collars, heavy slings, thicker cases, heavier belts, thicker straps, holsters, typical saddles, thicker armor|
|13 – 14 oz||Heavy armor, light shoe soles, light machine belting, tack, light shoe heels, thick belts and straps, typical saddles|
|14 – 15 oz||Heavy 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|
Tools Used to Measure Leather Thickness & Weight
A few different tools are used to measure leather thickness. Some are relatively inexpensive and handheld. Others are more complex machinery intended for commercial use.
Leather Thickness Gauge – Wood
Some are flat pieces of wood or plastic with a tapered notch running into it. There are measurements noted along the notch, and depending how far the leather fits into the notch, the corresponding marking will tell it’s thickness.
Leather Thickness Gauge – Caliper
Other leather thickness gauges are in caliper form. The leather is placed into the device and a metal rod is pushed down onto the leather, securing it between two points. Based on how far the rod was pushed down, the leather of the thickness is displayed. Displays can be either analog with a needle layout in analog calipers, or digital with a digital numeric layout in digital calipers.
Leather Thickness Gauge – Laser Sensor
Large, laser sensors are generally used in commercial tanneries. They allow the leather to pass between two fixed lasers. The lasers feed measurement data back to the computer that drives the machine, which produces precise measurement of the thickness of materials.
These lasers are usually temperature-stable, so not affected by the material surface temperature. They’re best when used on leather that is at room temperature, so the ratings will be consistent with most leather working and use conditions.
Getting Familiar with Leather Thicknesses – 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.
Leather working is an exciting craft. With so many options available, choosing the right leather thickness will have you right on your way to producing some really great pieces. If you’re looking to buy leather, click here to read the article I wrote on the best places to get it.
How thick is 16oz leather?
16oz leather is 1/4”, 6.4mm, and 12 irons thick. This is a very heavy thickness and weight leather, generally good for heavy leather armor, shoe soles, shoe heels, thick straps, and saddle skirting, heavy tack, and thick belts.
How thick should a leather wallet be?
A leather wallet should generally be made from a leather about 1/32” thick (2oz leather weight, 0.8mm). Based on preference, one could use slightly thicker 3oz leather (3/64”, 1.2mm). Thinner, 1oz leather is also an option (1/64’, 0.4mm).