Want to buy or sell something? Check the classifieds
  • The Fedora Lounge is supported in part by commission earning affiliate links sitewide. Please support us by using them. You may learn more here.

Leather under a microscope

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
I believe the briefcase to be undyed full grain vegetable tanned cow hide. The mahogany colored prototype Moleskine cover is the same, just heavily oiled and with lots of intentional UV damage/coloration. The difference between the two extends beyond just coloration, but it's tough to say without having an unoiled and UV colored sample to compare it to. Unfortunately, my hide stash is deeply buried for the next few months due to a home construction project, or I'd have another large pile of pretty much untouched leathers to analyze.

Also interesting, is that statement with the context that there's shell cordovan in the mix. Often considered the highest quality you can get, but I guess it's not the most natural looking owing to the cordovan process. The superficial similarity of the surface appearance of the cordovan and the heavily worn wallet was a big surprise to me.

Something I'm trying to contextualize in my mind in light of that particular comment... The jacket scene seems to mostly pick up in the 30s. I believe the high end leather fashion favored very pale, white leathers prior to that. That statement may have some regionality/siloing to it though. The briefcase leather is probably most representative of that. Those very pale leathers would be undyed, and not subject to UV coloration. The tanning process would also have been very mild. I imagine higher end leathers of that era would have looked more like the briefcase leather than not. Shell cordovan in that period was considered working man's boot leather, and not the prized material it is today. I wonder what it would be like to handle a high quality leather of that era compared to the high quality leathers of today.... Style to style, but also within the same style finish.
 
Last edited:

Will Zach

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,362
Location
SoFlo
I agree, cool stuff. The microphotographs of various surfaces can tell a lot about leather finishes, weathering, etc. Microphotographs of leather cross-sections would tell a lot about fiber density, leather flexibility etc, but I'd hate ask the OP to start cutting up his jackets and wallets, lol.
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
I'm hoping to get a pile of swatches from Fivestar soon. When I do, I'll be looking at them under the microscope for my own curiosity's sake and as a datapoint for specifying a jacket I'd like them to make for me. Cross sections will be very easily visible in that case. Additionally, they'll be more directly applicable to the jacket subject matter of the forum.

Further, if anyone wants to send me a sample of something, I'm happy to image it and post. Doesn't have to be a whole jacket or anything like that. A square inch or so is enough to fill the frame and find it to get it in frame in the first place. Maybe if you have some scraps left over from having something taken in, or have some jacket appropriate hides laying around like I know a few people do.
 

Canuck Panda

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,069
I've got tons of hides, it'd be interesting to see them under the lens, different animals, different tanneries, different tannage. let me put together a package this weekend. The only thing that may skew the results is some hides I will only be cutting from the perimeter and some hides are left over I can cut from the center of them. Just from naked eye and hand feel the perimeter part feels a bit different than the center of the hide.
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
I've got tons of hides, it'd be interesting to see them under the lens, different animals, different tanneries, different tannage. let me put together a package this weekend. The only thing that may skew the results is some hides I will only be cutting from the perimeter and some hides are left over I can cut from the center of them. Just from naked eye and hand feel the perimeter part feels a bit different than the center of the hide.
PM me.

You are correct. The leather from the edges will almost certainly appear different due to stretching during drying. I can also imagine there might be a difference in terms of chemical action, as the edges are thinnest (they finish "cooking" earlier than the thicker back sections), have more fuzz to them since they're less dense, would be the last parts to dry, and probably a few other reasons that aren't immediately coming to mind. No idea how this would manifest under the scope.

Additionally, leather along the spine is tougher and less prone to stretching; it's often used for belts (both machine, and clothing), for example. Bellies are very stretchy, and in my world are often scraps and flaps. You could use them for decorative details that don't get much in the way of mechanical stress. Again, no idea if there would appear any differences visually under the microscope though.
 

Canuck Panda

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,069
I've got lots, some I know for sure it was air dried (with heat), some are vacuum dried, some toggled dried so stretched, also in heat, some I just don't know but mostly I wonder what is the fiber structure difference between animal species. It'll take me a while to put together the sample package, but this is definitely interesting.

Also most horses I have are fronts, with some stripes right before the shell. Bovines (steer and bison) will be both sides and fronts I will try to indicate which part it came from, from front or the rear bend. Got some sheep and elk and maybe some early goat from 5*. It'll be a while to sort them through but this is gonna be interesting.
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
Interesting indeed! I've done a lot of work with cow, some with shearling, but that's about it. I've been digging around trying to figure out the differences between the hides from various species for this jacket, but most of what I have found reads like marketing garbage.

In response to your offering up samples, I just bought a 3-axis eyepiece mount for my phone. The camera I have on the scope is good for watchmaking and electronics, but sucks for high magnification imagery. The hardest part is getting the phone in just the right place, and holding it still enough to get something that makes any sense visually. Kinda pricey, but maybe my 4yo and -5mo will get some use out of it for school projects or something. Maybe just inspire a love of science!
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
Oh really? Gauntlet thrown, I guess. No promises, but I'll see what there is to see and share what I find! The only horse I have is shell cordovan, which I've already shared, but that's a pretty special case.
 

Will Zach

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,362
Location
SoFlo
Oh really? Gauntlet thrown, I guess. No promises, but I'll see what there is to see and share what I find! The only horse I have is shell cordovan, which I've already shared, but that's a pretty special case.
The discussion of differentiating unlabelled horse vs cow has been going on for a long time. It is quite difficult, because different tanning methods muddy the waters. Horse fibers are generally denser though.
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
Horse fibers are generally denser though.
That’s my understanding. I’m trying to think back to the living horses and cows I’ve interacted with to try to remember if/how their coats differ. I don’t think I have enough experience to know one way or another though. Additionally, unless I have several samples of each, it may be difficult to tell the difference between, say, a horse and a hairy cow…
 

Will Zach

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,362
Location
SoFlo
That’s my understanding. I’m trying to think back to the living horses and cows I’ve interacted with to try to remember if/how their coats differ. I don’t think I have enough experience to know one way or another though. Additionally, unless I have several samples of each, it may be difficult to tell the difference between, say, a horse and a hairy cow…
I meant fibers in the hide.
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
I knew what you meant, but even IF I'm able to see some sort of definitive difference in the fibers within the hide, that's not really going to help anyone that a) doesn't have a microscope, and b) doesn't want to cut a slice out of a jacket to try to figure out how it looks inside. Hair follicles or pores may still require a microscope, but at least wouldn't require any destructive means to be able to see them. Might even be able to get away with a magnifying glass or something.
 

Canuck Panda

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,069
I thought about the best way to get you samples. So I will cut a small piece and put it in a letter envelope and write on the envelope what it is. Tagging the individual leather sample would be too time consuming and I'd never get around to go through with it. Will DM you about shipping when I get to that stage.

IMG_3045.JPG
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
Beautiful! That looks like quite a selection!

Whatever is easiest while still getting the idea across. All that matters is the communication.
 

spectre6000

One of the Regulars
Messages
115
Glad I could make your day! It sounds like there's plenty more to come.

The eyepiece phone mount showed up about an hour ago. It looks promising. I sprung for the fancy one with the multi-axis micrometer-style adjustment and remote trigger. Hopefully it ups the quality going forward. I obviously haven't used it yet, but hopefully it allows me to rapidly burn through CanuckPanda's leather library! With any luck, I'll also get a healthy selection from Fivestar. By the time I make it through both of those stacks, I think we'll probably ALL have had our fill of leather microscopy!
 

Forum statistics

Threads
106,719
Messages
3,019,790
Members
52,282
Latest member
joeydavies
Top