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Leather under a microscope

spectre6000

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189
Shinki HH

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Here's some more of those jerky-looking deposits I mentioned on the elk post. I'm really not sure what they are. It's dense, and well integrated. More of the horse just being a nearly solid mass of dense, fine fibers.
 
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spectre6000

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Horween Cow Hide

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This is obviously much more spongy. To be fair, I think it's probably been milled or something. It feels as spongy as it looks. It's really tough to say what's "cows are spongy" and what's milling. Milled or no, the fibers are clearly much more coarse. This particular sample was difficult to get a good image of.
 
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spectre6000

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189
Merino Sheepskin

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This leather feels firmer than the cow in the last post. The fibers look a little finer and denser, but it's tough to say. For anyone playing along at home, the labeled magnification levels are directly correlated. If you draw a line on one image, it is the same arbitrary length as the same line in another image. Scale can be directly compared.
 
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spectre6000

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189
Horween HH

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Another horse hide that's practically a solid mass all the way through. Fine and dense. It just never goes fuzzy. More of the jerky looking deposits that I THOUGHT were horse hallmarks until the cow I'll note when I get to it.
 
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spectre6000

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Horween Bison

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This one was really hard to image... I think it's probably milled or something, so it's super fuzzy on the flesh side. That also means it won't cut very cleanly. Also flexible, and floppy. From what I can tell from this one single sample is that it's kinda like cow that's been scaled up a bit. Fairly similar, but the denser grain stays denser longer (depthwise). I imagine that would make it more durable, and what have you, per its reputation. If the dense/thick part is thicker, it'll be more durable. I'd still take horse in a head to head based on what we've seen here.
 
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spectre6000

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189
Badalassi Mingria Box Cow Hide

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This is the one that totally throws what I thought I had been starting to learn about horse out the window. I want to know more about this one @Canuck Panda . It just doesn't look like any of the other cow hides, and I have to wonder what is special about the tannage going on with the horses, the elk, and this? Nothing about it says anything cow-like compared to any of the other cow samples. Totally different. I need to figure out a way to compare some of the other physical characteristics of these...

WAIT A HOT MINUTE!!! Canuck Panda, how sure are you about the identification of this one? I just looked up "Badalassi Mingria Box Cow Hide", and it corrected me to "Minerva Box Cow Hide". I could easily have misread that (and looking back, I'm certain I did), but the description I found is nothing like this leather. It's pebble grained, and just looks nothing like this. It also says it has a medium hand, and this stuff is quite firm. Is it possible this is actually horse? That said... the pore identification would fall apart if this wasn't cow... Not sure which way I want the cards to fall here...
 
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spectre6000

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Fivestar Seal Goatskin

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Based on this single sample, it looks like goat starts fine and dense, but fuzzes out quickly. Probably explains the abrasion resistance combo with drape/soft hand.
 
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spectre6000

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Bonus, a new set of work gloves arrived in the mail yesterday, so another goat sample. This is probably about the second cheapest goat you'll probably be able to find. Chrome tanned for sure.

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Gloves may be, but I'm pretty sure this qualifies as garment leather. I had to go back and look at the sealed goat from Fivestar. It's very difficult to compare the two. The pore structure looks nothing alike. I'm guessing the seal coat must fill in a lot of the pores, and that's probably a significant part of its purpose. The Fivestar goat is probably also shrunk, I'm guessing, based on the topography.
 
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spectre6000

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Meanwhile, I tried something out. I have a little magnifying glass that I took off the helping hands to make it less tippy during this exercise. No clue the level of magnification, but not much. IF a few more samples continue to show the differing pore structure between horse and cow, I was just barely able to make out the pore clusters on samples of horse and cow. Cow is a bit more difficult, but horse was pretty clear. If more samples materialize and the trend holds, full grain horse may be easily differentiated from full grain cow. Corrected grain, as several of the horse samples are, wipes that all out, but it's still something!
 

Canuck Panda

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I regrouped your photos (the second magnify one) to show some comparisons. Rotated them so the finished grain side faced up.

Equine group - butt, Horween, Shinki
equine butt horween shinki.jpg


Bovine group - naked ish cow, bison, Badalassi
bovine.jpg


Deer, sheep, goat
cervidae bovidae.jpg


Here are also some Research Gate articles on leather cross sections, I can't use their photos because of copyright so I will just link and credit to them, but they look very similar to the home grown ones posted here,
https://www.researchgate.net/figure...-using-commercial-fatliquoring_fig7_338954222
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Cross-section-of-animal-leather-6_fig1_371938847

Well, from my amateur point of view, we need more samples! Also my guess is that the different types of finishing is gonna impact how things looks. To me, the thin fine line on the top is the finishing layer, it could be paint, wax, oil...etc. And the full grain/top grain, imo, is the first 1/4 ish section of the most compacted fiber structure layer. And if this is the case, then I do see a comparative generalized difference between equine to bovine, equine looking more dense on the very top 1/4. The front shoulders from Badalassi blurrs the lines a bit being so dense, so maybe more samples. I am also gonna take a big wild guess that hair follicles will only show in naked ish leather, and if the leather has top finish or oil/wax stuffing, it's gonna compact the surface and the follicles are filled and harder to see. That's my guess. A controlled sample with heavily painted hide would serve as a way to find out what that would look like under the scope and I can simply do this by painting multiple layers and finish it with some resolene.

Another quick note is that the Shinki and Badalassi are known to be heavily veg tanned and I can see it's darker in the fibers than the others that are either chrome or wet white or combi tanned.

This was fun. Thanks for taking the time to take all the magnified shots.
 

spectre6000

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Education purposes are always fair use.

Those side-by-sides are excellent! The only one I think you can see any sort of top coat is the Fivestar goat seal. That seal coat is thick (pretty sure it's supposed to be, before anyone jumps in to criticize). Elsewhere, like the Merino sheep, there's a bit, but it's partially due to the angle. The plane of focus is very thin, and any time you see out of focus sections, that means they're out of plane. The Merino, for instance, it tilted slightly such that the grain side is slightly higher than the flesh side, so you can actually see a bit of the top, then it drops off very fast, and sort of creates the illusion of a thicker top surface due to that thin slice being in focus.

General anatomy cross sectional diagram of skin:
1.jpeg


Leather specific cross section illustrations:
2.png

3.jpeg
 
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spectre6000

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@Canuck Panda , how sure are you the identification is correct on the Badalassi? I did a late edit on that post after digging a bit. According to the marketing copy I found on the Badalassi Minerva Box Cow, it should have a pebble grain and medium hand, and the sample is smooth and firm. The pores say cow, the cross section says horse... Unless the jerky looking inclusions are actually from the tannage, in which case, I wonder if the horses are all tanned similar to the Badalassi and Elk. Maybe it's some sort of wax stuffing?
 

Canuck Panda

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@Canuck Panda , how sure are you the identification is correct on the Badalassi? I did a late edit on that post after digging a bit. According to the marketing copy I found on the Badalassi Minerva Box Cow, it should have a pebble grain and medium hand, and the sample is smooth and firm. The pores say cow, the cross section says horse... Unless the jerky looking inclusions are actually from the tannage, in which case, I wonder if the horses are all tanned similar to the Badalassi and Elk. Maybe it's some sort of wax stuffing?
I don't know. That's why I think more samples is always better. I should have gotten a Nappa Lux hide. Anyways, as I gather more samples I will send them to you, it'll be a while but everything is a progress.
 

spectre6000

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I don't know. That's why I think more samples is always better. I should have gotten a Nappa Lux hide. Anyways, as I gather more samples I will send them to you, it'll be a while but everything is a progress.
That’s the one where the photo is super blurry. The sample is from the edge, so it’s possibly not representative of the whole? Does any of the rest of the hide have a pebble texture? More samples, especially full grain horse, are definitely needed. If my small sample suspicions are correct, identifying horse from cow (full grain at least) can be done quite easily. That was expressly called out as something of interest to the community, so if nothing else, that could be a major win for this little foray into esoterica.
 

Canuck Panda

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The Badalassi Minerva Box Cowhide (front shoulders) whole hide looks like this:
Badalassi Carlos Brown 01.jpg

It is a pebbly hide but there are also smooth spots too, very nice natural variations.
Badalassi Carlos Brown 01a.jpg
Badalassi Carlos Brown 01b.jpg
Badalassi Carlos Brown 01c.jpg


I think we just need more samples to look at. When I have more I will send you.

Most cowhides are cut as "sides" of the animal, but some Italians tanners like Badalassi cuts them as "fronts" like horsehide, I am not sure if that makes a difference. But the more samples we can look at from different cuts and tanneries the more we can know.
 

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