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Leather Glossary

Leather is not a generic product and leather terms are not widely understood or standardized. Provided is a brief glossary of the most important terms used within the leather industry to help you evaluate leather qualities along with keywords used in baseball gloves.



Altered Leather:

Leather that has had the original surface of the skin removed (usually due to imperfections in the original surface) and a new grain embossed into the leather. This is also called corrected grain. Most top grain leathers have altered or corrected grain surfaces.

Alum Tanned:

Alum, salt, egg yolk, and other substances. Before chrome tanning, this was the principle method of tanning with mineral agents.


A colorless oily liquid made from coal tar used in making dyes and resins in organic synthesis.

Aniline Dye:

Any dye produced synthetically from coal tar products.

Aniline Dyed or Aniline Leather:

Leather that has been dyed in a dye bath with some level of dye penetration.


Bark Tanned:
Leather that has been vegetable-tanned mainly by means of tannins contained in the bark of trees.

Base Dyes:
Common (usually lower grade) dye colors used in custom colored leathers that are quickly made. Hides are dyed in advance awaiting the spray application of custom colors.

Baseball Glove Leathers:

The following is a short list of leathers used in Glove Making.

· Cowhide            + Steerhide       + Buffalo           + Kangaroo

· Pigskin                + Deer hide       + Elk Hide

Bend Leather:

Upper backbone area of a hide away from shoulders, neck, and belly. Superior grade of leather.



Is the part of a hide from the under side of an animal, usually less valuable than other parts of a hide because of its grain.


Blues, in the:
The state of hides that have been tanned once using chromium salts. These hides are light blue in color.

An animal belonging to the cattle or ox family.

An important characteristic of a full grain leather. Due to its intact grain and pore structure, full grain leather breathes. This means that the leather adjusts to temperature and wicks away moisture and body heat, making it very comfortable to sit on.


Brush Coloring:
The process of applying dyestuff to the leather by means of a brush. In this cosmetic process dyes are not saturated into the hide.

Buffed Leather:
Leather from which the top surface grain is removed by an abrasive or bladed cylinder. This process is often known as suede or nubuc.


Chrome Tannage:

Chromium salts, predominately basic chromium sulfate resulting in soft, mellow hides receptive to color treatment. Currently the most widely used tannage in the USA. Note: At the time of this listing, Chrome tanned leather is the most widely used leather for baseball gloves.


Combination Tannage: Leather that receives chrome and vegetable tannage producing suppleness and body in the hide

Corrected Grain: Commonly referred to as top grain. Lacking an intact full grain surface. Usually heavily pigmented.



Color matter that sometimes rubs off leather.


Crust: Leather which has been tanned (treated to become nonperishable) but not colored or otherwise finished.



Process of incorporating oils and greases into the leather after tanning and otherwise preparing it for the specific purpose for which it may be intended.


De-grained Leather: Leather from which the grain has been removed after tanning, by splitting, abrading or other processes.


Another term for
antiqued leather.


Drawn Grain:

Shrunken, shriveled, or wrinkled grain surface of leather.

Drum Dyeing:
The application of dyestuffs to leather by the immersion of the leather in a drum that is tumbled. This process allows full dye penetration into the fiber.


Embossed Leather:
Usually corrected grain, in which a pattern a design or artificial texture is applied by extreme pressure in a press to give a unique design or imitation of full grain characteristics. Sometimes leathers are embossed to make them appear to be another leather, such as embossing an alligator pattern into cowhide.

Finish: Any enhancing effect applied to leather after it has been tanne


Enhanced Full Grain:

Full grain leather, which has received minor surface alteration to improve grain appearance.


Fat Wrinkle:
Wrinkles in the grain of leather caused by fat deposits in the animal that create beauty in the leather. Fat wrinkles are not visible in imitation grain leather.

Generally defines a surface application on the leather to color, protect or mask imperfections. More specifically, it refers to all processes administered to leather after it has been tanned.
Examples are dyeing, embossing, buffing, antiquing, waxing, waterproofing, and so on.

Full Grain:
Leather in which the grain layer or dermis has not been altered (has not been altered beyond hair removal). The grain layer gives each type of leather its distinctive appearance, as it retains all of the original texture and markings of the original hide.

Full Hand:
This defines leather that is full bodied and robust. Also called round hand or full round hand.


Glazed Leather:

Aniline-dyed leather which has been polished to a high luster by passing through glass or steel rollers under great pressure.

Glove Leather:
Lambskin or other very soft leather typically used for gloves. (working in the yard kind, ha, you thought this was about baseball gloves)



A leather trades word used to describe the overall natural characteristics of the surface of leather, such as its pores, wrinkles, markings, and texture.


Grain (leather):

The outside of the hide or skin consisting of the pores, cells, wrinkles and other characteristics which constitute the natural texture of the leather.

Grain Character:

The natural markings on the surface of the leather.

Grain, Embossed:

An artificial grain pressed into the surface of top grain leather from which the original grain has been removed.

Grain Sueded:

A buffing process to raise the fibers on the grain side of a hide or skin to produce a velvet-like effect. This is also known as “Nubuck” leather.


A word used to describe the feel (i.e. softness or fullness) of leather.


Hide: The pelt of a large animal.


A skin from an animal between the size of a calf and a mature cow. Also, the hide from a grass-fed immature bovine Note: In today’s cattle industry many hides fall into this category.



An animal hide that has been preserved and dressed for use.


A manufactured product that imitates leather.


This process includes removal of the hair, preparing the hides for the tanning process.


Easton: Cow Hide and Steer Hide

             Top Leather - Gladiator, Steer Hide

Kelley Athletic: Steer Hide and Cowhide

             Top Leather - 6 Oz. Steer Hide

Mizuno: Steer Hide and Cowhide

             Top Leather - Double Tanned Steer Hide

Nokona: Cow Hide, Buffalo, Kangaroo

             Top Leather - Kangaroo

Rawlings: All Leathers & synthetic materials

             Top Leather - Heart of the Hide, Steer Hide      

Wilson: All Leathers & synthetic materials

             Top Leather - Pro Stock, Steer Hide

Matte Finish:

A flat or dull finish.

Milling: A process that produces suppleness in hides.

Milled Leather:

Technique of breaking down leather by putting it into a large drum and letting it tumble until it becomes softer and obtains a pebbled appearance. Note: Often used in conjunction with oil tanning in order to produce softer baseball glove leather.


Mineral Tanned:

Leather that has been tanned by any of several mineral substances, notably the salts of chromium, aluminum, and zirconium.


Naked Leather: A dyed leather that has received no topical application that may mask or alter the natural state of the leather.


Describes the soft, "fuzzy" effect achieved in leather by buffing or brushing.

Natural Grain: A leather that retains the full, original grain.

Natural Grain: A brushed, grain-sueded leather.


Leather whose surface has been buffed and brushed to create a soft, velvety effect. Differs from suede in that while suede is created from the split side of a hide, Nubuck is created using the grain (outer) side, giving it added strength and durability.


Oak Tannage:

Originally the tannage of leather was almost entirely with oak bark, later the term applied to tannage with a blend containing oak tannin. Now, it is loosely applied to any tannage of heavy leather with vegetable extracts.


Oil Tanned:

Leather that is tanned using oils to create a very soft, pliable finish.



The term used to identify the weight and substance of a hide. An ounce is equivalent to 1/64th of an inch in thickness.


Over-tannage: See Re-tannage.



The upper portion of the hide that has been separated from the reticular or split layer.

Patent Leather:

Leather with a glossy impermeable finish produced by successive coats of drying oils, varnish, or synthetic resins.


A natural characteristic that develops on full grain leather through normal use over a period of time. The aura or luster that develops in a quality piece of leather with age.


In leather, this is the process of die-cutting small holes to form a pattern. The holes can vary in size, density and pattern.

Plating: The process of pressing leather under a heated plate. Often used in upholstery leather to mask imperfections.



Leather that has been sprayed with a pigmented, opaque finish.



Describes the behavior of leather that has been treated with oils, waxes, and dyes in such a way that when the leather is pulled or stretched, the finish becomes lighter in the stretched areas.



Supple lightweight leather tanned from pigs and hogs, it is not as thick as cowhide or Steer hide. Note: Glovesmith’s G-Pro gloves are constructed from razorback leather.



Untanned or partially tanned cattle hide.

Reconstructed Leather:

Material composed of collagen fibers, obtained from macerated hide pieces, which have been reconstructed into a fibrous material.


A modifying secondary tannage applied after intermediate operations following the primary tannage to further enrich and enhance the quality of the leather.


Leathers tanned with more than one tanning agent, such as a vegetable tannage applied over chrome tannage, resulting in both softness and body in the hides.


Round Hand:

A full-handed leather, usually slightly swelled through tannage and fat liquoring.



A most important aspect in producing high quality leathers. Full saturation of tanning, fat liquors and dyes are essential in the production of fine leathers.


A coloring effect created by blending two similar dyes to create a mottled or marbled appearance.


Aniline leather to which a matching pigment layer is added to even out the color and add protection.

Shrunken Grain Leather:
Full, natural grain leather that is shrunken to enlarge and enhance the grain character of the leather.

Side Leather:
Hides that have been cut in half, forming two “sides” in order to better accommodate small tannery equipment.

Hides are shaved to a particular thickness after tannage by a large shaving machine. The excess is removed from the bottom of the hide.

Half a hide cut along the backbone.



To slice or split into a thin layer, or to reduce leather to a specific thickness.



The grain surface is abraded with brushes, emery wheel or sandpaper. Leather is snuffed for the purpose of removing defective grain or sueding the surface of the leather.

Split Leather:

Leather made from the inner layers of a hide that have been split away from the upper, or top grain. Split leather is more fragile than top grain or full grain leather. which has an imitation grain embossed into a heavily finished pigmented surface to simulate papillary leather.



The thinning or slicing of leather into two or more layers. Note: Used to get the leather into a workable thickness.


Strap Leather:

Heavyweight, vegetable-tanned leather used for industrial purposes or to support seats and backs on certain types of seating.


Steer hide:

Leather from the hides of steers, usually heavier leather.



A fibrous leather, typically made from the reticular part of the hide.


The process of raising fibers on the grain side of a hide to give a velvet nap effect. This is generally called “Nubuck” or “grain sueded.”

Table Dyeing:

The application of dyestuff to leather with a brush; the leather being laid on a table. Also called brush coloring.

Table Run:
Leathers that are not graded.

Tannin: Any various solvent, astringent substances of plant origin used in tanning leather.


Top Grain:

Leather that has the grain side left intact, in contrast to split leather also  An over-used term commonly used to refer to corrected grain leather. See Corrected Grain. The top grain of the hide is where the strength of the leather comes from. Note: All Glovesmith gloves are made from top grain leather.



The removal of the outer edges of the hide not suitable for making leather.


An effect created by applying layers of similar or contrasting dyes to a piece of leather in order to create a mottled or aged appearance.
Antiqued and Sauvaged leathers are examples of two-tone leathers.


Unfinished Leather: Normally defines aniline dyed, naked leathers with no additional application intended to finish, color or treat in any way that would alter the natural characteristics of the leather.

Upholstery Leather: A general term for leather processed for many uses including applications, etc.

Vegetable Tanning:

A method of tanning that utilizes materials from organic materials (vegetable tannins) such as bark instead of the traditional chemicals. Note: Vegetable tanned leather has greater body and firmness than traditionally chromium tanning.



A term that describes the heaviness or thickness of leather. Typically given in ounces per square foot.


Welting leather:

The leather used as the uniting material between each of the finger pieces on the back of the glove. Also is used to attach the palm of the glove to the back of the glove.


Wet Blue Leather:

Leather that after chrome tanning has not been further processed and is sold in the wet condition.


Whole Hide:
Refers to leather created using a full hide, as opposed to a side, and typically intended for use as upholstery leather.


A typical whole hide as can be seen, the shape of the hide restricts the shapes of leather pieces that can be cut out of it.

- A side is created by dividing the whole hide vertically down the middle.





This glossary was compiled by Mitchell Dowdy with help from the Dictionary of Leather Terminology. Moore & Giles leather company and the Irving Tanning Company. Sponsored by Kelley Athletic This may be re-printed in part, but please include all hyper-links and credits. Information here may be deemed reliable but is not guaranteed. Seek out authoritative sources for the exact meanings.