Genuine Leather vs Full Grain Leather

What is Genuine Leather

“Genuine Leather” is a term used to mislead consumers. Essentially genuine leather means something is only just technically leather. Nothing more. It does not reference the quality, grade, or type of leather in any way. But it sounds good to those who are uneducated when it comes to leather. 

Although the phrase genuine leather means something is made of leather, it is usually a good indicator that that leather is of inferior quality (usually a bonded leather).


Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is to leather what OSB or particle board is to wood. 

Basically they take scraps of real leather and press them all together with glue to make a Frankenstein’s monster sheet of leather. Because this thing is made of scraps, it loses the beautiful natural grain and imperfections of a full grain hide. In an attempt to make it look better, they paint the surface. 

Because it is just pieces of thin leather glued together, this is why that cheap belt you grabbed from Wal Mart started to flake and fall apart. 

This doesn’t happen to a high-quality full grain leather. 


Why Does Bonded Leather Exist? 

Because it’s cheap. 

Companies using it rely on their customers’ lack of knowledge when it comes to leather and slap an attractive price tag on it to deceive them and sell an inferior product. 


Full Grain Leather

Full grain leather is the good stuff. It is exactly what it sounds like: the full hide, tanned and left whole. This is the best leather you can buy. 

So why don’t the department stores use this stuff? It’s expensive. 

Well sort of. It’s expensive at first, but if taken care of, it can last forever and be passed down generations. As it ages, it develops a beautiful patina and just gets better looking. 

So even though the initial investment is steep; you only really need to buy something made of full grain leather once. 

The same item made of bonded leather, you’ll need to buy again ever few months to a year. That adds up. 


Top Grain Leather

Top Grain leather is the second best leather you can get. It is almost the same thing as full grain; however, the top surface is removed and a finish is applied to make it more uniform as a full grain leather will always have little imperfections, scars, hair follicles, etc. 

Top grain is still a very good product and totally suitable for use in luxury goods. 


What leather should you buy? 

That depends on what you’re into! I’m partial to the full grain leather. It has a more rustic look which is exactly what I’m going for. But if you’re looking for a more refined looking product, a nice top grain leather might be the ticket for you! 

Whatever, you do, just stay away from that bonded leather garbage. 


OK, I Got my Leather. Now What? 

Now you get to make stuff! Assuming you have a set of tools and know what you want to make. 

If you’re still in the research phase of your journey, go read about how I started leather working how I started leather working

If you already have all the gear and you’re ready to go, have a look at one of my free templates free templates. None of them are overly complicated, but I’d probably recommend starting with the leather cup sleeve leather cup sleeve and the folded card holder folded card holder