The tanning of leather is an art much like winemaking, and as such, there are slight variations in color and texture from dye-lot to dye-lot, from hide to hide, and even from one section of a hide to another. Therefore, every leather item Levy’s manufactures is truly unique.
Carving (veg-tan or vegetable-tan) leather – uses a combination of tree bark (usually the bark of the live oak tree) and water to create tannic acid baths in which the raw animal hide is immersed. The hide is soaked for seven days in successive baths of varying concentrations of tannic acid. The resulting leather is called veg-tan or carving leather. Its properties are such that it can be embossed or carved more readily because of the firmness of the leather. Shoe soles and saddles for horses would use veg-tan leather. Levy’s uses veg-tan leather in its tooled guitar straps and other designs. This is the most expensive leather we use.
Oil-tan leather – is produced by Levy’s using natural veg-tan (carving) leather hand-dipped in a protective oil solution, giving it a distinctive, weatherproof finish. Oil-tan leather is used on many of Levy’s rifle slings.
Chrome-tan leather – is any leather in which a combination of chemicals are used that breakdown the fibres of a raw animal hide transforming it into leather. This process normally takes 24 hours. Most shoe uppers are made from chrome-tan leather because it can be shaped without cracking. Levy’s uses this type of leather in its entry level straps. This is still top grain top quality leather; however, it is usually less expensive than veg-tan simply because the process is less expensive. The chrome-tan leather Levy’s uses is surface dyed.
Garment leather – This is a trade term, not a leather term. Garment leather is actually a chrome-tan leather that has been treated with softeners to make it more mellow and is usually thinner than our regular chrome-tan leather. Levy’s garment leather is usually drum dyed so the color fully permeates the leather.
Suede leather – is chrome-tan leather that has had the top grain surface taken off. The resulting underneath peace is then re-tanned, softened and the tiny hair cells buffed to give it the soft nap characteristic of suede.
Nubuck leather – is chrome-tan leather that has had the top grain surface buffed to give it a dull finish.
Other leathers – There are two other types of leathers that manufacturers use: finished splits and bonded leather. Levy’s does not use these leathers.
Finished splits are hides of leather that have had the top grain surface taken off in the same process that is used to make suede; however, instead of re-tanning and bringing up the nap, an artificial top-grain looking surface is applied to one of the sides.
Bonded leather is much like particle board. Leather dust and particles (a by-product of the leather making process) are combined with glue to create a leather-like material.