What Is Split Leather? Is It The Same As Splitting Leather?

Splitting leather is the craft of separating the layers that compose thick leather pieces. When we hear the term split leather, most people think of shoes, but splitting leather can be used to create a wide variety of things, from belts and wallets to vests and bags. Here, we'll discuss everything you need to know about split leather, including what it is and why it's used.

Whatever happens to the remaining hide after the leather is split or chopped to generate top-grain leather? Glad you inquired! That gets us all to split leather at last. Split leather is indeed a general word for the second and occasionally third cuts of something like a hide, whereas premium materials leather is indeed the initial cut of the hide.

Split leather lacks the same organic appearance and feel as full-grain and top grain leather. This is so because a split leather's surface is actually a layer inside the hide. Therefore, unless they have been intentionally imprinted or embossed onto the leather, features like holes, wrinkles on the skin, etc., are completely missing.

The lowest standard of these three classes, split leather, is often solely utilized to create coloured leather goods. However, split leathers are significantly less expensive. For trim or other parts of finer leather furniture fewer prone to constant wear; for instance, on the edges or back of a couch, split leathers are occasionally used in place of vinyl leather matches.

What is split leather

Split leather refers to a specific type of leather made by separating the lower layers of animal hides from the top grain layer. This process is known as leather splitting or retaining. It is often undertaken to create more supple leather products. The term 'split' in this context is derived from 'tanned,' indicating the leather has been treated with tannin, a substance used in the tanning process.

It's important to note that split leather is often marketed as 'genuine leather.' However, this labeling can be misleading, as the term 'genuine leather' does not necessarily denote high quality. In the leather industry, 'genuine leather' is frequently used to describe split leathers of lower grades, which may not have the same durability or aesthetic appeal as full-grain or top-grain leather.

Suede is a well-known example of split leather. The process of splitting gives suede its characteristic soft, fuzzy texture. This type of leather is commonly used in the production of shoes, clothing, and other fashion items due to its unique feel and appearance. When purchasing leather products, understanding the differences between split leather, suede, and other types of leather can help in making informed choices about quality and suitability for specific uses.

The history of split leather

Split leather refers to the process of separating and thinning the hide of an animal. This type of leather is known for its durability, which is due in large part to its grainy texture. There are a few different ways split leather can be made, but the most popular way is through hand splitting with tools. To make this kind of leather, first, you have to remove hair from the animal's skin by treating it with lime or other substances. Next, soak it in water to become pliable and easy to work with. The skin will then be stretched over a bench or some other type of surface and cut horizontally with a knife at regular intervals (usually 2 inches) until it splits open into strips.

It is known as "splitting" when skin is split into many layers over its whole surface. Splitting is done on thicker leather, primarily cow leather, that is 5 to 10 mm thick. Grain split, also known as top-grain Split, and flesh split, are the obtained layers. The leather may occasionally be robust enough for a central split. Drop split is another name for the Split that is distinct from grain split. The drop-split leather has a rough texture on both sides, much like a leather's back.

The tanner must consider that perhaps the skin's density is larger at this stage because of the wet skin's increased water content while regulating the splitting machine. Wet skin weighs three times as much as leather when it's dry due to the water content. The leather becomes thicker as a result of the water content. To reach the correct leather thickness after the leather is dry, the tanner must take this variance in thickness into account while setting the splitting machine.

It is thought that the grain divided is more valuable. The top part of something like the grain side has a significantly denser fiber structure, which makes it more tear-resistant. When tanned, the grain split is known as smooth leather.

What is split leather made from

Split leather is made by dividing the hide of an animal, typically cow, horse, pig, or sheep, into multiple layers. This process involves splitting the hide down the middle, often leading to the creation of different types of leather products. Cowhide is the most common source of split leather, widely used in items like dress shoes and belts due to its durability and texture. On the other hand, split sheepskinknown for its flexibility, is commonly used in softer leather products like gloves and slippers.

After the splitting process, the top grain layer, referred to as the grain split, is often separated from the lower layers. In the leather industry, once the hide leaves the tannery, the term 'split' typically refers to these lower layers. These include the drop split, which has both rough and smooth sides, and is known as split leather or suede. The grain split is not usually termed 'split leather' post-tanning and is instead referred to with names like 'soft leather,' 'alkane leather,' or 'napa.'

It's important to note that top-grain leather possesses higher quality attributes compared to split leather. Sometimes, split leather is treated to imitate the appearance of grain leather, which can be misleading to consumers. As a result, clear labeling is essential to distinguish between the types of leather, especially for the end user. This ensures transparency and helps consumers make informed decisions about the leather products they purchase.

Suede, a type of split leather, is created in tanneries using large equipment that splits the wet hide. Smaller splitting devices are also used in leather workshops for more detailed or smaller-scale operations. Understanding these processes and the sources of split leather is crucial for recognizing the differences in quality and suitability for various leather products.

What is split cowhide leather?

Split cow leather is a specific type of leather made by dividing cowhide, which has been tanned, into two or more layers. This process, known as leather splitting, allows for the cowhide to be used more efficiently in various applications. The term 'split' refers to the leather's ability to be divided down the middle or into different layers during the manufacturing process.

Originally, split cow leather was favored for its affordability compared to using full hides. However, it has gained recognition for its quality and soft texture, making it a popular choice for various craftwork and repair projects. The versatility of split cow leather means it's commonly used in making items such as belts, wallets, and jackets.

The production of split cow leather involves tanning the cowhide to preserve it and then splitting it to create thinner pieces of leather. These thinner pieces maintain a high level of durability while being more flexible and easier to work with, which is ideal for the aforementioned types of projects. This type of leather offers a practical and high-quality option for both commercial and individual leatherworking ventures

What is calf split leather?

Calf split leather is a specific type of leather commonly utilized in the garment industry. It is derived from cowhide, specifically from calves, and undergoes a splitting process. During this process, the hide is split down the middle, which results in two distinct layers. The top layer of this split retains the grain and natural color of the hide and is typically tanned and finished, while the bottom layer is left in a more natural, unprocessed state.

Calf split leather is known for its particular qualities that make it suitable for the fashion industry. It is not as durable as other types of leather, such as buffalo or goat leather. This relative lack of durability is due to its finer and softer texture, which, while making it less resistant to abrasive surfaces, also lends it a degree of flexibility and comfort ideal for clothing. Its softer nature and aesthetic appeal make calf split leather a preferred choice for apparel that does not require high durability, such as certain types of jackets, dresses, and fashion accessories.

While calf split leather offers a unique combination of softness and visual appeal, it's important for consumers and manufacturers to consider its limitations in terms of durability when choosing it for specific applications. Understanding these characteristics helps in selecting the right type of leather for garments that balance style with functional needs.

Split grain leather meaning

Split grain leather refers to a specific type of leather created by dividing the hide into different layers during the tanning process. When an animal’s skin is tanned, it can be split into two main sections: the grain side and the flesh side. The grain side is the outermost layer of the skin and has a tighter, more refined grain pattern, while the flesh side is the inner layer of the skin.

This type of leather is versatile and can be used in a wide range of leather products, including jackets, shoes, and other leather goods. The key characteristic of split grain leather is its texture and appearance, which is distinct from other types of leather. On a finished product, such as a jacket or a piece of furniture, the difference between split grain leather and other types of leather, like full-grain or top-grain leather, is noticeable due to the variations in grain patterns and texture.

However, it's important to note that the distinction between split grain leather and other types of leather is not visible on rawhide, as the hide has not yet undergone the tanning process. The tanning process is what brings out the unique characteristics of split grain leather, differentiating it from other forms of leather in terms of durability, appearance, and feel.

Why is it used in products like belts, boots and wallets?

Split leather is a type of processed leather that has been split into two pieces. It is primarily used in the production of belts, boots and wallets because it is stronger than full grain leather. Split leather is also sometimes called split cowhide.

How does it differ from full-grain leather in quality and durability?

Split leather is not as durable and high-quality as full-grain leather. Split leather is a byproduct of the process that creates full-grain leather. Full-grain leather is made from the outermost layer of animal hides, which has been left intact during tanning and other finishing processes. The term Split refers to the removal of this exterior layer, often referred to as the grain. This leaves behind a more delicate product that can't withstand heavy use as its counterpart can. It's important not to confuse split leather with split-leather meaning; the two are different products.

Given the existence of these layers, it is logical to assume that full-grain leather could perhaps preserve the whole grain of the hide, which it does. The problem arises given that not all leather includes full-grain leather, despite what you may believe. Actually, a shocking amount of leather—particularly the kind used to manufacture bags—is not. Additionally, the selling cost is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the leather's quality.

Who makes good use of split leather products?

The use of split leather varies by individual and industry. The most common use for split leather is in the creation of saddles. But what is split leather? Split leather refers to the process of removing the upper-most part of the animal's hide, which includes the hair. It has many other uses as well, including for handbags or clothing.

The splitting simply cut nicely, creating a super-flat surface on the new "top" of the Split and the backside of the full-grain piece. Now that the grain has been removed, the Split can also be utilized as leather, although it is considerably more delicate than before. The split leather must maintain a decent thickness to be used because it is significantly less robust and, therefore, can tear easily without the grain layer's tightly packed fiber structure. However, its fresh, top surface might be thoroughly treated to enhance its look.

The Split may be made to seem approximately like full-grain leather by covering it with a couple of layers of pigment, or more often, a polymeric painting or polyurethane (PU) coating that could also be embossed with a grain pattern. In the 1950s, with the invention of the electric splitting machine, we saw the first widespread application of these splits in school satchels, which each student possessed. Today, we see items ranging from this "satchel leather" to saffiano or croc designs that are so lifelike they are nearly impossible to tell from the genuine thing - but only when they are brand new.

Advantages of split leather

Splitting leather is a great way to recycle old materials, which can also save you money. It's also good for the environment, as it saves trees from being cut down and prevents less waste from going into landfills. Leather splitting is a simple process that anyone can do with just a few basic tools and supplies. The process takes about an hour or two and only requires one person.

Disadvantages of split leather

A major drawback of split leather is that it will start to dry out and shrink if not treated in time. This can cause the leather to crack, which makes it very difficult for the split leather to be used. Another problem with split leather is that it does not have as many uses as a whole piece of leather. Split pieces are often too small for anything but trimmings or craft projects.

If you want the best quality, you need to go for the whole piece of animal skin instead of splitting it up before you start working with it.

Cost of split leather vs. other options

You can get split leather for much less than other options like genuine leather, faux leather, or even recycled leather. The cost is about one-fifth the price of these other options! Leather splitting is also environmentally friendly since you are reusing old materials and reducing your impact on the planet.

Where can I buy it from if I want to learn more about the product myself?

Split leather is the layer between the top grain and the flesh of a hide. It is a natural byproduct of tanning that can be used for many purposes, including bookbinding, upholstery and more. So what is split leather? Is it the same as splitting leather? If you're curious, we've got answers!

Split leather is also referred to as split cowhide. The term is used when referring to the layer of material in a cowhide that sits between the top grain and flesh. It's called this because it can easily be separated from the rest of the hide using a splitting knife or blade. Leather splitting means removing this material from other parts of a hide for use in other products.


Split leather is a term for the process of separating the outer layer from the inner layers to make leather lighter and thinner. The word Split is an archaic usage, but it can be understood as meaning to separate or to divide.

Split leather is used in many industries, including fashion, furniture and upholstery, auto parts, shoes and boots, horse tack and saddles, etc. It has many different meanings depending on where it's used.

So what does split leather mean? It's a term for the process of separating the outer layer from the inner layers to make leather lighter and thinner. Split leather is used in many industries, including fashion, furniture and upholstery, auto parts, shoes and boots, horse tack and saddles.

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