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Understanding a Leather Side

know-your-leather-side Note: Tanners trim the side and cut some of the fleshy leg pockets out, but some may remain. The dotted line indicates the area that may need to be trimmed, depending on the side.

Before you begin any leather project, it is important to understand the different parts of a side of leather and the benefits each of these parts can provide. There are four main parts in a leather side - the bend, the back, the neck and middle, and the belly.

The Bend
  • Thickest and firmest part of hide – at full thickness, it is 2-4 ounces thicker than rest of hide.
  • Best used where minimum stretch, firmness and durability are essential.
  • Fibers are thicker and more prone to cracking (be sure to temper in warm water before bending).
The Back
  • Very good quality.
  • Best buy for products which require length and durability with least amount of waste (e.g. reins, stirrup leathers, leashes, etc.).
  • Includes the areas of the bend and neck.
The Neck
  • Good quality, but may have more blemishes than the bend.
  • Neck area may have more barbed wire scratches and natural fat wrinkles.
  • Tanners make special efforts to smooth out the wrinkles, but depending on the age of the animal, they may still be visible.
  • Has as much tensile strength (ability to stretch without tearing) as the bend, sometimes more.
The Belly
  • Fibers are softer and looser than in other parts of the side.
  • Often considered the “waste” section of the side – but it can be very useful for a variety of purposes.
  • Sewn to the back of a bend, neck or middle, it provides comfort and has all the strength of the piece it is sewn to.

P r o c e s s i n g . . .