Top Grain is different than Full Grain leather. Top grain and full grain are both the outer portion of the cowhide, it is soft, durable and beautiful when tanned. If the grain surface has not been altered or corrected to remove natural characteristics during the tanning process, then it is also called full grain, because the top grain retains its natural characteristics (full grain). Therefore, top grain can be altered/corrected, or the top grain can be full grain which has not been altered or corrected.
Natural characteristics of top grain full grain leather
Natural characteristics (full grain) consist of range marks plus skin differences within in the hide. Range marks occur on the skin of the cow as it is raised on the open range. These range marks can be scars due to rubbing against barb wire fences or sharp edges of gates or trailers. Range marks can be scars due to run-ins with other cow horns, or scars from insect bites, or scars from ranch brands. Other natural characteristics (full grain) of a hide are found within the hide itself. Each cow hide is large, approximately 50 square feet. Different areas of the hide will have different skin consistencies, such as; fat loose skin of the neck, fat loose skin and belly, tight skin of the back and legs. These differences make the grain appearance to be slightly different. Cow hides tanned in a manner that retain all the skins natural characteristics are called a full grain cowhide.
Characteristics of top grain corrected leather
Top grain leather that has been altered or corrected is leather that retains its softness, durability, and beauty. During the tanning process the outer portion of the skin surface has been lightly buffed or sanded to remove all-natural characteristics of range marks and skin variations. Then a more uniform grain is applied by pressing, rolling or stamping using pressure and heat. The result is a top grain leather that has a uniform grain because all range marks and skin variations have been removed.
Coloration of Top Grain and Full Grain leather
Color applied during the tanning process can be done in three general methods. One method is to apply a color pigment to the surface of the grain. Another method is to soak the hides in vats of aniline color dye, so the color penetrates throughout the skin. Another method is to combine both the above, soak throughout the skin plus add a pigment to the surface of the grain. Each method serves a purpose and a desired result. Typically, top grain “corrected” leathers always include a pigmented surface. Typically, top grain full grain leather (not corrected), has color applied throughout the skin, some may also have the addition of a pigment applied to the surface.
Surface protection on Top Grain and Full Grain leather
During the tanning process a surface protection will be added to some of the leathers. Typically, protection is applied to all top grain corrected leathers, and to some full grain leathers. This is a surface protection to resist scratches, stains and fading from sunlight. This surface protection can be either a matt or shiny finish. If you have an active family with kids or pets and do not want to see scratches, then a protected leather is best. If the furniture will receive daily sunlight, and you do not want it to fade, then a protected leather is best. If you have a full grain leather with no surface pigment, and do not have an active family or direct sunlight, then you go either way, with protection or no protection. A true leather connoisseur will not want the added surface protection as they want to feel the true essence of the leather.
Be sure to learn how to buy the best leather sofa that is made in America. In addition to the above information, click here for additional Top Grain leather information or here for additional Leather Information
or here for Characteristics of Quality Leather.