Natural cowhides, specially dressed, and softened by a crimping action which pushes the fibres over each other so that they can slide easily giving the requisite suppleness, are extensively used in upholstery, and are commonly known as furniture-hides. They are slit from the tanned hides to a usual thickness of about 1/16 in (1.5 mm). pigmented or dyed, and dressed with a spray coat of synthetic lacquer.
Second quality hides are often grained between rollers. The grains can be heavy, medium or light textured, and are done either to accentuate the natural grain texture, or to even out the applied colour and to mask the inevitable defects which occur in every hide, i.e. barbed-wire weals and punctures of the 'prick' or warble fly which, it is estimated, cost the tanning industry millions each year in spoilt hides. The coloration can be an opaque dressing, sealed with a little gum arabic, or straight aniline dyes which penetrate the hide and yield a clearer finish than the heavy
30 Cowhide measurements
pigments which lie on the surface and tend to show as white cracks if the hide is heavily pulled or dressed. The advantage of leather, apart from its intrinsic beauty, is its tolerance of wetting, pulling and stretching over acute compound shapes, while it has a natural resilience which will accommodate considerable deflection. A typical cowhide will contain from 50 to 60 sq. ft (4.645 to 5.574 m2) measured out to all edges, and Figure 30 shows the dimensions to be expected from an average hide (the standard allowance for waste in cutting to final dimensions should not be less than 60 per cent). Goat-skins—Cape Levant, Morocco, Niger, etc.—are much smaller and more expensive, and usually reserved for table linings, small seatings, etc. They are either aniline or vegetable dyed, and native skins are invariably untextured. Skivers (sheep-skin), calf-skin, etc. are rarely used in furniture as they are more delicate and wear too easily. Shagreen (shark's skin) is only used in small panels for ornamental boxes, etc.; and occasionally other exotic leathers are used as fashion dictates, but cowhide and goat-skins are the mainstays, with plastic-coated cloths (leathercloths) a fair substitute. A description of table-lining methods is given in Chapter 33.
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