Buying Cowhides: sizes and thickness.

Buying Cowhides: sizes and thickness.

If you have ever bought leather, you will notice that there are various measurements available, be it in ounces or millimetres, even inches. You then have the option of a whole hide, or a side, a shoulder and more. This can be rather confusing to many, so sit back and read on as we delve into the different options and which one might be more suitable for you.


Cowhide shapes and thicknesses To begin with, let's talk about thickness. Generally speaking, for those buying in the UK, especially with Walter Reginald, thickness is the main measurement we account for. Our leather is measured in millimetres - we generally give a range with an allowance of 0.2mm per sqft. The thickness is an important factor to bear in mind when stitching your leather as you need to make sure your machine and your needles are suitable enough to stitch through.

On the other hand, buying from the USA, you might find that your leather is measured in ounces - however this has nothing to do with the weight, this is in fact a measurement of linear thickness. If you take a look at the photo displayed right at the very top, you will see the ounces correlate to thicknesses of leather. Measurements in ounces take into account the type of leather used, the amount of dye used and how much oil the skin might hold. To summarise this, the larger value in ounces, the thicker the leather.

Finally you may also find some merchants sell leather in inches. This is the same as measurements in millimetres so nothing different there, just another thing to bear in mind when picking leather for your project.

Now referring back to the image, you will see all the different parts of the skin available to purchase. Leather at Walter Reginald is generally sold in square feet (sqft) but some of our European sourced skins may be measured in square meters (sqm). If you ever need to convert this, generally speaking 1sqm = 10.764sqft. However, if you are buying in Italy, the conversion rate is slightly different where 1sqm = 11.11sqft.

When buying cow leather (bovine), the largest available size is a full hide. Depending on the origin of the raw material, the breed and the age of the animal, this has been known to range from anywhere between 30sqft to a whopping 65sqft. European hides generally measure larger and are best suited to upholstery as the large sizes allow for cutting panels without needing many seams.

A cow side is simply half a cowhide (cut from neck to butt) and you will find skins available from 15sqft to 25sqft. Although it is possible to get sides available in 30sqft - this is more rare.

Cow shoulders are the top half of the cow skin, these generally come in at 10sqft or 20sqft depending on if you were to buy a single shoulder or a double. These sizes are generally available in vegtan skins and usually come in thicknesses of 2mm+. Great for belt making and other firm accessories.

Cow bend - generally 20-35sqft depending on single or double bend, again often finished as heavier veg-tans

Then you have cow bellies. These are supple, narrow but very long skins. Generally these skins come at approximately 10-15sqft. Great for glovemaking and garments with small panels. 

Finally the last part of a cowhide is the butt. Cow butts come in sizes between 15-20sqft. These skins are just like the shoulders and are offered usually in vegtan, sometimes with a chrome finish applied after for a nice smooth finish. Again just like shoulders, they are great for belts and other firm accessories. 

Hopefully this will help you to understand the different shapes and sizes available in cowhide. This guide is also useful for helping you identify the type of leather that will be suitable for you. For more information on how leather is tanned and details on the characteristics of leather skins; please read our Leather Buying Guide. 

Thanks for reading!

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