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Against the Grain

33-1729

Well-Known Member
Given the variety of posts about tanning and grain I think we’re bucketing together stuff that really needs to be split out for clarity. The type of hide and how it’s processed is a big factor. Just to consider one factor ...

The flying jacket leather thickness specification values I can find list 0.025” as a minimum to 0.045” as a maximum for goatskin, cowhide, and horsehide. Actual values documented in Mr. Eastman’s excellent book, Type A-2 Flight Jacket Identification Manual, show goatskin on the thin side, horsehide on the thick side and cowhide somewhere in the middle. I don’t know what the original horsehide specification said, but I would guess it was widened to include the thinner cowhide and goatskin when they needed to increase production output for the war.

Goatskin was last to be used on the A-2 because the skins were originally considered too thin, though it met the necessary success criteria for tensile strength, elongation, etc. The original full grain goatskin would not have been split, nor buffed and sanded into the smoother top grain as either treatment would make it even thinner (the specification 9-95 Leather, Goatskin (for Flying Clothing) specifically states "full grain, chrome tanned, dyed leather"). Top grain is weaker than the starting full grain leather too. So, for goatskin the pebble grain there is is the pebble grain you got.

Cowhide is split down for use, providing a uniform thickness and weight (like the ideal center of the thickness specification window when manufacturing large quantities, though a wee bit thicker is better from a strength perspective). The occasional smooth patches we see on cowhide may, in part, be from this additional processing. The specification 12028-C Leather, Cattle Hide (Chrome Tanned) specification also notes “holes, heeled grain scratches, scars, small brands and grub holes are permissible if the serviceability of the leather is not impaired thereby.” This allowance is unique to cowhide.

Horsehide doesn’t appear to be split down for use, but the specification 9-94 Leather, Pony Hide (Chrome Tanned) states the horsehide “shall be free from obvious imperfections”, i.e., no obvious holes, scratches or poor grain. So for horsehide grain is good, but other defects are not. Cowhide appearance was permitted to vary quite a bit with even scarring permitted, so this is a key difference between cowhide and horsehide.

There are lots of variations across the thousands of jackets produced, but I would think the best heavy pebble grain chance was with horsehide or goatskin and then do you want a thicker or thinner jacket? (A horsehide jacket could be 80% thicker than an equivalent goatskin jacket.) Comments on this site suggest thicker original horsehide is preferred (or thick cowhide on reproductions). Yes?
 
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33-1729

Well-Known Member
I have used goatskin for projects but I am not the biggest fan of goatskin.
Are you not a fan of goatskin because of the thickness or another reason?

I’m surprised someone hasn’t commented on chrome versus vegetable tanned leather yet. I know most on this site prefer the grainy/broken-in look of the original WWII chrome tanned jackets, but who could blame the reproduction manufacturers for using faster-to-age vegetable tanned leather when we whine about waiting a couple years for a new Good Wear? Patience doesn’t appear to be our virtue. Yes?
 

ausreenactor

Well-Known Member
Generally purchase horsehide new, there are more second hand horsehides available. The DD/GW Bronco was/is my only new goatskin A-2. And it has been in the box for years. Russet horsehide is my preference.
 

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
So I’m not the biggest fan of the pebbly grain of goat. I don’t mind using it for book covers I have done but I am actually a fan of a smooth leather jacket with some various grain and wrinkles here and there.
 

33-1729

Well-Known Member
So I’m not the biggest fan of the pebbly grain of goat. I don’t mind using it for book covers I have done but I am actually a fan of a smooth leather jacket with some various grain and wrinkles here and there.
That sounds like you prefer cowhide to me. :)
 
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jeremiah

Well-Known Member
I have a few hides on me of goat. Some veg tanned and some chrome tanned. Above represents what I was saying about the pebble like grain.
Below is veg tanned cow.

I’d say the difference is in the hand of the leather. One (goat) has a more supple feel and gives the impression it’s more fragile.
Like what has been said “bullet proof” about my Wallets and belts (cow), the feel and impression is much different and more to my personal tastes for a jacket.
 

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33-1729

Well-Known Member
I have a few hides on me of goat. Some veg tanned and some chrome tanned. Above represents what I was saying about the pebble like grain.
Below is veg tanned cow.

I’d say the difference is in the hand of the leather. One (goat) has a more supple feel and gives the impression it’s more fragile.
Like what has been said “bullet proof” about my Wallets and belts (cow), the feel and impression is much different and more to my personal tastes for a jacket.
Thanks for the pictures.

I heard that by looking at the edge of the leather you can distinguish between veg and chrome tanning, as veg tanned leather can get burnished edges but chrome tanned leather cannot. When I look at my early production ELC 33-1729 though, it looks chrome tanned with a semi-aniline finish and I don’t think it is. Is there another way to tell chrome from veg tanned leather?
 

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
Ok so a few ways I researched.
The Grayish middle is a good way.
Try and find a part of the leather where you can take your finger nail and impress it into the leather. Does it make a mark which stays? Like an impression? Chrome tanned leather cells are more saturated with chromium salts and will not hold the mark like veg tanned leathers will. This is why veg tanned leather can be tooled while chrome tanned leather really can’t in the same way.

Another test is the burn test. If you have a scrap piece you could try holding a flame to it. Chrome tanned leathers will tend to melt a little where as veg tanned leathers will tend to char up with prolonged exposure to flame.
That said. It’s not a perfect test as I have had some chrome tanned leather react like veg tanned with this test.
 

33-1729

Well-Known Member
Ok so a few ways I researched.
The Grayish middle is a good way.
Try and find a part of the leather where you can take your finger nail and impress it into the leather. Does it make a mark which stays? Like an impression? Chrome tanned leather cells are more saturated with chromium salts and will not hold the mark like veg tanned leathers will. This is why veg tanned leather can be tooled while chrome tanned leather really can’t in the same way.

Another test is the burn test. If you have a scrap piece you could try holding a flame to it. Chrome tanned leathers will tend to melt a little where as veg tanned leathers will tend to char up with prolonged exposure to flame.
That said. It’s not a perfect test as I have had some chrome tanned leather react like veg tanned with this test.
Thanks for the tips. From the nail test it still looks to be chrome tanned. Maybe the early ELC 33-1729 jackets were. They certainly seem to wear differently than the newer ones.

I know some of the moisture and other components of the leather are replaced during chrome tanning, so the veg tanned ones would retain more moisture and oils. This would imply that veg tanned products would, in general, be less susceptible to burning than chrome tanned products (like shown in the picture below), but I’m sure there’s a huge amount of variation across skin types and manufacturers.

Capture.JPG
 
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2BM2K

Well-Known Member
Horsehide doesn’t appear to be split down for use, but the specification 9-94 Leather, Pony Hide (Chrome Tanned) states the horsehide “shall be free from obvious imperfections”, i.e., no obvious holes, scratches or poor grain. So for horsehide grain is good, but other defects are not. Cowhide appearance was permitted to vary quite a bit with even scarring permitted, so this is a key difference between cowhide and horsehide.
The specification 9-94 is for pony hide, it is not the horse hide specification.

In equestrian terminology a pony is a horse of limited stature, typically less than 14.5 hands.

The horse hide specification number is US Army spec. 9-77-B. This is the spec referred to in one of the test documents, page 33.

As yet the original horse hide specification documents have not been found.
 

33-1729

Well-Known Member
The specification 9-94 is for pony hide, it is not the horse hide specification.

In equestrian terminology a pony is a horse of limited stature, typically less than 14.5 hands.

The horse hide specification number is US Army spec. 9-77-B. This is the spec referred to in one of the test documents, page 33.

As yet the original horse hide specification documents have not been found.
It’s confusing, but they actually used a few horsehide specifications over the years. In his excellent book, Mr. Eastman mentions three on page 30 alone (12015, 12030, and 9-77B). The 9-94 Leather, Pony Hide (Chromed Tanned) specification I mentioned superseded specification 12030 (on page 32).

Though we don’t have a copy of the specification 9-77B, we do have a good idea what was in it. Again from Mr. Eastman’s excellent book (page 33). The success criteria is listed for horsehide from specification 9-77B in the letter below, including the permitted thickness range of 0.025” to 0.045”.

9-77-B.JPG
 
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2BM2K

Well-Known Member
It is fairly straight forward to understand the numbering system.

There a the Gov't. spec number and a US Army spec number for the same document.

Gov't./US Army
12015/9-77-B for horse hide
12030/9-94 for pony hide

A pony is different to a horse, eg Shetland Pony against a shire horse.

The important point is that it is the horse hide document 12015B/9-77 used in the 1931 A2 jacket specification. This is the document which is of most interest but has not yet been found.
 

33-1729

Well-Known Member
Yes, pony is different to a horse. Both were used for production, hence the equivalent success criteria, but I don't know how one could possibly be identified from another in a garment. The A-2 94-3040 specification I had declassified and published does not list a specific horsehide leather specification, only that "horsehide leather" is used (note the silk and horsehide specs were struck out in a 1931 working version and both were omitted from all subsequent versions). An excerpt of the signed and dated 5-9-31 spec copy is below, showing both silk and horsehide specs were removed.

Capture.JPG
 
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