June 04, 2021 5 min read
Before any investment, you want to understand the contours of what you’re buying. You want to be sure that everything’s going to work out and minimize the risk involved as much as possible. A leather wallet is no different.
Before you carry it with you every day, you want to be aware of what it’s going to look like, how it’s going to fit in your pocket, and what it will be like if it becomes essential to your daily activities.
You don’t want a wallet that has the bulk of a carriage and looks like it could carry a couple of horses inside too, and you don’t want a wallet that’s too heavy lest a similar problem arise and you are forced to violently plunder it from your pocket every time.
By the end of this, you will understand how leather thickness and weight are measured and they each correspond to one another. With this information, you’ll be able to understand why we choose to make our wallets with the thickness we do and why we believe this is ideal.
Leather is usually measured with notched wood, a metal caliper that secures the leather between 2 points that determine its thickness, or a laser sensor in commercial tanneries. For starters, leather thickness is measured in ounces. It seems odd at first but it will make sense in just a second.
Each ounce equals 1/64” or .4mm depending on if you are using Imperial or UK measurements. Because leather is the skin of an animal and not a piece of curated steel, its surface is naturally variegated, meaning that its thickness may not remain consistent throughout the entire hide.
Oftentimes, this is due to the tanning process which can change the thickness of the leather because of the chemical process and drying involved. Additionally, each hide is split into different layers, and because of the splitting of the hides, the thickness can change throughout the entirety of the piece.
To accommodate the discrepancies in the hide, leather weights are provided in ranges, like 3-4oz. Knowing this is key to understanding why leather is measured in the way that it is. For instance, a 16oz leather thickness will be 1/4” or 6.4mm thick and a 20oz piece of the hide will be 5/16” or 8mm thick.
Why are we measuring leather in ounces in the first place? This practice has been more than commonplace in the textile and fashion industry. So the designers and tailors will have a better knowledge of the thickness of their fabric, they measure materials like cotton muslin or cotton canvas in ounces per square yard.
Despite leather being significantly denser than any cotton fabric intended for clothing, the logic is the same in principle. Again, this is limited to the imperial system found in America and not commonly used in any other part of the world.
As we mentioned before, the involved process of leather tanning, no matter if it’s chromium or vegetable tanning, can affect the continuity of the hide’s thickness throughout. This and the multiple different systems of measurement used all over the world required leather tanners to invent a secret language of sorts.
The result is what we now call Irons, a very niche but imperative measurement for leather workers, acting as a universal language for measuring leather thickness so that no matter where one tanner is in the world their measurements can be communicated clearly to others in the industry.
The advantage is that everyone knows what they’re selling and everyone knows what they’re buying. Admittedly, Irons, like leagues, is undeniably an archaism, but it sounds very prestigious, and thus for its effect alone should persist in usage. So what is an Iron?
Traditionally, Irons are used by cobblers to measure shoes but the rules apply to all types of leather. Since the unit has been around for hundreds of years, it makes sense that actual Iron ingots were used to formulate a consistent thickness, similar to how we think of the legends surrounding measuring in “feet.” An Iron is equal to 1/48”, so a leather that is 4 Irons thick would be 4/48” or 1/12” to make things simple.
America is often blamed for being behind in the game of measurements and the accusation is not without evidence. Throughout the rest of the world, the unit of millimeters is more common. It forms an integral part of the metric system in contrast to the American imperial system.
Each millimeter is equal to one-thousandth of one meter. Far more often than with Irons, you will find leather measured according to millimeters (thank goodness). Unlike ounces and Irons, you can take millimeters at face value. They are, in a way, more honest. Leather that is .4mm thick is, as it happens, .4mm thick. Leather that is .6mm thick is .6mm thick. No conversions. No games.
Now that you know that leather is measured in ranges, say, from 2-3oz (.8mm-1.2mm thick), let’s take a quick look at how that applies. Typically, leather that ranges from 1-2oz in thickness includes watch bands, shoes, bookmarks, and thin wallets. 2-3oz include normal wallets and other upholsteries for furniture.
In 3-4oz, you will often find thicker wallets, handbags and purses, and thicker upholstery. 5-6oz is commonly used for boots, knife sheaths, keychains, and aprons. As leather thickness increases from 7-150z, you will find heavier and thicker versions of all the above along with duffle bags, backpacks, and belts.
Now that you’re an expert on leather thickness, you can crosscheck what type of product you’re looking for, be it a heavy-duty wallet, sleek card carrier, or durable leather bag. At Andar, all our products are made from the highest quality premium grade full-grain leather. It comes from the top layer of the hide exclusively and is sourced from the same piece of leather, rather than a foreign mixture concocted from all sorts of different leathers.
You now know the ins and outs of the process behind measuring leather thickness, how to convert ounces into millimeters, what range means (and how to measure it in Irons if you’d like to show off in front of your friends), and what types of products correspond to different leather thicknesses. You could even measure leather by yourself if you wanted to! We’re unsure whether we should’ve trusted you with that much information, but at Andar, you’re safe with us. Just don’t tell anyone we told you.