I’m compiling my own catalog of example hide marks as I run across them. So far I’m seeing mostly measurement marks. I have seen a few wrinkled areas, but none that photographed well. Leather Dictionary, on the other hand, has an excellent reference on natural markings.
For measurement marks, if it’s not obvious what it means (e.g. the m2 is a great bet to be square meters), you can lay a measuring tape on the hide and do your own calculations then try a few conversions until you reach one that seems viable.
A hide is marked 139 with each number underlined and this is the first time we’re seeing that mark style. How do we determine what it means?
We measure the hide with a tape and find it to be approximately 3′ x 5′, which is ~15 square feet (sf).
Now we try a few conversions, assisted by Google:
Square Inches (si)? There are 144 si per sf, so 15 x 144 = 2,160 si. Nope, not square inches.
Square Meters (m2)? There are 10.764 sf per m2, so 15 / 10.764 = 1.39 m2. Nope, not square meters but we’re on to something here.
Square Decimeters (dm2)? There are 100 dm2 per m2, so 1.39 / 100 = 139 dm2. Ah ha! Now we can feel pretty confident that this mark style from this manufacturer means square decimeters.
What about other or unknown manufacturers? Do a sanity check with each new source, and if you find the same mark meaning different things, notate those sourcing differences in your catalog of marks.
|Type ||Description ||Example |
|Life Happened -- These may appear on the grain side of the leather, go through the entire thickness, or only appear on the flesh side. Many leatherworkers consider many of these an opportunity for creativity, others consider them all wasted leather. For me it would rather depend on whether the mark adversely impacts structure or suitability for a particular use, and/or enhances or detracts from the desired finished appearance. If it's structurally sound but not right for a given project, I'd set it aside for future consideration.|
|Natural Marks |
|Scars -- Bites ||Bites (from insects or from other animals) happen, sometimes they scar the hide. |
|Scars -- Bumps, Burns, Holes, Growths, or Infections ||Manure burns, warts, fungus, abscesses, flies or other insects, or the like. Location and appearance highly variable. |
|Scars -- Scratches ||Will often be a jagged line of varying width and depth. Highly variable in location. These can come from rubbing against barbed wire, fighting with other cows, or other such things. |
|Stretch Marks ||Usually found on the belly area of cows who have carried young, but can be found in other places and on any gender or age cow. |
|Wrinkles (a.k.a. creases) ||Usually found on the neck area of adult cows, but can be found in other places and on any age cow. |
|Human-Induced Marks |
|Holes ||Ear tags, goad marks, and the like. |
|Scars -- Brands ||Some hides might have one or more brand marks. These are imprinted on the hide by various means (hot iron, cold iron) to show ownership. |
|Scars -- Burns ||Manure burns. As noted above these can be natural, but they can also be classified as human-induced if the manure remains on the cow's hide due to being confined in less-than-desirable conditions. |
|Scars -- Implants ||Scars left from impants, such as microchips. |
|Scars -- Surgical ||Will usually be a relatively straight line of fairly uniform width often accompanied by a series of suture scars. |
|Tattoos ||These are imprinted on the hide to show ownership. |
|Hide Processing Marks -- Just as with the "life happened" markings, these might or might not be desirable to showcase in the finished product.|
|Skinning, Tanning, Cutting, or Machining Marks |
|Holes, Slices, Tears, Compressed or "Burst" areas, etc., from the processing of the skin into leather |
|Measurements Marks -- These typically appears on the flesh side of the hide. . |
|Square Decimeters ||stamped, underscore under every number, no punctuation, no label |
|Square Decimeters ||stamped, underscore preceeding first number, no punctuation, no label |
|Square Decimeters ||stamped, three horizontal bars stacked vertically preceeding first number, no punctuation, no label |
|Square Feet |
|Square Meters ||stamped, underscore preceeding first number, punctuated with comma, measurement clearly labeled as meters squared (m2) |
|Grade / Quality Marks -- These typically appears on the flesh side of the hide. |
|Grade 1 ||stamped, 1 for primary quality or grade 1; symbol preceding the 1 is unknown; second line is hide size measurement (in this case, square decimeters) |
|Grade 2 ||stamped, 2 for secondary quality or grade 2; ghost of a symbol preceding the 1 is unknown; second line is hide size measurement (in this case, square decimeters) |
|Unknown ||handwritten number, nothing else, no clue; vendor said "marks sometimes have no meaning" which is not true -- it had enough meaning to someone for it to be written onto the leather with permanent marker but what that meaning was did not get passed along through the supply chain so we'll probably never know (or, likely, even care once we decide it's not a measurement- or quality-related mark) |
|Unknown ||symbol, no clue what it means, appeared on two hides along with quality marks and with measurements in decimeters, from a vendor in Italy (in case the country of vendor makes a difference in tracking it down) |