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Frequently Asked Questions.

Welcome to our collection of frequently asked questions! If you don't find an answer here, contact us today!
First, simply dust the book with a dry, clean, lint-free cloth. Leather will absorb moisture and may become stained if water is used to clean the Bible. If the Bible cover is still dirty, use a small amount of saddle soap and a clean, lint-free cloth to clean the leather.

The best way to keep the Bible cover oiled is to simply use it! If you are handling your Bible regularly, there is no need to oil a leather Bible cover. The oils from your hands that are transferred to the cover as you handle your Bible are typically sufficient to keep the leather moisturized. If a conditioning product must be used, mink oil or leather conditioners such as Lexol are best.
The most common reasons for a leather Bible cover to become stiff is due to improper storage and lack of use. If the Bible’s cover is stiff and dry but not cracked, it is possible to soften it using a few different methods.

Mink Oil
Mink oil takes a little longer than the other methods listed here, but it produces great results. First saturate a rag with the oil. Thoroughly apply it to the leather cover, using a circular motion for even distribution. Give the oil a couple of days to fully absorb into the leather, then remove any excess with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Coconut Oil
The trick for using coconut oil is to ensure that the leather is warm before applying the oil to it. You can either let it sit out in the sun for several minutes or use an external heat source, such as a hairdryer, to get the surface warm.

From there, use a spoonful of coconut oil. Spread the oil around, rubbing it into the surface of the leather. Make sure to get total coverage, rubbing in even, circular motions. It is important to note that using coconut oil will darken the shade of the leather.

Leather Conditioners
If you don’t want to use oils, there are commercial leather care conditioners that will work to soften leather. These products are lanolin-based and are typically safe for leather use. Follow the directions that come with the leather conditioning products.
Bonded leather is different from real leather in almost every way. Bonded leather is made up of 10% - 20% real leather scraps. These leather scraps are bound together with a polyurethane binding agent onto a paper backing. The resulting product is then treated to more closely resemble a leather hide.

Bonded leather can resemble real leather in look and feel, but the deeper attributes are divergent from one another. One of the drawbacks to bonded leather is that it contains more chemical additives than that real leather, and as such, it can become a respiratory irritant to individuals who suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions. Also, this type of leather begins to break down much faster than real leather and is harder to repair.

The bonding between leather scraps eventually weakens and begins to break down. The only options are to either replace the material altogether or to hire a professional leather repair service. Real leather does not easily separate at the level of the fibers of the material, and with general leather maintenance, it will last for many decades.
Compared with real leather, bonded leather has a very short lifespan. Bonded leather is prone to peeling and cracking, typically within two to five years, and once it has deteriorated beyond a certain point it is impossible to repair. Although bonded leather may be cheaper than real leather, its short lifespan means that in the long run the cost of replacing a bonded leather cover can be more expensive than real leather.
Faux leather is also known as polyurethane leather or PU leather. It is not real leather, but instead is a completely artificial leather made of thermoplastic polymer. It is not as durable as real leather, but it is more durable than bonded leather. This type of leather isn’t breathable, and it can easily puncture and crack over time. Unlike bonded leather, however, it can be resistant to stains and is fade resistant. If you are looking for a vegan leather, 100 percent PU leather is a great option.
Genuine leather, also referred to as real leather, is the lowest grade of natural leather. It is taken from the lower, thinner layer of the animal’s hide that sits next to the animal’s flesh. The surface is then reworked to resemble a higher-grade leather. It is not as tough as either full grain leather or top grain leather, but it is considerably more durable than bonded leather. Genuine leather may also be called split leather, since the lower layer has been split apart from the upper layer of the hide.
Top grain leather is the second highest grade of natural leather. It comes from the top layer of the animal’s hide. On top grain leather products, the outermost layer of the hide is removed. Once the outermost layer is removed, the leather is sanded and refinished. The sanding process allows the tannery to remove imperfections that may exist, resulting in a pristine-looking (yet weaker than full-grain) leather. The best quality top grain leathers that have been sanded and buffed the least may develop a patina as they age.
Full grain leather is the highest grade of natural leather. Like top grain leather, full grain leather comes from the top layer of the animal’s hide, but with full grain leather the outermost layer, which contains the hide’s natural grain, is not removed. This makes full grain leather the strongest and most durable type of leather. With full grain leather, hair is removed from the animal’s hide and the hide immediately goes into the tanning process. The result is a somewhat less-pristine looking leather, but one that retains its original characteristics. Full grain leather is the only type of leather that will always develop a patina as it ages, improving its aesthetic look while retaining its strength.
The strongest and most durable part of an animal’s hide is the area just below the hair. As a raw hide, the whole thickness of skin is comprised of three key layers. The innermost ‘flesh’ layer contains a tight structure of fibers, making a strong inner skin for the animal. The middle layer, which forms the greatest thickness of the hide, is called the corium. The fibers in this layer are more disorganized and open, because its purposes are to provide nutrition to the outermost layer and to be a cushioned barrier for the animal. The top layer is what we see on the outside, and is called the grain. The fibers in the top layer are tightly knit to provide a resilient surface. When a tannery splits a hide, the bottom portion of the hide is known as split leather while the top portion becomes either top grain leather or full grain leather.

The main difference between top grain leather and full grain leather involves the processing of the leather. With top grain leather, the outermost layer of the hide is sanded and buffed to remove imperfections. This gives top grain leather a more uniform finish, but it isn’t quite as durable as full grain leather. Full grain leather is not sanded and buffed, so it keeps these imperfections and retains maximum durability.

Top grain and full grain leather are the only types to contain the most durable portion of the hide, so these types of leather are the best to have as a Bible cover.
In a word, yes! When properly cared for, a high-quality, leather-bound Bible can last for generations and be an heirloom. Not all leathers are of the same quality, however. Here are seven of the most commonly used leathers used in binding Bibles, from poorest to best quality.

Bonded Leather
Bonded leather is the poorest quality of the leathers with which Bibles are covered. It is cheaper, easier to produce, and sort of functions like real leather. Please see the FAQ questions “What is bonded leather, and is it the same as real leather?” and “Is bonded leather durable?” for a more in-depth discussion about the quality and longevity of this grade of leather.

Genuine Leather
Genuine leather is usually pigskin, although it sometimes comes from the lower, thinner layer of a cowhide. It has the cheapest cost, and therefore is one of the most popular of real leathers. Genuine leather covers are usually stiff and not as soft and flexible as better-quality leathers. Genuine leather that is made from pigskin is also known as Berkshire leather. See the FAQ question “What is genuine leather?” for more information about this grade of leather.

French Morocco Leather / Split Leather
Split leather, also known as French Morocco leather, is taken from a sheep skin, calf, or cowhide split hide. It is slightly thinner than higher quality grades of leather, so it is relatively flexible and soft even when new. Split/French Morocco leather offers a good quality natural leather at an economical price.

Top grain or full grain cowhide leather is a great quality yet economical leather choice. It is made from the top portion of the hide. While not as soft and flexible as calfskin or sheepskin, it is a good blend of economy and quality. Most of the Bibles we rebind at Schaeffner Co come from either top grain or full grain cowhide. See the FAQ questions “What is top grain leather?” and “What is full grain leather?” for a more in-depth look at these grades of natural leather.

Calfskin is a premium top grain or full grain leather used for finer bindings. It is unusually soft and flexible, with both softness and flexibility increasing with use. While not as economical as cowhide, calfskin is a favorite of bookbinders. At Schaeffner Co, we have done some calfskin rebinds. We typically use this material upon customer request.

Sheepskin / Lambskin
Sheepskin is known to be the softest of all premium leathers. This leather is extremely soft and supple; with the passage of time, sheepskin leather will get even softer and smoother. Sheepskin, however, is not as durable as either cowhide or goatskin.

For thousands of years, the native peoples of northern Nigeria processed goatskin hides by using methods developed over generations. Once finished, these hides would be transported over the Sahara Desert to Morocco, where they would then be sold and distributed to the ancient world. From this origin, top grain and full grain goatskin came to be known as Morocco leather.

Goatskin is a very resilient top quality natural grain leather. It is both strong and supple and is used in the finest bindings. We at Schaeffner Co do occasionally use Sully goatskins with both new Bible covers and re-bindings. It is a great option and makes a beautiful cover!
If price is no object, full grain goatskin is considered the best for a Bible’s outer cover. A full grain goatskin is relatively thin when compared to cowhide leather, so it is easier to utilize the full skin when making the cover.

Again, if price is secondary to look and feel, full grain sheepskin is an outstanding choice for a Bible’s cover. It is the softest of all premium leathers, but it is less durable than goatskin, calfskin, or cowhide.

Calfskin is less costly than goatskin or sheepskin, yet it is still soft, durable and of excellent quality. It is softer and thinner than cowhide, simply because calves are smaller than grown cows and have naturally softer and thinner hides. It is also more durable than sheepskin. Other than goatskin, full grain or top grain calfskin is typically considered the best quality leather to use for rebinding Bibles.

Full grain and top grain cowhide contain the best combination of economy and quality. Full grain cowhide is usually thicker and less flexible than top grain cowhide, but it is typically a little better quality than top grain cowhide. Top grain leather is usually nearly as good in quality as full grain leather, yet it is more economical than full grain leather. Since top grain leather is the top part of split leather, it is naturally thinner and more flexible than full grain leather. This makes top grain leather a very popular, high-quality option for Bible binding.

At Schaeffner Co, we make our Rugged Leather series Bible covers from veg-tanned, full grain cowhide leather. We also use veg-tanned, full-grain cowhide leather for both the outer cover and inner liner on our Premium Veg-Tanned Leather series Bible covers. For our Pebbled Leather and Cross series Bible covers, we use a chrome-tanned top grain cowhide leather for both the outer cover and the liner.