Leather is a material used in upholstery that is one of the strongest known to man while offering a quality of comfort of luxury for many, many years of service.
Catalina Custom Upholstery takes the craftsmanship of leather upholstery very serious because of the monetary investment by the consumers. Leather is the most expensive material that can be purchased for upholstery. Suppliers for leather are not chosen for price, but for quality. If the job criteria permits, Catalina Custom will first suggest leather from suppliers that uses tanneries that has the latest technologies in aniline dyeing* and finishing, and uses primarily European hides. European animals have more land for grazing and hence there are generally fewer of the less appealing types of natural markings* like scars on the hides from barbed wire cuts and urine stains. An example of a situation where it is out of our control on the supplier of leather and the standards of hide quality is if leather is needed for an original automotive material replacement. Then Catalina Custom has to rely on the quality standards of the automotive manufacturers. What would have been in the automobile in the dealer showroom is what will be used in the replacement.
Catalina Custom also offers multiple leather / vinyl matching programs. These are advantageous when building complete interiors. Constructing seating that incorporates leather to sit on when settled into a seat then using a matching vinyl for the upholstery "trim" can hold down cost. The area of a seat that a consumer touches when sitting is called the "facing" of a seat. In the diagram above, the area of the hide that is labeled "A" is the prime part of the hide - the area of the hide that will hold the most consistent grain and have the softest hand*. This is the back and the sides and is what is used for the facing and the predominant sides of a seat - the trim. Less prominent trim panels (patterned sections of the sides of a seat) are also laid out getting into the "B" sections - or the belly sections. This area is not as good a quality as the back and sides. The flank part of the hide is the least quality part.

When dealing with animals, they grow to different sizes. Hence, hides come in different sizes. Hides are sold by the square foot in full, half (cut from the neck to the butt as seen in the photo to the left - two half hides laid side by side) and quarter hides (some supplier's only sell half hides as a minimum). Hides on the average are 50 sq. ft. and generally run from 48 - 54 sq. ft. Neck to butt can be about 7' with 6' across. In the case of needing just enough leather to replace a damaged panel with an original matching leather for a late model automobile, leather can also be purchased by the square inch.
Catalina Custom also offers unique leather / skin options that include original automotive, original automotive perforated leather, woven leather, embossed leather, sheepskin and natural non-tanned hides for display. Custom colors can also be setup with the suppliers for dyeing. Different suppliers have different purchasing requirements and cost for custom colors. An example: Original automotive leather matching - if a color is no longer available, the setup requirements to attain the leather in the needed color would be an initial setup fee of $130.00 with a five hide minimum purchase.

Leather is a natural material that with little care will give years of quality use. The areas of concern with upholstery leather is:

1)Where a person would be in contact with the area of the skin more time than any other place. This is where a person would be perspiring on the leather. People have different chemical balances in their body's and some have more of an acidic makeup. As seen with vinyl, when one perspires consistently on one area, that area will become discolored and hard. This is seen also with leather. Leather being a more durable material it does take longer. The best way to counter act this process is to clean the leather with a mild soap and water on a weekly basis. It is also recommended that once every three months condition the leather with a good quality leather conditioner.

2) When cleaning, pay careful attention to creases and remove dust and dirt in them.

3) Do not saturate leather with water or any other type of liquid. Leather when saturated with water or other liquid will shrink when drying.

4) Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasive surfaces to clean leather.

5) Automobile seating is a type of upholstery that has unique wear characteristics. When one gets in and out of an automobile, one part of the seat (the outside sections next to a door on the front seats) will receive the major part of the wear. This is where one will see welt cords split and material separate at the seams. The only way to help with this problem is to keep the leather conditioned (keeping the leather soft with oil or a hide food) and trying not to rub the seat excessively when entering or exiting the vehicle.

6) The seat facing that gets the most consistent use (as in a drivers seat in a automobile) and can develop a patina* (buffed) effect. Without consistent, proper care using the correct cleaners and conditioners, this can start to develop in just a few years of wear.

Catalina Custom only purchases leather on a per need basis with a deposit for materials. Leather cost varies from supplier to supplier. A basic good quality black hide usually starts out in the $6.00 to $7.00 sq. ft. range and upwards of $13.00 sq. ft. for top quality European hides with grain and color selections. Catalina Custom does not stock leather hides with "specials". A good rule is you get what you pay for and these "special" (priced) hides' needs to be carefully scrutinized for quality.
* Leather glossary on technical terms - click here - Note: link will open up new page

The seat example on this page may also be viewed as a completed job in the Showcase Gallery.
See 1990 Chrysler Convertible leather seating.