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View Full Version : printed vs smooth leather on saddles



pacificprima
Jan. 16, 2010, 01:18 PM
Ok so I'm looking at possibly getting a saddle that has printed leather, never had one with it before. It looks cheap compared to all of the beautiful smooth leather that I've owned before. So I'm wondering what benefits this type of leather has.

Can someone please enlighten me on the pros/cons of printed leather? How does it wear? Does it become smooth over time? More grip? Harder to clean (yeah I like things super clean :winkgrin:) because of the pores? Anything else that comes to mind?

I'm not worried about the actual quality of the saddle its a highend brand that I trust and currently have one in a different size, so I'm just wondering about the leather itself. I was not aware that they came with this option, usually I've just seen the regular and calf...so would it be a downgrade of sorts for me?
It makes me think of all the dime a dozen crosbys out there....which thinking about it they're still holding up...help please.

PROTACKGUY
Jan. 16, 2010, 01:49 PM
Well all leather starts out smooth. Even full grain leather is essentially smooth with tiny hair cells in it.

Printed or grained leather is a process that is applied to near finished leather wherby they "print" the grain look onto a piece of the leather.
The print or grain serves 3 functions.

[1] A printed/grained leather has a different look than a smooth leather, so it may be preferable if you like that look.

[2] A printed/grain leather can have more grip than a smooth leather. Some people prefer that, although a well oiled smooth leather can be just as grippy. However, a brand new printed leather saddle can be a bit less slippery at first.

[3] The principle reason that leathers are printed or grainded is economic. The process covers up cosmetic, not structural imperfections in the leather, like minor scarrring or surface blemishes. While this may sound trite, printing or graining allows a saddler to use a piece of leather that is not quite cosmetically perfect. The only other option other than printing a grain finish for this piece of leather is to throw it away, and the saddler loses a bunch of money or leave the imperfections in. However not many people want to plunk down cash for saddle with scars, streaks or other blemishes in it.

Smooth leather usually costs alot more than printed or grained leather because it is very hard to find a piece of leather large enough to use on a saddle without blemishes. Supply and demand keep the price up. One scar from a piece of barbwire can literally make a hide of leather unusable for a smooth leather saddle. However, roll a grain print over it and it looks great and the saddler can use the leather that he/she already paid for.. Maybe 1 out of 10 hides is clean enought to use for smooth leather.

Does it make a real difference to riding ? Some say yes , some say no. It would be interesting to hear what the COTH riders say about it.

Dakotawyatt
Jan. 16, 2010, 09:38 PM
It may be a coincidence, but my grained leather saddle is WAY grippier than my smooth leather saddle was. Bought an HDR about 12 years ago brand new; it was smooth leather. That thing was slippery until the day I sold it, about 5 years ago. My new saddle is a BdH, and a couple of months later, it is SO nice and grippy. I've oiled it several times with olive oil, and the leather is just beautiful. It DID look "cheaper" at first, but since oiling it, looks very supple and nice.

mvp
Jan. 16, 2010, 11:17 PM
I'm a fan of printed leather.

Along with printed-leather saddles of both the French and English persuasions, I've had two smooth ones. The first is very nice AGA Grand Prix and the second is a less-nice Bates Caprilli, but made in Austrialia, not Vietnam.

Both smoothies got grease jockeys-- little pebbles or strips of smegma-like dirt on the flaps under my leg. Yes, you can get them off with normal tack cleaning but it takes a little more work and skill. All things being equal, I wouldn't choose leather that required this step and more frequent serious cleanings.

ktm2007
Jan. 16, 2010, 11:23 PM
Well all leather starts out smooth. Even full grain leather is essentially smooth with tiny hair cells in it.

Printed or grained leather is a process that is applied to near finished leather wherby they "print" the grain look onto a piece of the leather.
The print or grain serves 3 functions.

[1] A printed/grained leather has a different look than a smooth leather, so it may be preferable if you like that look.

[2] A printed/grain leather can have more grip than a smooth leather. Some people prefer that, although a well oiled smooth leather can be just as grippy. However, a brand new printed leather saddle can be a bit less slippery at first.

[3] The principle reason that leathers are printed or grainded is economic. The process covers up cosmetic, not structural imperfections in the leather, like minor scarrring or surface blemishes. While this may sound trite, printing or graining allows a saddler to use a piece of leather that is not quite cosmetically perfect. The only other option other than printing a grain finish for this piece of leather is to throw it away, and the saddler loses a bunch of money or leave the imperfections in. However not many people want to plunk down cash for saddle with scars, streaks or other blemishes in it.

Smooth leather usually costs alot more than printed or grained leather because it is very hard to find a piece of leather large enough to use on a saddle without blemishes. Supply and demand keep the price up. One scar from a piece of barbwire can literally make a hide of leather unusable for a smooth leather saddle. However, roll a grain print over it and it looks great and the saddler can use the leather that he/she already paid for.. Maybe 1 out of 10 hides is clean enought to use for smooth leather.

Does it make a real difference to riding ? Some say yes , some say no. It would be interesting to hear what the COTH riders say about it.

I just had this conversation with David Stackhouse today. He came out to fit myself and my horses, and I was asked if I wanted smooth or printed leather. I asked what the differences were, and he gave me basically the same answer as above!

superpony123
Jan. 17, 2010, 01:26 AM
i would say grain leather is economically friendly for the saddle maker, and thus its cheaper for you to buy. its harder for the saddle maker to find leather that has no imperfections in it to use for a smooth leather saddle. this is why they cost more. some would say that their grain saddles were more grippy, but ive ridden in both and i feel my smooth calfskin saddle is actually a little grippier, but this is just me. it is prob. also because the other saddles didnt fit me perfectly, but there is something 'glossy' about a grained leather flap, i find, sometimes. depends on how worn it is and the finish.

gottagrey
Jan. 18, 2010, 01:31 AM
I don't think "printed" leather looks any cheaper than smooth leather - Good quality tack is good quality tack. I've seen some cheap looking saddles w/ smooth leather too. I'm a proponent of what fits you, what fits your horse and what fits your budget... then worry about smooth vs printed leather...Some of the smooth leathers, I think it's calf, is usually more expensive because it is so soft and supple but that comes w/ a downside being that it can wear out sooner than full grain or "printed" leather. My first new saddle was smooth and man I was an accident waiting to happen in that thing - soo slippery until it wore in. Then I got a Pessoa GenX (printed) which I felt comfortable and secure in from the get go; now I have a smooth Bates. Several people at my barn just got new Devacouxs I will have to see if they are smooth or printed - I think they might be "printed" and they do not look (and were not) cheap at all.

PROTACKGUY
Jan. 18, 2010, 12:14 PM
i would say grain leather is economically friendly for the saddle maker, and thus its cheaper for you. its harder for the saddle maker to find leather that has no imperfections in it to use for a smooth leather saddle. this is why they cost more. some would say that their grain saddles were more grippy, but ive ridden in both and i feel my smooth calfskin saddle is actually a little grippier, but this is just me. it is prob. also because the other saddles didnt fit me perfectly, but there is something 'glossy' about a grained leather flap, i find, sometimes. depends on how worn it is and the finish.

Printed leather covers a lot of ground.
At its best the print is applied to a great piece of leather and it provides the texture or it may cover up some minor blemishes.
This is a light print with no fillers or resins.
Other times the word printed leather is used for the leathers that are highly corrected or fixed up and a plastic type coating is applied along with the print to cover up really bad leather. This resin or plastic coating is often referred to as a painted on finish. It is like taking a piece of wood with all sorts of faults and painting it to look good. However, unlike wood the painted finish tends not to take oil, often never breaks in and does not achieve the beautiful pantina that a nice piece of leather will achieve.

mvp
Jan. 18, 2010, 12:29 PM
Since we are on the topic.

There will be no wire hangers.

THERE WILL BE NO COLOR CORRECTED LEATHER of any texture.

pacificprima
Jan. 21, 2010, 02:24 AM
ok so I thought they were cheaper for a reason, and now its confirmed. Thanks so much for the help!


really confused about mvp's response though...am I missing something?