Buy Leather by the Piece v. by the Square Foot

Buying leather can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! The two most
common ways that leather is sold to crafters are by the square foot and by the piece. 

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There is a lot of discussion about which method is going to get you the most bang for your buck. While most distributors deal solely with selling pieces or pre-cuts, SLC also offers leather by the square foot. While none of these methods are bad, one tends to reign supreme depending on your needs. 

So, like everything in the leather world, there isn’t one definitive answer, but there is a way to find out what’s best for you. 

Kevin’s got some tips below! 


Why buy leather that is priced by the square foot?  

Well, a big reason is that you know what you’re paying for the leather
that you get.  Most likely, you know that leather is a natural product that doesn’t come off the cow (or other animal) in 12 x 12 inch pieces. 
Vendors have to buy it from tanneries in skins or sides that have been
measured by extremely accurate equipment. 

Tanners have to measure
every single little bit of leather in a skin or side, in order to be able to
sell it and make a little profit.  And a little profit is
what a tanner makes.  Only about 3-4% – their money is
made on volume.  The simplest way for a leather
vendor to sell leather to you would be just to turn around and sell you a whole
side or skin at a fixed price, with the price being based on an average number
of square feet in the sides. That way the vendor doesn’t have to have
experienced people that can measure, cut, change inventory, and take extra time
and work to sell to you.  

That might be OK if you don’t mind
having your leather simply pulled from a pile, packed and shipped to
you.  But what if you can’t afford, or don’t want/need a whole side of
6 oz. leather?  If the vendor won’t cut the leather for you, and just
sell you what you need, you’re stuck.  And for a small mom and pop
business, it could be the difference between taking on a new job or being without work. 

Consider this example:  Vendor “A” offers sides that average 17 to 20
square feet for $5.00 per square foot.  Vendor “B” offers the basically the
same leather by the piece for $95.00, with the average footage being 17 to
20 sq ft.

Here’s the breakdown price-wise:    

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You
probably know that you’re not always going to get the largest side from
Vendor “B”, so most of the time your leather will cost more than buying
by the square foot.   On the other hand, if you always get the
highest number of square feet advertised from vendor “B” you’ll save 5 bucks
every time.  

This is why buying leather by the square foot is almost
always
a better idea,
especially with tooling leather.

When
you buy leather by the square foot, the vendor has the option of whether or not
he’s willing to sell you smaller quantities of leather.  Now if you only need 7 sq ft, if the vendor is willing to sell you just that much, you’ll have to be willing to work with him a little bit by trusting his measuring methods. Which is why it is important to carefully choose whom you buy your leather from.  

A vendor with your interests at
heart is probably going to try to send you just a little bit more
than you paid for.  Granted, he might even ask you to pay a little
more than the normal square foot price, to account for possible loss because of
scrap, or reduction of sellability in the left over piece after cutting for
you.  Those are just possibilities, and as you can imagine, you
would likely still be saving a considerable amount compared to buying leather by the piece. You’d only be spending money on the leather you need, rather than
spending money on leather that might not be used for some time.

Why buy leather that is priced by the piece? 

Here are some
reasons:  

  1. You can’t get it anywhere else.   
  2. Because the leather is so stupidly cheap, that it actually pays do to so. 

I’m sure there might be some other reasons, but they just don’t come to me at
the moment. 

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