Leather splitting service


'The leather arrived safely and is now unpacked in my studio, happy to be in its new home. Thank you for a wonderful job of splitting the leather and the perfect service. You saved me with your offer to layout the pieces and receiving the leather directly from France. Also, thank you offering the option of the grain on the larger piece and for splitting the odd pieces. It all looks terrific!' ~ Susan ~

'The parcel arrived, it looks very neat again, thank you!' ~ Tosca ~

'Received the leather this morning in good order: very nicely split. Thank you!' ~ Colette ~

Splitting service

In 2017 we purchased a splitting machine to help the bindery with leather work, which we found ourselves doing increasingly more of. After a few years of experience with it we are now ready to share it with all fellow bookbinders and leather workers out there.

What is a splitting machine?
A splitting machine is a machine which reduces the thickness of a piece of leather throughout its entire surface. It does so by actually slicing the piece somewhere between the hair and the suede side, ending up with two parts, the actual leather on one side, and the suede on the other.

This operation is almost always necessary, as leather bought in skins from a tannery or leather merchant is usually too thick to produce the fine results that we are after in hand bookbinding. If a skin is used on a binding without any preparation, the edges will be round, the turn-ins bulky (unless filled in properly), the hinges will not function well and the overall appearance will be unrefined. 

Why don't leather merchants supply leather in thinner specs? Probably because every binder has a different idea of what an acceptable thickness is! see further below for our personal guidelines on this point.

For any leather project, it is therefore necessary to start by reducing the overall thickness to an appropriate one. The turn-ins should also be thinned down but this operation is done differently: either by hand with a paring knife, or with a Sharffix or skiving machine, instruments that binders usually have access to. In the future we might offer skiving services as well (thinning the edges only) but for now we only split (reduce to one thickness throughout).

Our machine has a cutting width of 40cm, making the maximum width splittable 37cm. There is no limitation in length. The minimum achievable thickness is 0.3 mm; smaller panels (max A6) may be reduced to 0.1mm but it is tricky and if the leather is grainy (goat), it might end up full of holes!

How to proceed?

You can either come to the bindery (Tappersweg 12F, 2031 ET Haarlem, Netherlands, free parking in front) and we'll split your leather while you wait. Or you can send us your leather cut in panels with one side no bigger than 37cm, and we’ll ship it back to you.

In order to set up the machine we will need at least two scrap pieces per type of leather to be split. Those are very important as the same machine setting produces different results with different kinds of leathers. Those scrap pieces must be of a consistency similar to the panel you wish to split and of a decent size (approx. 6x6cm). We can return the suede at no extra cost if requested. 

Please make sure to indicate the desired thicknesses, as well as your full contact details (name, email, telephone number, postal address) and (if applicable) your VAT number.

Lead time
If you come to the bindery, we will do the job immediately but please make sure to make an appointment beforehand. Call Ben at (+31) 06-30096768 or email at ben@elbel-libro.com.

If you choose to send the leather, we will process it the same day, send you an invoice and ship it immediately after payment is received. We use standard postal services to keep costs down (1-2 day delivery in NL, more days outside NL), unless of course specified otherwise. We can also ship with UPS or Fedex. We can not be held responsible for any delayed, damaged, lost or returned parcels.

€0.80 per piece + €40 per m2, ex. VAT (21%), packing and shipping
Minimum order value: €15 (ex. VAT and shipping)

Piece 1: 47x32cm (0,15 m2)
Piece 2: 12x26cm, 12 pieces (0,03 x 12 = 0,37 m2)
Piece 3: 38x80 (0,30 m2)

Total number of pieces: 14
Total surface to split: 0,82 m2
Sent to NL

You pay:
€11,20 (14x €0.80) + €32,80 (0,82 x €40) total = €44
Shipping (in NL) : €6,75
Total price inc. 21% VAT = €53,24 + 6,75 shipping is €59,99

Note: with some extremely thick leather types such as hide, we might have to put it through several times in order to achieve the desired thickness. In this case we will charge the price per piece as many times as the piece is put through the machine but the price per m2 remains unchanged.

Payments will be required before delivery (cash or card on the premises, or bank transfer/Paypal for mail orders).

Shipping costs
Parcel to NL: €6,75
Parcel up to 2 kg within Europe: €13,00
Parcel 2 - 5 kg within Europe: €19,50
Parcel up to 2 kg outside Europe: €25,00
Parcel 2 - 5 kg outside Europe: €35,00

What kind of leather do you split?
This service is provided by bookbinders, primarily for bookbinders, so we mostly split bookbinding leather, a.k.a. vegetable tanned goat and calf. In practice though we can split any kind of leather, pig, horse, fish, chrome tanned, brain tanned, leather for couches, for shoes, for car seats, you name it. 

Due to the uneven nature of leather, and despite our efforts to avoid them, there might be variations in thickness of more or less  0.1mm in a piece, or between two pieces.

What happens if it goes wrong?
In the unlikely event of an accident (holes, leather tearing, etc.), we are sorry that we will not accept responsibility. The damaged pieces will be returned and you will be charged in full. However if you send a new panel of the damaged piece, we will be happy to give it another try free of charge.

Which splitting thicknesses do you recommend?
These are guidelines only, based on our own personal experience.

For full leather bindings we recommend an overall split of 0.6-0.7mm
For quarter or half bindings 0.4-0.5mm
0.3 mm is recommended only for joints, on-lays, or panelled linings.
Thinner than that: for cosmetic use only!

Important point: it is very difficult to remove a layer thinner than 0.2mm. Make sure that your leather is at least 0,2 mm thicker than the thickness you are aiming for.

Any other question?
Just get in touch.
We look forward to being of service

Ben and the team





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