Chrome tanned leather can be deceivingly eye-catching, so many brands use it. But can you skive the edges if needed? Well, yes and no. We will show you why.
As a general rule, you cannot skive chrome-tanned leathers. They are thinner and processed so you can’t skive them easily by hand. Bell skives might be able to skive some types, but not consistently. If you need to skive around the edges for sewing or other purposes, veg-tan leather is the best.
Using a Japanese-type Skive Doesn’t Work Well
If you have a Japanese-type skive for trying out, they work well for veg-tan leather and cutting of your leather pieces. They do need some serious practice but we don’t use them often. Some leatherworkers use them for making straight and curved cuts to the edge and then use them with a clicking motion at the end to “chop” off the final section. But for skiving edges of chrome tan leather, you will have difficulty cutting through the flexible nature of this kind of leather. If you’re not familiar with these Japanese-style leather skives, check this one out for fun.
The other type of Japanese-style skive is for making a channel in the leather. It works well to remove veg-tan leather from certain sections of the workpiece. But they are not suitable for use on the edges where you want an even beveled edge for joining and sewing two layers of leather together. If you try to skive chrome-tanned leather with this style of knife, the results will be poor. It’s like trying to use it on rubber. Check this one out if you haven’t seen the channel type of groove it creates on veg tan.
Pull-Type Skive Not an Option
You might have seen a Tandy Super Skiver, and this one is the pull type. You have to pull it along your workpiece to skive. We use this on some straps of veg tan but never got it to work on chrome tan leather. We also don’t like this type because it pulls the leather and sometimes stretches it out. We don’t have good results with this leather skive. With chrome tan leather, this type of tool will pull and stretch the material even more.
With this kind of tool, we also feel it’s dangerous besides not being very effective. As you pull it along the leather, if you are not careful, it will fly forward and you might cut yourself. These tools use something that looks like old-fashioned razor blades and they are super sharp. You could slice off a good part of your finger by accident. There is also a model called the safety skiver and it has a smaller blade. I guess that’s why it’s supposed to be safer? It is also a poor choice for chrome tanned leather.
Using a Bell Skive Might Work, But Not All Types
We use a skiving machine, a bell skiver and it produces the best all-around results for our leather edges. You can adjust the width of the skive, the angle of the beveled edge as well as the thickness of the skive. And the blade is super sharp and moving at a constant rate of speed to provide you the best results for veg-tan leather. We have tried to skive chrome-tanned leather on it with limited results.
So bell skives will not work on chrome-tan leather but they work wonders on natural veg tan. But we do want to mention that this will only be able to handle the edges. You can also set up the machine to do very wide pieces if needed with a couple of passes. But once again, chrome tan is just not workable. Check out the video below with a British gentleman giving a good explanation of the bell skiver.
Switch Out Chrome-Tanned for Veg-Tan
You might be tired of hearing about it, but chrome tan leather may not be suitable to skive or burnish. Both drawbacks may lead to real problems with your production and designs. Not being able to skive the edges is trouble enough, but have you tried to burnish chrome tan edges? It probably will not work either, and then you will have to do edge coating.
This process alone can take a considerable amount of time. You have to sand the edges and then use edge paint. You might even need to use multiple layers of it. Then let it dry, sand, and repeat until you get a thick enough coating. Since chrome tan leather creates more headaches than necessary, we would advise just switching out and using veg-tanned leathers on all your projects. There might be some possibility to use the lesser quality chrome tans on inner parts or other non-cosmetic surfaces. But using a higher quality veg tan leather is something we focus on with all our products.
Use Chrome Tan Leather on Inner Pockets
In the past, we would use chrome tans in our clutches, but only on the inner liner or card holders. These parts could benefit from using the lesser quality and thin chrome tans and didn’t require skiving or burnishing. However, this will depend on the particular design in question. The only issue we ran into was when the layers of veg-tan and chrome tans were layered. Then these layers needed to be sewn. Finally, they were visible on the outer edges of the clutch. That was a problem since having multiple layers of leather that we couldn’t burnish was troublesome. We could only use edge coat and that’s another process we try to avoid due to reliability issues.
Try Using a Dremel to Skive Chrome Tan Leather
We wonder if you could use a Dremel to skive chrome tan leather, but it’s not something we have done ourselves. These tools are for sanding and buffing so they might work on chrome tans. I saw a video of a lady doing this with a unique setup. She manages to shave off around the edges of her square leather piece. It seems like it wasn’t going to be very uniform, but it did seem to work.
If you must use chrome-tanned leather and have difficulty switching out, then one last thing you might do is roll your edges. Then there is no need to skive or edge paint. All seams are sewn from the inside. You can machine sew everything so there is no need to skive. Of course, you have to know how to do this and it’s another design concept to roll and turn your bags inside out for sewing. That’s how many mass-produced bags in the market are produced. Overall the skiving of chrome-tanned leather is not recommended