What’s the Difference Between Leather Bound and Bonded Leather?

What is a round knife or head knife?

There are a number of terms in leatherwork that most people sometimes are confused about and one of such is the difference between leather bound and bonded leather. To an expert, the difference may be very obvious but to a novice, the words in itself are totally confusing as many assume it to mean the same thing and maybe end up using it wrongly.

What’s the difference Between Leather bound and Bonded Leather? The difference between leather bound and bonded leather is that leather bound is a book that has been bounded using leather while bonded leather refers to very low-quality leather material. The catch is bonded leather can be used as a leather bound for bookbinding.

Clearly there is a big difference between them but what more differences are there? Keep reading to find out more.

What is Leather Bound?

Leather has a long-standing history in the bookbinding tradition. From the 3rd and 4th centuries book libraries like Nag Hammadi Library had books bound in leather. The practicality of leather being able to hinge and hold the pages of a book was remarkable and so was used for a pretty long time.

With leather being such a versatile material, it was only natural that the surface decorations became a part of leather bound bookbinding.

Till today, vellum; a traditional writing surface of thin animal skin is used to record the British Parliament records laws due to its durability and longlasting quality.

Types of Leather Used for Leather Bound

In addition to vellum, there is a variety of leather bound made from different types of leather. The choice of leather for leather bound is up to the preference of the leather binder or the customer’s demand.

  1. The vellum is derived from a young calf, kid or lamb. Its quality of being able to shrink allowed its leather bound to become very finely fitted, tight covering.
  2. Morocco is a goatskin with beautiful fine, pebble grains and is popularly sourced from Morocco. It is great for leather bound.
  3. The calfskin is pretty much the top grain leather from a calf and is by far the most common leather material for bookbinding.
  4. Skiver can be obtained from either sheep or goats skin although is not necessarily an ideal leather bound material it is often used for the spine labels.
  5. Bonded Leather is a cheap alternative to all the genuine leather used for bookbinding. The bonded leather material is barely leather hence it doesn’t last at all.

Decorative Techniques on Leather Bound

The art of decorating leather bound came about naturally due to leathers unique versatility. Some of the most common decorative technique in leather binding is:

  1. Embossing where designs are pushed out or pushed down on the surface of the leather.
  2. In Gold Tooling the binder applies gold paint to the carvings on the leather bound designs.
  3. The blind tooling technique involves carving or engraving patterns on the leather and leaving it without coloring.
  4. The but not least is a border design created along the outside edges of the cover called the Dentelle. It is very common to see in leather bookbinding.

Leather Bound Techniques

  1. The Half Leather bound covers the spine and the corners of the front side and back boards leather and the remaining parts of the front and back boards are covered with different materials like cloth or paper.
  2. Quarter Leather bound covers only the spine with the front and back covered with different materials.
  3. The three-quarter Leather bound is similar to the half leather bound but has a greater spine and corner coverage. About 3/4 of the book is in this case leather bound.

What is Bonded Leather?

Bonded leather is the leather that is produced after real leather has been made. It resembles and gives off a feel of what natural leather is but its of very low quality and since it’s made of only shavings, an ideal bonded leather will only consist about 10% natural leather material.

Bonded leather is often marketed as recycled leather or vegan leather to look a bit more appealing to consumers. It is produced using the leftovers or the shavings from the leather industry.

After shavings are obtained, it is blended and bonded with an adhesive over a fabric material. They are then finished by dyeing. The good thing about bonded leather is that they come in a wide variety of color which ordinarily high-quality leather wouldn’t.

After giving it a nice color, it is coated with polyurethane to give it its nice sheen and finally, it is embossed with impressions or designs to make it imitate natural leather.

Bonded leather is made as an alternative to natural leather and also as a budget-friendly leather so you do not want to buy a leather item you did not bargain for especially if you are hoping to buy something more on the high-quality end.

Characteristics of Bonded Leather

Here are some characteristics so that you know exactly what you’re are buying.

  1. Bonded leather is extremely cheap
  2. It comes oddly in a wide range of colors
  3. It cracks and fades with time
  4. It has a chemical smell

Similarities Between Bonded Leather and Leather Bound

There isn’t much practical similarities between bonded and leather bound but I just have a few general similarities to share.

  • Both entail the use of leather as a raw material
  • The leather material is animal obtained
  • The used is tanned

Differences Between Leather Bound and Bonded Leather – Summary

The concepts of leather bound and bonded leather are worlds apart so there are a lot more differences between them.

Leather Bound Bonded Leather
1. Leather bound is bookbinding
using leather
1. Bonded leather is leather made
using the shavings from the
leather industry
2. Leather bound can entail the
use of different qualities of leather
from the highest quality of
full-grain leather to bonded
leather itself
2. Bonded leather is a low quality
3. You can make different decorative
techniques like molding, tooling, etc.
on leather bound
3. You can only do applique
decoration on bonded leather
4. It can be very expensive 4. Bonded leather is cheap


At this point, it is clear the differences that exist between leather bound and bonded leather. The primary difference is that Leather bound is bookbinding made with leather while bonded leather is a particular type of leather that can be used to book bind.

Related Questions

Is faux leather and bonded leather the same? No, Bonded leather and faux leather are not the same because bonded leather is made from the shavings of leather and bonded with latex and other binding agents. Faux leather is pure chemical products and animal-free, normally is PU or PVC.

Which one is better, Bonded or Faux Leather? Faux leather is made from vinyl materials which makes it a bit more durable compared to bonded leather which is made only from only a fraction (20%) of natural leather shavings.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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