Fish leather is as you might expect, but may well still be surprised by, the cured and tanned skins of fish. The diversity of fish leather available is enormous due to the use of different fish species and the variety of the finishes that can be applied.
The texture of the leather is dependent on the size and shape of the scale pockets which can vary from 2mm to 2cm in size according to the species.Fish leather is an eco-friendly alternative to the typical exotic leathers such as crocodile and snake that threaten endangered species. Fish leather has a unique look, yet you’ll find that the strength and smell of the material is comparable to commonly used land-based leathers. Fish leather can be used for many purposes, including crafts and more professional use.
How Is Fish Leather Made?
The production of fish leather is a long and complicated process that takes between 30 to 45 days from start to finish with several distinct stages. Each species has slightly different requirements due to the presence of varying levels of oils and whether it is a freshwater or saltwater fish but generally the fish skins require churning, soaking in chemical solutions that remove the scales and natural oils, and then tanning before being thoroughly dried. The exact details of the process are a closely guarded secret as only a handful of manufacturers in the world are able to make it to a high standard after years of experimentation and fine tuning.
Where Does The Fish Skin Come From?
Before fish leather became popular the skin of fishes processed by fisheries was considered a mere by-product of the edible fish industry and as a result was often dumped back into the sea with a potential to pollute surrounding waters. This is why fish leather is considered an environmentally friendly, eco material as less of the fish is wasted and it can start to replace bovine leather usage. None of our fish leather is derived from endangered species and the origins of the fishes used are as follows.
Carp – Spirit River, Iowa, United States of America (Common Carp (Cyprynus Carassius))
Salmon – British Columbia, Canada (Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus Tshawytscha))
Nile Perch – Lake Victoria, Kenya (Nile Perch (Dystochodusn))
Tilapia - Commercial Fishery, Indonesia (Cichlid Fish).
How Strong Is Fish Leather?
It might seem surprising that the soft, flakey substance we’re used to seeing on the fish we eat can be made to be so strong but then again it’s worth bearing in mind that shark leather is 5 times stronger than that of cow.
Fish leather really is a remarkably strong material although there’s some differences between species. While salmon and tilapia are somewhat more flexible and can stretch to a degree, carp and sea bass is far thicker and more rigid. Fish leather in general is often likened to being as strong as sheep skin and certainly strong enough for virtually any application.
What Can Be Made With It?
Fish leather can be used to make a wide variety of items such as jewellery, accessories including phone or iPad cases, belts, wallets and bags as well as artwork and even for binding books. Fish leather is suitable for home crafts as well as professional use. All of the fish leather finished products that can be found in our shop have been hand-made by us and they show a good example of what can be done with this remarkable material. You can find the material as a whole leather in our shop.
The different types of fish leather we sell can suit a variety of different purposes. Salmon, which is relatively thin is ideal for glueing onto items such as cuffs. As opposed to sea bass which is better when used on its own seeing that it is very strong and thick. An advantage of fish leather over traditional fabrics is that it does not ravel, meaning that edges do not require stitching after being cut. A great tool for cutting the leather is a rotary cutter, but the thinner leathers such as salmon can also be cut by scissors or a precision knife or a stanley knife. I recommend a strong glue such as E6000 for a seamless finish but if you
prefer stitching then you can use a strong sewing machine, a leather needle, or a sewing awl for hand stitching.