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Desk pads – and especially leather
desk pads – are an acquired taste. You have to put one down on your familiar writing or working surface to see the difference they make. Saddleback Leather’s new Old Bull desk set
is a good example. While I’ve worked on the same wood and leather-topped partner’s desk for 24 years, using a full-grain leather desk pad is a complete change for me, and underscored the difference between a leather top, and a full-grain leather pad, which requires a bit of explanation.
You see, not everything labeled "leather" is the same.
Leather which has not undergone sanding, buffing or any other process to remove any imperfections (in the grain shown at right) is called full-grain leather. It is the strongest type of leather and develops a patina over time.
"Top-grain" leather is actually precisely the opposite – the top few millimeters of the grain are sanded or buffed off to remove blemishes and imperfections. A topcoat is then applied, since top-grain doesn’t develop a patina over time. On the plus side, this type of leather is very flexible and soft, yet is still durable.
"Split leather", also referred to as "genuine" leather, is made of the layers of the hide that are leftover, during the production of other types of leather. The layers can be divided into two splits, referred to as the "middle" and "flesh" splits. An artificial top coat is often used to seal these types of leather to give them an appearance resembling that of top-grain leather, and to protect them from wear. These types of leather are also used to make suede, which is fuzzy and soft on both sides.
Saddleback’s existing line of desk pads are full-grain leather with bells and whsitles. They are backed with a polyester lining for appropriate cushion, have a suede back, and feature rivets and stitching on the face.
The Old Bull set,
in contrast, is absolutely plain, meaning it’s just a 3/16" slab of full grain leather, just quietly developing a patina behind my back as I stand here typing this. It comes in a set of three which they refer to as a desk pad, a regular mouse pad and a large mouse pad.
It took me a while to get over covering up the familiar varnished and gold-tooled leather insets on my desk with another layer of leather – especially one as plain as this. And at first I thought it would be too plain, but I quickly realized that wasn’t a problem – the lack of ornamentation make it more versatile.
Once I got used to how to use it, it made a lot of sense. My tablet sits to the right on the small mouse pad that I can push and pull as I need it. And Louis Sr., my wood slant-top document stand, does a lot better on the larger pad to my right. I don’t mention my computer because it sits on a stand-up desk behind me, so I rarely actually used my desk before.
But I do now. The real pleasure is either resting my hands on the leather while reading or writing on it. It's night and day from the leather-topped desk, which with the wood surface rails is nothing but a distraction when writing.
And writing is the point of a desk pad. I get a lot more use out of it than I thought I would, since it redirected me away from my computer and to my desk, where I can refer to the same information on a tablet or laptop, but have an even, enjoyable writing surface.
Thanks to Saddleback Leather for providing me with a review sample of the new desk pads.