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Leather gloves in the garden ... what's best?

Leather gloves in the garden . . . what's best?

Like a second skin, leather gloves canprotect your hands against cuts, blisters, splinters, and abrasions. They can even keep you warm. They're essential for pruning, training, or tearing out anything thorny; good for handling bricks or firewood; useful any time you use hand tools for a long period. But with so many kinds and cuts available, what's best?

Which leather?

Cowhide is the most common and inexpensiveglove leather. It resists tears and punctures, and is the standard against which other gloves are measured. Use it for any garden job, but don't let it get wet; it'll dry stiff, though much of its suppleness returns after use.

Goatskin is the best glove leather for all-aroundgardening. One glove manufacturer said flatly, "It's the toughest leather glove you can get.' Its tightly intertwined fibers have great puncture and abrasion resistance; goatskin is also unusually soft and, after it has gotten wet, it doesn't dry as stiff as cowhide does.

Pigskin is stiffer than cowhide and, if youhave to handle anything hot, is thought by many to be the best choice. Almost all pigskin is grain leather; the suede-looking kind is grain pigskin that's been brushed to resemble split leather (see definitions at right).

Pigskin dries stiff after getting wet but,like cowhide, it regains some suppleness with use.

Deerskin (sometimes sold as buckskin) isthe softest and thinnest leather commonly used in gloves. It has good abrasion resistance but doesn't resist puncturing well. Because it's so supple and thin, it doesn't interfere with dexterity as much as other gloves and it regains most of its softness after being wet.

Elk has much of the soft, supple game-skinfeel of deer and a looser grain, but it resists punctures and abrasions better because it's thicker. It also recovers suppleness quickly after getting wet.

Grain versus suede or split leather

After most hides are tanned, they're split.The outside half (the hair side) is called grain leather; it has a smooth finish, but it's the weaker half of the split hide.

The bottom (flesh) side is called splitleather or suede. It's the strongest half of the hide. If you want gloves for rough work, buy a pair made of split leather.

Goatskin is the only kind of hide that isn'tsplit. That, in part, accounts for its refined feel and great strength.

The cut of a glove

Most gloves are cut for men, but there arewomen's gloves. They have relatively longer fingers and narrower palms than men's, and they're sized smaller.

One mail-order source for women's pigskinwork gloves is Womanswork, RD 539K, South Berwick, Me. 03908.

Regardless of who a glove is made for,look at its cut. It will be either a Gunn or a Clute cut (see drawings on opposite page). Finger seams of Clute-cut gloves bunch up in your hand when you make a fist; those on Gunn-cut gloves don't.

Try each kind; make a fist or grab ashovel to see which style suits you best. In addition to comfort, pay attention to what shape the leather is taking in your closed hand: seams and folds wear out first. Fit should be neither sloppy nor so tight that it's hard to pull a glove on and off.

Care and cleaning

Some leather gloves are said to be waterresistant or relatively unaffected by water. Don't believe it; most dry stiff. Wetdry cycles shrink and ruin leather; keep gloves dry if you want to keep them long.

Dirt also ruins leather gloves. Brush it offor, if necessary, scrub with a brush and saddle soap, then dry gloves at room temperature (higher temperatures can cause shrinkage and overdrying). This process damages the leather, so do it sparingly.

Photo: Gunn pattern

Finger seams are on back of glove(left); on the palm side (right), a seam runs across base of two middle fingers

Photo: Clute pattern

Parallel seams are stitched downthe back of the hand (left); finger seams are on palm side (right)

Photo: Outfitted with cowhide gloves for winter pruning, she's protected against plants' thorns and blisters from shears. These gloves are white; they could have been tanned any other color (brown is the most common) without reducing strength

Photo: Rough surface (suede) is hallmark ofsplit leather. It's stronger than smooth-surfaced grain leather

Photo: Goatskin markes strong,puncture-resistant gloves--a bit more expensive, but perfect for thorny pruning jobs. Gauntlet style protects wrist
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1987
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