Title:
Thumb protector for fishing and method of manipulating fishing line
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A thumb protector comprises an elongate wrist strap having two opposite ends; a thumb cup; and a thumb cup strap extending from the wrist band and attaching the thumb cup to the wrist band. The thumb cup is generally conical, and comprises leather, or a leather-like material.



Inventors:
Stinchcomb, Jeffrey (Chula Vista, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/731742
Publication Date:
10/02/2008
Filing Date:
03/30/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41D13/08
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lorraine M. Donaldson (Newport Beach, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A thumb protector comprising: an elongate wrist strap having two opposite ends; a thumb cup; and a thumb cup strap extending from the wrist band and attaching the thumb cup to the wrist band; wherein: the thumb cup is generally conical, having an opening at its proximal end for receiving a wearer's thumb and tapering to its distal end, where it is closed; the thumb cup is sized and shaped to receive the distal end portion of the wearer's thumb; the thumb cup comprises leather, or a leather-like material.

2. The thumb protector of claim 1, wherein: the wrist band comprises nylon webbing.

3. The thumb protector of claim 1, further comprising: means for fastening the two ends of the wrist band together.

4. The thumb protector of claim 1, wherein: the thumb cup strap is formed of a flexible synthetic material.

5. The thumb protector of claim 1, wherein: the thumb cup strap forms a portion of the thumb cup.

6. The thumb protector of claim 1, wherein: a top portion of the thumb cup is formed by a distal end portion of the thumb cup strap, and is wedge-shaped, having a greater dimension at the proximal end of the thumb cup and a lesser dimension at the distal end of the thumb cup.

7. The thumb protector of claim 1, wherein: a top portion of the thumb cup is wedge-shaped, having a greater dimension at the proximal end of the thumb cup and a lesser dimension at the distal end of the thumb cup; a bottom portion of the thumb cup is wedge-shaped, having a greater dimension at the proximal end of the thumb cup and a lesser dimension at the distal end of the thumb cup; two side portions of the thumb cup are wedge-shaped, having a greater dimension at the proximal end of the thumb cup and a lesser dimension at the distal end of the thumb cup.

8. The thumb protector of claim 1, further comprising: at least one pocket for objects.

9. Method of manipulating fishing line, comprising: wearing a thumb protector comprising a thumb cup made substantially of leather.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to protective apparel and more particularly to a hand or finger (including thumb) protector, and more particularly for protecting a user's thumb from injury during fishing.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Numerous hazards confront a fisherman when handling fishing equipment and the fish themselves, particularly to the hands. As in many “hands-on” activities, whether sport, or construction work (manual labor), or the like, various types of hand and/or finger protection are known.

A type of protective apparel/equipment for a user includes gloves, which generally cover the user's entire hand, including palm, back of hand, all four fingers and the thumb, and extend at least up to or, in some cases (such as welding gloves) beyond the wrist.

In a variation of the glove, one or more of the fingertips of the glove are removed to allow the user more tactile sensation, such as when manipulating sporting equipment (such as a rifle, with the trigger finger exposed), which providing protection (such as against cold weather) for the rest of the user's hand.

If individual finger dexterity is not an important issue, mittens may provide the best protection for the user. In contrast with a glove, a mitten does not have four individual finger portions and a thumb portions, extending from the palm portion. Rather, three or four of the finger portions are combined into one wider multi-finger portion. Some baseballs mitts (mittens) are constructed in this manner, having a thumb portion separated by a web from an index finger portion, and the remaining three fingers (middle, ring and little) all reside in a wider fingers portion of the glove.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,497,510 (issued Mar. 12, 1996, by Knowles et al., hereinafter “Knowles”), is incorporated in its entirety by reference herein, and discloses a thumb protector for fishing and method of gripping sport fish. As disclosed therein, a hand protector for fishing has a thumb portion which includes material on at least the inner or pad side of the thumb, for the direct engagement of the teeth of a typical game or sport fish for the support and carriage thereof. The teeth engaging material may be any suitable pile type material comprising a multitude of small loops; the loop portion of hook and loop fastening material (e.g., Velcro™) may be used. The thumb portion of the protector also provides complete protection for the thumb of a wearer of the device, from possible injury from the teeth of the fish. In an alternative embodiment, the protector includes a glove covering most of the hand and providing for greater comfort in colder conditions. The four fingertips of the glove embodiment are open, to provide for good tactile feel for the user of the glove. The protector is positively secured to the hand of the user to preclude slippage when lifting or holding a fish by the thumb portion engaging the teeth of a fish, but the protector may be easily removed when desired.

FIGS. 1 and 2 of the Knowles patent are reproduced as FIGS. 1 and 2 herein, and are appropriately labelled “Prior Art”.

FIGS. 1 and 2 of the Knowles patent illustrate an embodiment of a hand protector showing its use in supporting a fist and protecting the thumb of the wearer, and means for securing the protector to the hand. More particularly, as disclosed therein (see column 4 line 10 through column 5 line 9, and using Knowles' numbering):

    • FIG. 1 relates to a hand protector 10 for use in fishing, to protect the hand (or portion thereof) of the angler from the sharp, needle like teeth T of a fish F. Generally after a catch is made, the fish is lifted from the water, net, etc. by inserting one thumb into the mouth of the fish and grasping one gill cover with the fingers. As many sport and game fish have relatively sharp teeth, the thumb may be injured during such an operation. While most fresh water sport fish likely to be handled in such a manner possess relatively small teeth and are unlikely to do significant damage to the hand of the fisherman, nevertheless a wound incurred by such means is almost certain to be unsanitary and prone to infection.
    • The hand protector 10 simultaneously provides two advantages in the handling of such a fish F, by (1) protecting the hand or thumb of the fisherman from injury due to the teeth T of the fish F, and (2) providing a material on the surface of the protector which serves to catch and engage the teeth T of the fish F in order to provide a more positive grip of the fish for the fisherman. The hand protector embodiment 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2 includes a thumb enclosure portion 12 formed of a back surface 14 and an opposite front surface 16. The back surface 14 extends from the tip of the thumb, over the back of the thumb and across the knuckles, to terminate at a wrist attachment end 18 at the wrist of the wearer thereof. The front surface 16 extends from the tip of the thumb, over the pad of the thumb to terminate at approximately the second joint of the thumb, or approximately one half the length of the back surface 14. The back surface 14 and front surface 16 are joined along their common edge 20 to form a protective pocket 22 (FIG. 2) for the thumb of the fisherman wearing the hand protector 10.
    • Preferably, the back surface 14 is formed of a relatively flexible and elastic fabric material (e.g., spandex) in order to provide the needed flexibility and stretch over the joints or knuckles of the thumb. However, the front surface 16, which provides for the engagement of the teeth T of the fish F, is of necessity a different material. It has been found that the loop portion 24 of cooperating hook and loop fastener material (e.g., Velcro™) provides excellent results as a material for the front surface 16 of the hand protector 10. The loops 24 provide an excellent engaging means for the relatively small and sharp teeth T of a typical sport fish F, while the standard relatively stiff and heavy backing of the loop material 24 serves well to prevent penetration of the fish teeth T therethrough to protect the thumb of the wearer of the present invention. Alternatively, other materials may be used in lieu of the loop portion of hook and loop fastening material, e.g., wool, some knit fabrics, etc. The specific material may be varied, so long as the material possesses some looped pile characteristics enabling the relatively small, sharp teeth T of a fish F to directly engage the pile or loops and be captured thereby.
    • The wrist attachment end 18 of the back surface 14 includes a wrist attachment strap 26 extending transversely thereacross, with the wrist strap 26 having cooperating first and second ends 28 and 30. The cooperating first and second ends are securable together, e.g., by means of cooperating hook and loop fastening material 24a and 24b (FIG. 2), to secure the hand protector 10 to the hand and wrist of the wearer thereof; other fastening means (snaps, buttons, etc.) may be used as desired. Preferably, the wrist attachment strap 26 is formed of a flexible elastic fabric material, although alternatively a relatively non-elastic material (fabric, plastic, leather) may be used as desired.
    • Knowles also discloses another embodiment, FIG. 3. (see column 5, line 10 et seq.), more in the form of a full glove. Unlike the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, the hand protector 10a of FIG. 3 includes further hand protection in the form of a hand enclosure portion 32 having a back surface 34, a front surface 36, and a wrist opening 38. Four finger enclosure portions 40 extend from the hand enclosure portion 32, each comprising a substantially tubular extension. Each of the finger enclosures 40 may have an open end 42, if desired, in order to provide the desired tactile sensitivity and feel for the wearer of the hand protector 10. The thumb enclosure portion 12a is attached to the hand enclosure portion 32 along seams 44, to provide substantially greater protection for the hand of the wearer.

Although Knowles et al. discloses the use of leather for the wrist attachment stray 26, the thumb enclosure portion 12 is not formed of leather. The thumb enclosure portion 12 includes a back surface 14 and an opposite front surface 16. As noted above,

    • Preferably, the back surface 14 is formed of a relatively flexible and elastic fabric material (e.g., spandex) in order to provide the needed flexibility and stretch over the joints or knuckles of the thumb. However, the front surface 16, which provides for the engagement of the teeth T of the fish F, is of necessity a different material. It has been found that the loop portion 24 of cooperating hook and loop fastener material (e.g., Velcro™) provides excellent results as a material for the front surface 16 of the hand protector 10. The loops 24 provide an excellent engaging means for the relatively small and sharp teeth T of a typical sport fish F, while the standard relatively stiff and heavy backing of the loop material 24 serves well to prevent penetration of the fish teeth T therethrough to protect the thumb of the wearer of the present invention. Alternatively, other materials may be used in lieu of the loop portion of hook and loop fastening material, e.g., wool, some knit fabrics, etc. The specific material may be varied, so long as the material possesses some looped pile characteristics enabling the relatively small, sharp teeth T of a fish F to directly engage the pile or loops and be captured thereby. (see column 4, lines 43-64)

The use of the materials suggested by Knowles et al. may be inadequate and/or inappropriate in certain fishing situations, such as using the hand to help reel in the line (when a fish has been caught), in which situations the thumb is particularly vulnerable to an abrasive, slicing action of a fish line dragging across the flesh of the user, particularly under tension. This “dynamic” is in marked contrast to the piercing action of a fish' teeth addressed by Knowles et al.

RELATED PATENTS AND PUBLICATIONS

Knowles et al. cites a number of other patents, all of which are incorporated by reference herein, including:

U.S. Pat. No. 2,025,710 issued to Idalyne M. Beemer on Dec. 31, 1935 discloses a Hand Covering resembling a glove in which the second, third and fourth fingers have been removed. Only the thumb and first or index finger are provided, and those two digits are completely closed, unlike the glove embodiment of the Knowles' thumb protector. Moreover, no means is disclosed for the capture of sharp articles (e.g., the teeth of a fish) therein.

U.S. Pat. No. 2,302,875 issued to John Lykins on Nov. 24, 1942 discloses a Golfer's Glove having a channel diagonally disposed in the palm to provide for the gripping of a golf club grip. While the fingers of the glove are open at their distal ends, no thumb covering is provided, which renders the Lykins glove unsuitable for use in the environment of the present fishing hand protector.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,149,296 issued to Franklin D. Stanford on Apr. 17, 1979 discloses a Fish Holding, Scraping, And Cutting Glove. The entire hand, fingers, and thumb are completely enclosed, unlike the Knowles' thumb protector, and the exterior surface of the glove includes a roughened palm with corrugations on the fingers for gripping, and with the fingertips including hardened edges for scaling a fish. A blade is also provided, extending through the pad of the thumb portion of the glove. The relatively thick palm and fingers required to provide the roughened gripping surfaces preclude any significant tactile feel through the glove, whereas the present fishing hand protector provides for such by means of the open fingertip areas in the glove embodiment and by the exposure of most of the hand in the thumb protector embodiment. The thumb cannot provide for any engagement with the relatively small and sharp teeth of a fish, or other sharp pointed articles, as does the Knowles' thumb protector.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,414,692 issued to Mark A. Dzierson et al. on Nov. 15, 1983 discloses a Drinking Glove comprising a glove portion with truncated fingers and thumb, attachable to a cylindrical container holding portion. The lack of a thumb portion precludes use of the drinking glove in the environment of the Knowles' thumb protector, and the means on the palm providing for attachment of the container holder would appear to reduce tactile sensitivity. In fact, the very purpose of the device is to reduce tactile sensitivity between a hot or cold container and the hand of the wearer of the glove. While the fingertips and thumb extremities are removed, the user's fingers and thumb contact only the exterior of the container holder secured thereto.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,638,511 issued to Peggy J. Haack on Jan. 27, 1987 discloses a Bowling Glove comprising a portion which secures around the wrist and across the web between thumb and forefinger area. The remainder of the glove is open, including the pad of the thumb. While tactile sensitivity is obviously provided by the open areas of the glove, no protection is provided on the pad of the thumb, rendering the device unusable in the environment of the Knowles' invention. Moreover, no means is provided for the passive capture of small, sharp articles therein, as with the Knowles' fishing glove.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,665,565 issued to Terrance J. Odom on May 19, 1987 discloses a Golf Glove having portions of hook and loop fastening material thereon. When the proper golf grip is assumed, the hook/loop material of one glove will engage the cooperating material of the other glove to provide a positive grip. Due to this need for a positive grip, the fingers and thumbs of both gloves are completely enclosed, unlike the Knowles' thumb protector. Moreover, no means for passively engaging sharp points by the thumb(s) of the glove(s) are disclosed.

British Patent No. 547,946 to Roland G. Davies et al. and published on Sep. 18, 1942 discloses Improvements in or Relating to Frictional Anti-Slipping Means. The apparatus comprises cooperating relatively high friction, abrasive material disposed upon the handle or grip of a tool or the like and on various surfaces of a glove. The fingers and thumb of the glove are completely enclosed either in glove or mitten form, unlike the Knowles' thumb protector, and the abrasive material precludes engagement with sharp objects as provided by the Knowles' thumb protector.

British Patent No. 2,143,720 to Andrew T. Moore and published on Feb. 20, 1985 discloses Gloves For Cleaning, Smoothing, And/Or Polishing Objects. In one embodiment, the abrasive is secured to the glove by cooperating hook and loop material (i.e., Velcro™), but the exposed abrasive surface fails to provide any means for passively gripping or engaging small pointed objects, such as the provision for engaging the teeth of a fish provided by the present invention. Moreover, the fingers and thumb are all completely enclosed, either in glove or mitten form.

Finally, PCT Patent No. WO 90/08483 to Linda M. Martin and published on Aug. 9, 1990 discloses Gloves For Mechanics comprising an inner glove which completely encloses the hand and an outer glove having truncated fingers and thumb. The palm portion of the outer glove may be covered with a relatively high friction material (e.g., roughened leather) to provide a better grip. While the outer and inner gloves may be worn separately in their separate embodiments, the tips of the fingers and thumb are all open for the outer glove, and are all completely enclosed for the inner glove; provision of a protected, completely enclosed thumb having material providing for the passive engagement of sharp pointed objects, in combination with at least open fingertips, as in the Knowles' thumb protector, is not disclosed.

GLOSSARY

Unless otherwise noted, or as may be evident from the context of their usage, any terms, abbreviations, acronyms or scientific symbols and notations used herein are to be given their ordinary meaning in the technical discipline to which the disclosure most nearly pertains. The following terms, abbreviations and acronyms may be used throughout the descriptions presented herein and should generally be given the following meaning unless contradicted or elaborated upon by other descriptions set forth herein. Some of the terms set forth below may be registered trademarks (®).

  • Hand The hands are the two intricate, prehensile, multi-fingered body parts normally located at the end of each arm (medically: terminating each anterior limb/appendage) of a human or primate. They are the chief organs for physically manipulating the environment, using the roughest to the finest motor skills (wielding a club; threading a needle), and since the fingertips contain some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the human body, they are also the richest source of tactile feedback so the sense of tough is intimately associated with human hands.

The human hand consists of a broad palm (metacarpus) with five digits, attached to the forearm by a joint called the wrist (carpus).

Four fingers on the hand are located at the outermost edge of the palm. These four digits can be folded over the palm, this allows for the holding of objects. Each finger, starting with the one closest to the thumb, has a colloquial name to distinguish it from the others:

    • index finger, pointer finger, or forefinger (also, “first finger”)
    • middle finger (also, “second finger”)
    • ring finger (also, “third finger”)
    • little finger, or “pinky” (also, “fourth finger”)

The thumb is located on one of the sides of the palm, parallel to the arm. the thumb can easily be rotated 90 degrees, on a perpendicular level compared to the palm, unlike the other fingers which can only be rotated approximately 45 degrees. A reliable was of identifying true “hands” is from the presence of opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs are identified by the ability to be brought opposite to the fingers, a muscle action known as opposition.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION (SUMMARY) OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the invention to provide an improved thumb protector for fishing, and method of gripping (whether playing in or playing out) fishing line, providing protection for the user's thumb, while not impairing functions or sensitivities of other digits (the other four fingers) of the user's hand.

In a sense, an injury from a fishing line can be more of a “scraping” or “blunt force” injury than a “piercing” injury, such as seems inevitable when inserting one's hand into the mouth of a fish, many of which are carnivorous. Rather, in the various possible situations of manipulating a fishing line, the line may slide over the users hand or thumb in an abrasive (scraping) manner, as mentioned above, or may abruptly impact the hand or thumb when tension of the fishing line abruptly changes, striking a blow (blunt force) to exposed flesh, which can also adversely affect underlying muscle, vascular and bone structures in the hand.

A form of a blunt impact force, or a resulting deformation of an inelastic material resulting from such an impact is often referred to as a “ding”. Throughout the descriptions set forth herein, the invention (or portions thereof, or methods of use thereof) may be referred to as the “Thumb Dinger”, which is considered by the applicant to be his trademark. As implied by the name, the Thumb Dinger may protect a wearer's (user's) thumb from “dings”, from various sources, such as, but not limited to, a fishing line which may be moving erratically, typically under tension (a fishing line not under tension is generally not likely to cause any damage, or ding).

According to the invention, a thumb protection device comprises:

    • a elongate wristband, formed of a flexible material such as nylon, and incorporating a fastener such as a snap, a buckle, or a hook/loop type (Velcro™) fastener, for securing the thumb protection device to a user's (wearer's) wrist;
    • a thumb cup, which is generally conical and comprises mostly leather (it may be partially formed by a distal end of a nylon thumb cup strap); and
    • a thumb cup strap attaching the thumb cup to the wrist band.

Optionally, pockets for storing objects may be provided, such as on the wrist band or on the thumb cup strap, or even on the thumb cup itself.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING(S)

Reference will be made in detail to embodiments of the disclosure, examples of which may be illustrated in the accompanying drawing figures (FIGs). The figures are intended to be illustrative, not limiting. Although the invention is generally described in the context of these embodiments, it should be understood that it is not intended to limit the invention to these particular embodiments.

Certain elements in selected ones of the figures may be illustrated not-to-scale, for illustrative clarity. The cross-sectional views, if any, presented herein may be in the form of “slices”, or “near-sighted” cross-sectional views, omitting certain background lines which would otherwise be visible in a true cross-sectional view, for illustrative clarity. In some cases, hidden lines may be drawn as dashed lines (this is conventional), but in other cases they may be drawn as solid lines.

If shading or cross-hatching is used, it is intended to be of use in distinguishing one element from another (such as a cross-hatched element from a neighboring un-shaded element. It should be understood that it is not intended to limit the disclosure due to shading or cross-hatching in the drawing figures.

Elements of the figures may (or may not) be numbered as follows. The most significant digits (hundreds) of the reference number correspond to the figure number. For example, elements of FIG. 1 are typically numbered in the range of 100-199, and elements of FIG. 2 are typically numbered in the range of 200-299. Similar elements throughout the figures may be referred to by similar reference numerals. For example, the element 199 in FIG. 1 may be similar (and possibly identical) to the element 299 in FIG. 2. Throughout the figures, each of a plurality of elements 199 may be referred to individually as 199a, 199b, 199c, etc. Such relationships, if any, between similar elements in the same or different figures will become apparent throughout the specification, including, if applicable, in the claims and abstract.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of Knowle's thumb protector, according to the prior art.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the FIG. 1 embodiment of Knowle's thumb protector, according to the prior art.

FIG. 3A is a view, partially plan view (the left portion of the drawing), partially in perspective (the right portion of the drawing) of an embodiment of a thumb protector, according to the invention.

FIG. 3B is a view, partially in cross-section (the left portion of the drawing), partially in perspective (the right portion of the drawing) of the thumb protector of FIG. 3A, according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Although various features of the invention may be described in the context of a single embodiment, the features may also be provided separately or in any suitable combination. Conversely, although the invention may be described herein in the context of separate embodiments for clarity, the invention may also be implemented in a single embodiment. Furthermore, it should be understood that the invention can be carried out or practiced in various ways, and that the invention can be implemented in embodiments other than the exemplary ones described hereinbelow. The descriptions, examples, methods and materials presented in the in the description, as well as in the claims, should not be construed as limiting, but rather as illustrative.

Generally, the present invention (the Thumb Dinger) is similar to Knowles embodiment of a thumb protector shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 of the Knowles patent, in that it is worn by a user to protect their thumb from injury, during an aspect of fishing.

A difference is that whereas Knowles is intended for (and constructed for) protecting against injury from fish teeth (bites) bites, the Thumb Dinger is intended for (and constructed for) protecting the wearer's thumb against injury from fishing line (abrasion and blunt force injury).

The material which is protecting the user's thumb in the Thumb Dinger is different than Knowles.

Knowles uses a relatively flexible and elastic fabric material (e.g., spandex) for the back surface 14 in order to provide the needed flexibility and stretch over the joints or knuckles of the thumb. And, for the front surface 16, which provides for the engagement of the teeth T of the fish F, Knowles uses “of necessity a different material”—namely Knowles discloses that the loop portion 24 of cooperating hook and loop fastener material (e.g., Velcro™) provides excellent results as a material for the front surface 16 of the hand protector 10. The loops 24 provide an excellent engaging means for the relatively small and sharp teeth T of a typical sport fish F, while the standard relatively stiff and heavy backing of the loop material 24 serves well to prevent penetration of the fish teeth T therethrough to protect the thumb of the wearer of the present invention. Alternatively, other materials may be used in lieu of the loop portion of hook and loop fastening material, e.g., wool, some knit fabrics, etc. The specific material may be varied, so long as the material possesses some looped pile characteristics enabling the relatively small, sharp teeth T of a fish F to directly engage the pile or loops and be captured thereby.

The Thumb Dinger uses a material such as leather to protect the wearer's thumb against the anticipated category of injuries for which the Thumb Dinger is intended to provide protection.

Leather is a material created through the tanning of hides and skins of animals, primarily cattlehide. Leather is an important material with many uses. Its main use is in the footwear industry.

There are a number of processes where by the skin of an animal can be formed into a supple, strong material commonly called leather.

    • Chrome-tanned leather, invented in 1858, is tanned using chromium sulfate and other salts of chromium. It is more supple and pliable than vegetable-tanned leather, and does not discolor or lose shape as drastically in water as vegetable-tanned. More esoteric colors are possible using chrome tanning. The type of chromium used in the process should not be confused with the hexavalent chromium (which is carcinogenic), but which does not have any tanning ability. Hexavalent chromium can be found in chrome leathers in rare situations but can become problematic if the chrome-tanned leathers are mistreated, e.g if bleached.
    • Vegetable-tanned leather is tanned using tannin (hence the name “tanning”) and other ingredients found in vegetable matter, tree bark, and other such sources. It is supple and brown in color, with the exact shade depending on the mix of chemicals and the color of the skin. Vegetable-tanned leather is not stable in water; it tends to discolor, and if left to soak and then dry it will shrink and become less supple and harder. In hot water, it will shrink drastically and plasticize, becoming rigid and eventually brittle. Boiled leather is an example of this where the leather has been hardened by being immersed in hot water, or in boiled wax or similar substances. Historically, it was used as armour due to its hardness and light weight, but it has also been used for book binding.
    • Aldehyde-tanned leather is tanned using glutaraldehyde or oxazolidine compounds. This is the leather that most tanners refer to as wet-white leather due to its pale cream or white colour. It is the main type of leather used in chrome-free leather often seen in infant's shoes and in automobiles that prefer a chrome-free leather. Formaldehyde tanning (becoming historic due to its danger to workers and the sensitivity of many people to formaldehyde) is another method of aldehyde tanning. Brain-tanned leathers fall into this category are exceptionally absorbent of water. They are made by a labor-intensive process which uses emulsified oils often those of animal brains. They are known for their exceptional softness and their ability to be washed. Chamois leather also falls into the category of aldehyde tanning and like brain tanning produces a highly absorbent leather. Chamois leather is made by using oils (traditionally cod oil) that oxidise quite easily to produce the aldehydes that tans the leather.
    • Synthetic-tanned leather is tanned using aromatic polymers such as the Novolac or Neradol types. This leather is white in colour and was invented when vegetable tannins were in short supply, i.e. during the Second World War. Melamine and other amino-functional resins fall into this category as well and the provide the filling that modern leathers often require. Urea-formaldehyde resins were also used in this tanning method until dissatisfaction about the formation of free formaldehyde was realised.
    • Alum-tanned leather is tanned using aluminium salts mixed with a variety of binders and protein sources, such as flour, egg yolk, etc. Purists argue that alum-tanned leather is technically “tawed” and not tanned, as the resulting material will rot in water. Very light shades of leather are possible using this process, but the resulting material is not as supple as vegetable-tanned leather.
    • Rawhide is made by scraping the skin thin, soaking it in lime, and then stretching it while it dries. Like alum-tanning, rawhide is not technically “leather”, but is usually lumped in with the other forms. Rawhide is stiffer and more brittle than other forms of leather, and is primarily found in uses such as drum heads where it does not need to flex significantly; it is also cut up into cords for use in lacing or stitching, or for making dog chews.

Leather—usually vegetable-tanned leather—can be oiled to improve its water resistance. This supplements the natural oils remaining in the leather itself, which can be washed out through repeated exposure to water. Frequent oiling of leather, with mink oil, neatsfoot oil or a similar material, keeps it supple and improves its lifespan dramatically.

In general, leather is sold in three forms:

    • Full-Grain leather, made from the finest raw material, are clean natural hides which have not been sanded to remove imperfections. Only the hair has been removed. The grain remains in its natural state which will allow the best fiber strength, resulting in greater durability. The natural grain also has natural breathability, resulting in greater comfort. The natural Full-Grain surface will wear better than other leather. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a natural “Patina” and grow more beautiful over time. The finest leather furniture and footwear are made from Full-Grain leather. Full grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: aniline (leather) and semi-aniline.
    • Corrected-Grain leather, also known as Top-Grain leather, is fuzzy on one side and smooth on the other. The smooth side is the side where the hair and natural grain used to be. The hides, which are made from inferior quality raw materials, have all of the natural grain sanded off and an artificial grain applied. Top grain leather generally must be heavily painted to cover up the sanding and stamping operation. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.
    • Suede is leather that has had the grain completely removed or is an interior split of the hide/skin. During the splitting operation the grain and drop split are separated. The drop split can be further split (thickness allowing) into a middle split or a flesh split. In very thick hides the middle split can be separated into multiple layers until the thickness prevents further splitting. The strongest suedes are usually made from grain splits (that have the grain completely removed) or from the flesh split that has been shaved to the correct thickness. Suede is “fuzzy” on both sides. Suede is less durable than top-grain. Suede is cheaper because many pieces of suede can be split from a single thickness of hide, whereas only one piece of top-grain can be made. However, manufacturers use a variety of techniques to make suede appear to be full-grain. For example, in one operation, glue is mixed with one side of the suede, which is then pressed through rollers; these flatten and even out one side of the material, giving it the smooth appearance of full-grain. Latigo is one of the trade names for this product. A reversed suede is a grained leather that has been designed into the leather article with the grain facing away from the visible surface. It is not a true form of suede.

Other less-common leathers include:

    • Buckskin or brained leather is a tanning process that uses animal brains or other fatty materials to alter the leather. The resulting supple, suede-like hide is usually smoked heavily to prevent it from rotting.
    • Patent leather is leather that has been given a high gloss finish. The original process was developed in Newark, N.J. by inventor Seth Boyden in 1818. patent leather usually has a plastic coating.
    • Shagreen is also known as Stingray skin/leather. Applications used in furniture production as far back as the art deco period. Shagreen the word originates from France and is commonly confused with a shark skin and stingray skin combination.
    • Vachetta leather is used in the trimmings of luggage and handbags, popularized by Louis Vuitton. The leather is left untreated and is therefore susceptible to water and stains. Sunlight will cause the natural leather to darken in shade, called a Patina.
    • Slink is leather made from the skin of unborn calves. It is particularly soft, and is valued for use in making gloves.
    • Deer Skin—This is probably the toughest leather in the world, given that most wild deer are constantly getting in and out of thorny thickets in the forests. Deerskin has always been prized across societies—notably the North American Indians who used to treat it with lime and other compounds to make the raw deer hide more supple, often “staking” it out in different weather conditions etc. Modern deer skin is no longer procured from the Wild as it were, with “deer farms” breeding the animals specifically for the purpose of their skins. Such farmed deer skins are usually procured from New Zealand and Australia in today's times. Deer Skin is prized for use in Jackets and Overcoats as well as high quality personal accessories like handbags and wallets. It commands a high price owing to its relative rarity as well as its proven durability.
    • Nubuck is top-grain cattle hide leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap of short protein fibers, producing a velvet-like surface.

There are two other descriptions of leather commonly used in specialty products, such as briefcases, wallets, and luggage.

    • Belting leather is a full grain leather that was originally used in driving pulley belts and other machinery. It is often found on the surface of briefcases, portfolios, and wallets, and can be identified by its thick, firm feel and smooth finish. Belting leather is the only kind of leather used in luxury products that can retain its shape without the need for a separate frame; it is generally a heavy weight of full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather.
    • Napa leather, or Nappa leather, is extremely soft and supple and is commonly found in higher quality wallets, toiletry kits, and other personal leather goods.

The following are not ‘true’ leathers, but contain leather material.

    • Bonded Leather, or “Reconstituted Leather”, is not really a true leather but a man-made material composed of 90% to 100% leather fibers (often scrap from leather tanneries or leather workshops) bonded together with latex binders to create a look and feel similar to that of genuine leather at a fraction of the cost. Bonded leather is not as durable as other leathers, and is recommended for use only if the product will be used infrequently. One example of bonded leather use is in Bible covers.
    • Bicast leather is a man-made product that consists of a thick layer of polyurethane applied to a substrate of low-grade or reconstituted leather. Most of the strength of bicast leather comes from the polyurethane coating, which allows this material to be used where strength or durability are required.

In some parts of the world top-grain thicknesses are described using weight units of ounces. Although the statement is in ounces only, it is an abbreviation of ounces per square foot. The thickness value can be obtained by the conversion:

    • 1 oz/ft2= 1/64 inch (0.4 mm)

Hence, leather described as 7 to 8 oz is 7/64 to 8/64 inches (2.8 to 3.2 mm) thick. The weight is usually given as a range because the inherent variability of the material makes ensuring a precise thickness very difficult. Other leather manufacturers state the thickness directly in millimeters.

Today, most leather is made of cow hides, but many exceptions exist. Lamb and deer skin are used for soft leather in more expensive apparels. Kangaroo leather is used to make items which need to be strong but flexible, such as motorcycle gloves. Kangaroo leather is favored by motorcyclists specifically because of its lighter weight and higher abrasion resistance as compared to cowhide. Buffalo leather is also used in America. It is used for gloves, jackets and some baseball gloves. It is rugged but supple and has a waxy feel.

Overall, leather comes from a variety of other sources, including the skins of cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, lobsters, ostriches, kangaroos, dogs and cats.

FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate an embodiment of the thumb protector 300 of the present invention.

A wrist strap 302 is formed (for example) of a flexible synthetic material such as nylon webbing. The wrist strap 302 is elongate, and has two opposite ends 302a and 302b. The wrist strap 302 has a length (vertical in the view of FIG. 3A) sufficient to encompass a wearer's wrist (not shown), and is provided with means for fastening the two ends of the wrist strap together, such as buckles, snaps or hook/loop (Velcro) fasteners 304a and 304b.

A thumb cup 306 is provided, and is attached via a thumb cup strap 308 to the wrist band 302. The thumb cap strap 308 extends from the wrist band 302 to a proximal end 306a of the thumb cup 306.

The thumb cup 306 is generally conical, having an opening at its proximal end 306a for receiving a wearer's thumb 310 (shown in dotted lines) at its proximal end 306a, and tapering to its distal end 306b where it is closed. The thumb cup 306 is sized and shaped to receive the distal end portion of the wearer's thumb 310.

The thumb cup strap 308 is formed (for example) of a flexible synthetic material such as nylon webbing, and extend sufficiently from the wrist band 302 to form a portion of the thumb cup 306. The remainder of the thumb cup 306 is formed of leather, or a leather-like material, as follows.

Attention is directed to FIG. 3B. The thumb cup 306 is essentially made of four sections.

As mentioned above, a top portion 306c of the thumb cup 306 is formed by a distal end portion 308b of the thumb cup strap 308, and may be nylon webbing. This top portion 306c sits atop the users thumb, and may be wedge-shaped, having a greater dimension at the proximal end 306a of the thumb cup 306 and a lesser dimension at the distal end 306b of the thumb cup 306.

A bottom portion 306d of the thumb cup 306 is a nearly flat wedge-shaped piece of leather (or leather like material), having a greater dimension at the proximal end 306a of the thumb cup 306 and a lesser dimension at the distal end 306b of the thumb cup 306.

Two side portions 306e (only one is visible in the side view of FIG. 3B) are disposed between respective side edges of the top portion 306c and the bottom portion 306d.

The side portions 306e and 306f are also wedge-shaped, having a greater dimension at the proximal end 306a of the thumb cup 306 and a lesser dimension at the distal end 306b of the thumb cup 306.

These wedge-shaped pieces 306c, 306d, 306e and 306f make up the generally conical shape of the thumb cup 306. It is within the scope of the invention that the top portion 306c can be separate from the thumb cup strap, and can be made of leather, and may be an extension of one or both of the side portions 306e and 306f. The thumb cup 306 substantially comprises leather (or a leather-like material).

In use, the user inserts his/her thumb into the thumb cup 306 and straps the thumb protector 300 onto his/her wrist, then proceeds with his/her fishing activity. Wearing the thumb protector 300 will protect against dings (scrapes and blunt force injuries), such as from fishing line.

Optionally, as shown in FIG. 3A, various size pockets may be included for objects such as for sunscreen or lip balm. Three pockets 310a, 310b and 310c are shown disposed on the wristband 302, perpendicular to the length of the wristband, and one pocket 310d is shown disposed on the thumb cup strap 308. The pockets may be open at one end (or side), and may be provided with closures, such as snaps or zippers (not shown). The pockets are omitted from the view of FIG. 3B, for illustrative clarity.

While the invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as examples of some of the embodiments. Those skilled in the art may envision other possible variations, modifications, and implementations that are also within the scope of the invention, based on the disclosure set forth herein.