Many different terms are used to describe the quality of webbing and other textile materials. These terms include certified, first quality, surplus, leader, over-runs, and seconds (second quality). Some of these terms are used interchangeably. It can be confusing and often times misleading. What do these terms really mean? What is the difference? What should I use for my specific application?
Certified vs. First Quality
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there can be a difference. All certified webbing is first quality, but not all first quality webbing is certified. First quality webbing is simply webbing that has no flaws or quality issues. Certified webbing is first quality webbing that is certified to certain specifications. These could include strength, width, thickness, color fastness, elongation, where it is made, etc., or all of the above.
If you need certified webbing you will most likely know it. You will likely have a list of specifications that the webbing is required to meet. Manufacturing contracts with the government or military are good examples of jobs that are likely to require “certified” materials. If you ask for certified webbing you should be prepared to provide the specifications you need it certified to. What if your client did not provide specs or ask for certified materials? In this case you likely do not need certified material. If you do not need certified material you can use first quality, or depending on your application, surplus, over-runs, or seconds. All of which will be cheaper to one degree or another than certified material.
Surplus vs. Second Quality
First quality and certified are relatively easy terms to understand. However, terms like over-runs, surplus, leader, and seconds are a little less defined. The difference is sometimes not clear. Sometimes these terms are used intentionally to be confusing. The most confusing of these terms is probably “SURPLUS”. In general, surplus is a blanket term used to describe all seconds and over-runs. I once had a colleague offering our company a large amount of thread at a very appealing price. He kept referring to the lot as “surplus”. I kept asking if the material was first quality or second quality (seconds). He kept avoiding the question. The answer I finally got was “well seconds is kind of a dirty word”. Obviously this guy is the kind of guy who gives all salespeople a bad name.
When you hear the word surplus the material is likely seconds, at least in the sense that it is no good for its originally intended purpose. However, it could still meet or exceed the quality needed for other applications. The best example of this is surplus seatbelt webbing. Yes, we do use the term surplus rather than seconds in this case because though the material has a flaw that makes it unsuitable for automotive restraints it is still more than sufficient for hundreds of other applications. For example: if seatbelt gets rejected for automotive use because it is the wrong shade of gray would you consider this a second quality material for use on a truck tarp? Certainly not! So in many cases the word surplus may be used to market seconds or over-runs because sometimes seconds is not the best way to accurately describe the material for any given use.
Examples of minor flaws in seatbelt webbing are too many breaks within the roll or off shade. These are the most common. Major flaws might be extreme variance in width, curved webbing, mis pics, etc.
Now for “over-runs”. Remember, seconds simply means the material has a flaw. It could be very minor or it could be something significant. Over-runs are left over materials. Over-runs are normally first quality material.
A term often used in the webbing world is “leader”. True leader is material from the leading part of a run of webbing. This first part of the webbing is usually off color because the adjustments are still being made to get the color where it needs to be. The term “leader” is used in different ways by different sources. Usually what you can expect with leader is off color material or material that varies in color in a single roll. Leader is a very inexpensive alternative for many applications that do not require color matching.
It is important to discuss your particular application with your vendor to be sure the material you are getting is indeed suitable for your particular application. Do not be afraid to use surplus, leader, seconds, or over-runs when you can. These materials can be huge money savers.
Tennessee Webbing Products Co. offers many different types of webbing materials. We offer first quality and certified webbing materials as well as maintaining the largest inventory of surplus and over-run webbing in the U.S.A.