>> Leather Tanning
Once skins and hides are removed, they are processed for cleaning
and the removal of any tissue and hair. This ensures the skin
is as clean as possible and ready to be tanned. Leather quality
is determined by a number of factors, but the most important is
the way the hide is tanned.
Tanning leather involves multiple steps. Depending on the type
of process being used, the nature of the hide and the desired
result, some steps may be repeated. Consider these various forms
of tanning leather:
Brain tanning is one form of tanning leather that does not involve
a commercial process. This is done with nothing but the animal
itself. The basic process of brain tanning leather is to use materials
from the brain, hence the name. The brain lipids are then used
to treat the skin, producing a magnificent piece of soft leather.
The process of brain tanning leather actually dates back to the
Stone Age when cavemen and hunters would soak the hides in brains,
pulling them until they became soft. For these primitive people,
this was a part of daily life in making bedding and clothing to
Although German and English tanners were brain tanning leather
as recently as the late 19th and 20th Centuries, the only thing
that remains from the Stone Age Europe are bone and stone tanning
tools. The earliest record of European tanning is:
"The ox hide, which is soaked in fat, is pulled to and fro
by men standing in a circle, thus stretching the skin and causing
the fat to penetrate into the pores."
Additionally, the following tribes and regions have been identified
by researchers as having been involved with brain tanning leather:
* Zulu tribe of Southern Africa
* Chukchee tribe of Eastern Russia
* Nomadic people of Asia
* Northern Asia
* South America
* North America
To brain tan a hide, this process can take up to one year. However,
fans of brain tanned leather agree that the final product makes
up for the wait. First, the hide has to be de-fleshed, cleaned,
and then “grained”. Although the hide is grained in
one of several ways, the result is the removal of the grain side,
which is the side with the hair.
This leaves the softer under layer of the skin. Then the hides
are cured in salt and allowed to dry, creating a hard, yellowed
“rawhide”, which is nothing like the finished product.
The rawhide is put into successively stronger solutions of brain
material, soaked, and then worked with brushes and scrapers to
stretch and dry the hide. This process is repeated several times
and interestingly, some tanners will smoke the hide as the last
step, which produces a handsome hide and rich color as well as
a smoky scent. - Braintan.com
Chrome tanning, also called “mineral” tanning, is
a quicker process compared to vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning
leather takes about a day and begins with pickling the skin in
an acid-salt mixture. After the skin is pickled, it is put into
a solution containing chromium-sulfate. Chrome tanning leather
is used to produce a wide variety of garments, especially if the
design requires a softer leather.
Vegetable tanning leather produces stiffer result that is still
flexible but better suited for sturdier products such as belts
and luggage. Hides are placed on frames and hung in vats of tannin,
which is where ‘tanning’ got its name.
Tannin is a natural product found in certain parts of trees such
as chestnut, oak, and hemlock, using the bark, wood, leaves, and
fruit. This process involves the skins being moved through a series
of vats. The first vat will have a weaker solution of tannin than
the final vat.
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