Once skins and hides are removed, they are processed for cleaning and the removal of any tissue and hair. This guarantees the skin is as clean as possible and ready to be tanned. Leather quality is dependent on a range of factors, but the most important is how the hide is tanned.
Tanning leather involves multiple steps. Depending on the type of process used, the character of the hide and the desired outcome, some steps could be repeated. Consider these different forms of tanning leather:
Brain tanning is one form of tanning leather that doesn’t involve a commercial process. This is done with nothing but the creature itself. The fundamental process of brain tanning leather would be to use substances from the mind, thus the name. The brain lipids are then utilised to care for the skin, producing a magnificent piece of soft leather.
The process of brain tanning leather really dates back to the Stone Age when cavemen and hunters would soak the hides in brains, pulling them till they became soft. For all these primitive people, this is part of everyday life in creating bedding and clothes to stay warm.
Although English and German tanners were mind tanning leather as recently as the late 19th and 20th Centuries, the one thing that remains from the Stone Age Europe are bone and rock tanning tools. The oldest record of European tanning is:
“The ox hide, which can be saturated 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”
Moreover, the following tribes and areas 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
To mind tan a hide, this process can take up to a year. However, fans of brain tanned leather agree that the last product makes up for the wait. First, the hide must be de-fleshedcleaned, and then”grained”. Though the hide is grained in one of many ways, the end result is the elimination of the grain side, that is the side with the hair.
This leaves the softer under layer of skin. Then the hides are treated in salt and allowed to dry, making a tough, yellowed”rawhide”, which is nothing like the final product.
The rawhide is put into successively stronger solutions of brain substance, soaked, and then worked with brushes and scrapers to dry and stretch the hide. This process is repeated several times and interestingly, some tanners will smoke the hide as the previous step, which produces a fine conceal and rich colour in addition to a smoky scent.
Chrome tanning, also known as”mineral” tanning, is a faster process compared to vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning leather takes about a day and starts with pickling skin in an acid-salt mixture. After the skin is pickled, it’s put to a solution containing chromium-sulfate. Chrome tanning leather is used to produce a vast array of clothes, especially if the design needs a softer leather.
Vegetable tanning leather produces stiffer result that’s still flexible but better suited to sturdier products such as belts and bags. Hides are placed on frames and wrapped in vats of tannin, which is where’tanning’ got its name.
Tannin is a natural product found in certain parts of trees like chestnut, oak, and hemlock, using the bark, wood, leaves, and fruit. This process entails the skins being transferred through a series of vats. The first vat will have a weaker solution of tannin than the last vat.