THE HISTORY OF LEATHER
Leather making is one of mans oldest activities and it’s earliest recording is from 1300B.C. The use of leather throughout the ages has been an important one and its application has taken many different forms. Early leather use was to provide shelter and clothing. Huntsmen would use the skin of animals as cloaks to protect themselves from the elements.
As civilisation grew and leather became more available it’s use became more varied. Moving through to the Roman times, leather became a popular choice for tools, weapons and more decorative clothing items; such as gloves, shoes and jewellery.
Fast forward to present day and leather is still as popular as ever. Its versatility, hard-wearing texture allows an array of different applications. As a by product of the meat industry it also means that supply is plentiful.
How is Leather Made?
Leather manufacture can be split into three major phases; preparation, tanning and finishing (crusting).
The preparation phase involves taking the raw hide and getting it ready for tanning. Raw hides are usually salted during transit to preserve from bacteria. The salt is not wanted during the preparation phase and upon arrival at the tannery skins are soaked. Soaking can last anywhere from several hours to several days. The clean hide is removed of hair through a process known as liming. Soaking the hide in lime chemically removes the hairs and opens up the fibres structure. The limed hides are fed through large machines through a process known as ‘fleshing’. Fleshing involves putting limed hides through two large cylinders against blades. The blades slice the material into two parts. The upper layer (called top grain) becomes the leather whilst the bottom section is used as suede.
Prepared hides are placed in large wooden rotating drums. Tanning agents take the raw hides and convert them into a more durable product, preserving it. Initial tanning turns the hides a distinguished blue. Tanning processes vary between manufacturers and it can last anywhere between 2 hours and 30 days. Dependent on the tanning agent, intended use and required quality of leather.
The leathers are passed through large rollers which squeeze out the tanning agents. At this stage the leathers are called ‘wet-blue’ and it is now that the product is inspected, graded and chosen.
Selected leathers are fed back into the tanning drums and dyed throughout. This further tanning treatment gives the hide its required colour and further softens the leather.
The newly dyed hides are dried. The drying can be done in a variety of ways. Some which involve machine drying, passing the hide through an industrial dryer or naturally, by hanging the hides and allowing them to dry at room temperature.
The dried leathers can have surface damage; scratches or cuts from the animal. These can be filled in using a special paste called ‘Stucco’. The nearly finished leather is polished and finely buffed giving a smooth, shiny texture. Finally finishing dye is sprayed to the skin and a grained roller is passed over the surface giving it a finishing texture and enhancing the natural beauty.
This newly created material is now ready to be transformed into one of your favourite Kurtis Paul luxury items.