Leather is the animal hide that goes through a process of tanning to be transformed from biodegradable material to something that can last for years. The finished leather material is then used in the making of different goods that a person uses on daily basis such as, footwear, bags, wallets, jackets, sport items, belts and other products.
The leather manufacturing goes a thousand years back when caveman’s used traditional methods to protect leather from decay so that they can use it for various applications but as the time passed the technological development evolved the process. Let’s know how the leather that is used in the manufacturing of our daily used products is manufactured today.
Leather Making Process
Our process of leather manufacturing is divided into 4 steps: Raw material sourcing, cleansing phase, tanning process, and dressing phase. In addition to these steps, finishing is also a part of the process for some but not all leather. Finishing solely depends upon overall orientation of leather which is of requirement.
1st: Raw Material Sourcing
The process of creating the highest quality leather starts with acquiring the finest quality hides which depends on having the best knowledge of exact age and provenance of every piece of leather. To maintain the quality and deliver the best customer value, we only obtain the finest hides with a careful selection process.
2nd: Cleansing Stage:
After sourcing the finest quality hides, the leather production process begins which includes multiple steps. The hides are fully salted when they arrive to prevent them from decomposition so to protect the hide from dehydration caused by salt, the hides are then loaded in the drum full of water to remove extra salt and micro-organisms, the process is called soaking.
The liming process is what comes in the next process, the leather is being treated with compositions to remove the hair and a solution of lime and sodium sulphide is applied to enhance the flexibility and softness of the leather.
Splitting is a process of dividing the hide into layers. The top(grain) layer will produce a fine, smooth grain leather. The bottom layer is used for suede or split leather for other users.
3rd: Tanning Stage:
In the early civilization, the tanning process was performed by utilizing the oil from the animal, minerals and local tress or barks. Today, we used a more refined process which includes synthetic oils, tannins from trees, and purifying chrome and aluminium salts for the finest tanning solutions. Over 90% of the leather that is produced in the world is chrome tanned. However, natural vegetable tanned leather is gaining increasing popularity in overtime.
- Vegetable Tanning: Vegetable-tanned leather is usually rich and deep in natural earthy tones. Its organic blends make it softer and darker during times. The vegetable tanning of leather increases the durability and strength but prolonged exposure to heat can cause the leather to dry out. It is not water-resistant. Water can cause splotches or marks – eventually becoming part of the patina. Scratched fairly but shallow scratches can be buffed out. Therefore, taking good care of leather potentially makes it a lifetime beauty. However, the global consumption of vegetable tanned leather is low compared to chromium tanned but it’s more environmentally friendly compared to chromium-based tannage. This method is used in the absence of chromium tanning.
- Chromium Tanning: In the chrome tanning process, the pre-tanned hide is converted into leather. The process involves mineral tanning which is normally done with alkaline chrome III salt as it penetrates the hide comparatively quickly in 24 to 48 hours. . Due to the chrome tanning process, the colours will remain uniform and the leather will not develop a patina as fast or to the same degree of vegetable-tanned leather.
4th: Dressing Stage
The last stage of dressing includes multiple processes. Shaving process is conducted to fulfil a uniform criteria of thickness, then dyes are added to give leather different colours. The hide then again goes through the process of tanning the additional tanning substances are added to modify the physical characteristics of leather. Once the leather is tanned properly to suit its final use the process of settling is conducted to remove creases and excess water. The leather is then dried and trimmed to refine the rough edges and is ready to be shipped or for the use of final products.