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Four types of Tanning Methods: Chromium Tanning, Vegetable Tanning, and Smoke Tanning.


A strong and solid pair of boots need a best quality and characteristics of leather. With the best quality leather that has been through a long tanning process, we can finally form it into a part of boots. ⁣⁣
Surely, how the leather tanning process is done, we can choose a type of leather tanning to process leather. To understand the leather that is so unique, discovering tanning methods is necessary. First, we will talk about one notable tanning process, chrome tanning.⁣
Just like its name, chromium tanning using a chemical called Chromium(III) sulfate ([Cr(H2O)6]2(SO4)3) to process the leather. The ancient method of tanned leather was replaced by chromium (chrome) tanning in 1858, as tanneries looked for ways to expedite the process and save money. Currently, this process accounts for over 90% of the world’s leather. Chrome tanning was invented by the German technologist Friedrich Knapp and Hylten Cavalin from Sweden. However, it was an American chemist called Augustus Schultz, who first patented the chrome tanning process.⁣⁣
Chrome tanned leather is leather produced using a solution of chemicals, acids, and salts to dye the hide. Chrome tanning can be completed much quicker, typically in a matter of days.

There are several characteristics of Chromium Leather :⁣⁣
• The color characteristics are different between each tannery, it is what makes the leather unique
• The colors of the leather remain changed and evolved during the product’s entire lifespan.⁣⁣
• It is available with a huge variety of color⁣⁣ and texture
• More durable and looks rich
• It is thinner and softer than other tanned leather.⁣⁣
• Strong resistance to water, stains, and heat.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ • There are many choices of leather treatment that can be applied ⁣

Each leather serves different purposes. If you want to have a softer and beautifully aging leather with a huge variety of color, then this chrome leather is the perfect fit for you.⁣


Credit: Southwark Archives⁣⁣

Before the fastest method of tanning invented, to process the leather, people use the traditional way to tannage the leather. The one of another notable tanning process that uses natural and vegetable ingredients, The oldest and most intricate process, Vegetable Tanning⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
As the name suggests, veg-tan is an organic method relying on natural veg-tan with hundreds of tree types, and other plants are known to have been used, such as oak, spruce bark, quebracho, tara pods, olive leaves, rhubarb roots or mimosa are common. These ingredients are placed in a pit, along with the skins and hides. As these tannins are derived from plants, the leather is called veg-tan leather or “natural leather”⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣

Tanning with natural ingredients has existed for over 5,000 years and has been the primary tanning method for many centuries. Ornaments placed on stone coffins reveal that vegetable tanning was around in the 4th millennium BC in Egypt. Since the discovery of Ötzi in the ice of the Alps, it is evident that several leather types were prepared for various uses even 5,000 years ago. Recently, the more modern and industrialized tanning methods have become common, and it can be assumed that nowadays, only 10 – 12% of all leather is vegetable-tanned.⁣

Vegetable tanning is a time-consuming process requiring highly skilled artisans, which involves soaking hides in large baths of concentrated tannins over several months. With all the complexity comes the veg-tan leather with known natural characteristics. Some of the features and benefits associated with veg-tan leather which makes it relevant in the heritage community include:⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

• Ancient, heritage and traditionary approach⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
• Leathers are thick and hard-wearing⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
• All materials are biodegradable⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
• Earthy and natural feel⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
• Develops a patina with use and age⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
• Feels more organic/alive⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
• Most eco-friendly⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

If the rich and beautiful patina suits you the most, then the veg-tan leather is the best selection for you.


A decisive development came when it was realized the leather tanning process in the past can be done effectively with ash and quick lime, or by smoke. Smoke tanning is a successful approach for the leather tanning process at that time. North American Indians also used smoke as a way of preserving the skins.⁣

Using smoke, removing hair in animal skin can be done. By smoking too, the Indians of North America prevented the leather from becoming hard as a result of moisture. Smoking waterproofs the surface. Due to the darker color of the smoke, the leather does not look so dirty.⁣

This treatment allows the leather to be washed if needed. There are a few main rules to follow when smoking a hide to do this tanning process technique.⁣

First, hardwood works the best. Secondly, the wood should be rotten to the point you can break it apart with your hands. Thirdly, these are very low heat fires and should not have anything that resembles a flame. You will quickly learn that fire and hides do not mix if they come in too close of contact. Lastly, the time for smoking depends on the preference, make sure the hides get a good smoke.⁣

Tanning hides in a primitive way is no easy task. It takes time, energy, and a willingness to learn and fail. The silver lining to a weak fur market is gaining experience and knowledge, and that outweighs the small amount of money you would get for your fur. There is no better time to start learning than when the market is down by traditionally learning to tan hides, and you’ll be reconnecting with knowledge of the past and getting the most out of the leather.⁣

Credit: Crow’s Nest. Wildcraft⁣

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