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Leather Manufacturing

Generally, a leather manufacturer prepares animal hides and partakes in a three step process: Preparation, tanning, and crusting the leather. These steps may vary slightly depending on the kind of leather that is used and the desired end-product.




1. Preparation

The parts of the hide that are not wanted on the leather are removed, leaving only the top level or the dermis. The hide is preserved to ensure it will not rot, degreased so that oils are stripped away and may be soaked in water to cleanse and rehydrate the hide.

Some manufacturers bleach the hide to lighten the colour of the skin. In addition, pickling or depickling may be done to reduce or, in the latter, increase the acidity (pH) of the hide and help the tanning agents penetrate the skin.


2. Tanning

The second major step occurs when the leather manufacturer tans the leather. Tanning is the addition of tannins such as mineral, vegetable, aldehyde, and synthetic or chemical tannins. The types of tannins used on the leather depend on factors such as the hide condition and its pH.




3. Crusting

Crusting is the thinning, re-tanning and then lubrication of the hide. The skin may be filled with chemicals to make the leather denser and stronger, or it may be softened and buffed to reduce the texture of the hide.

Occasionally, a leather manufacturer may apply a top-coat to the leather before selling the leather to another company for the manufacture of leather products.


Patent Leather

Patent leather begins life as a superior grade of fine grain leather that undergoes a process to give it it's glossy look. Sporting a high gloss finish, patent leather has long been established as leather that is considered uptown and formal. This form of leather owes its invention to Seth Boyden of Newark, New Jersey.


Using a formula that was based on a series of treatments using layers of linseed oil-based coats, the new shiny leather began commercial production on 20 September 1819. Boyden’s efforts resulted in the production of glossy leather that retained its protective qualities and durability and created this sleek appearance. Ironically, Boyden never patented his inventive process.


As time went on, the invention of plastics changed the way this leather is produced. Plastic finishes were able to produce effects similar to the application of several treatments with linseed oil, with the advantage of considerably less expense on the part of the producer.




In addition to the mirror like finish, it is also virtually waterproof, while still retaining a very flexible texture. The visual elements of this leather have made it a sought after material for all sorts of formal accessories. It is nearly always considered an integral part of formal wear.


With almost two centuries of history, patent leather is one type of material that seems to keep going no matter what current fashion trends dictate.


Full Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is considered among the best quality leather available. It can be made from a variety of different animal hides, but most usually is made from cow skin. Leather can undergo complex treatment processes in order to create many different products, but many of these treatments can result in weaker leather that will not wear as well. This is especially true when the leather is treated with chemicals. Full-grain leather is desirable because of its minimal treatments and its durability.




With this type of leather, the hides of the animal used are not treated significantly. They have the hair of the animal removed, but they are not sanded. This can result in some minor flaws in the leather, but it also results in the most breathable leather a person can wear. Like a great pair of jeans, clothing made from this product actually gets more comfortable the more a person wears it, becoming softer and some say even more attractive as it gets older.


Suede Leather

Suede is a type of leather with a raised and fuzzy finish. The term comes from the French "gants de Suède", which literally means "Swedish gloves" (suede was originally used for women's gloves).


Suede leather is made from the underside of the skin, primarily lamb, although goat and calf are commonly used. Because suede does not include the tough exterior skin layer, suede is less durable but softer than full grain leather. Its softness, thinness, and pliability make it suitable for delicate uses like shoes.


Napa Leather

The tanning process which produces napa or nappa leather was invented by Emanuel Manasse in 1875 while working for the Sawyer Tanning Company in Napa, California. Napa leather is a full grain leather, typically dyed, made from unsplit kid-, lamb- or sheep-skin by tanning and noted for softness and durability. It is often used in high-quality leather products such as high-end products that require a supple feel.





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