Today’s post highlights the leather tanning process and sheds some light on how leather is made. In watching these videos, I really started to think more about the craftsmanship that goes not only into a finished leather piece, but also the artistry behind turning raw materials into beautiful leather hides.
In the first video, you get an in-depth look at how leather is made. This includes the tanning, dyeing, and finishing. It’s really inspiring to see how much care and detail goes into the process from start to finish. Who would have thought that there are so many, small steps involved before the leather even makes it into our hands? It really gives me a deeper appreciation and respect for all things made of leather.
It also prompted me to think more about sustainability. In a time where our impact on the natural world is becoming more and more apparent, it’s easy to understand why increasing numbers of people are trying to align their leatherworking hobbies and businesses with sustainable environmental practices.
The particular tannery highlighted uses an extensive water filtration system that removes all residues from the leather tanning solution, rendering it drinkable almost immediately after use. We’re not perfect, but we’re doing our best at Fine Leatherworking to support businesses that align with our ideals. For more information about how we support tanneries operating in accordance with strict environmental practices, check out our article on environmental responsibility in the leather industry.
How Leather is Made
Leather Made in the USA
We source leather from all over the world but one of our favorites is from my home town, Chicago. I have been to the tannery myself and it’s like stepping back in time. They’re a very old tannery with a long tradition of quality and durability. I feel honored to offer their hides in our store. They’re not just a leather tanning company – in my mind, they’re a true source of living history and craftsmanship.
Horween has been around since the early 1900’s and to this day, they are still one of the leading producers of luxury leather in the world. There is a rich history of leather tanning and Horween is a perfect example of that. They take pride in maintaining traditional tanning methods – their ‘recipes’ have been passed down through five generations of owernship and haven’t changed – while also striving to meet modern expectations and maintain efficient means of production. Check out the video posted below to take a tour of their factory.
Horween Factory Tour
In our third and fourth videos, we wanted to show you some beautiful examples of Horween hides put to good use. You might recognize the item in the first one. A few styles of this particular motorcycle jacket are still made in the old-fashioned way (from horsehide) and several other styles are made from Horween leather.
The theme in both videos is clear. The difference between a good piece and a great piece is all in the details. That’s what puts the Fine Leatherworking community one step ahead of the rest.
The Schott Motorcycle Jacket
Shoes Hand-Sewn from Horween
What are some of the most important qualities that you look for when choosing a piece of leather? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Note: We are not affiliated with the aforementioned businesses and are not being compensated for sharing their content.
I love your blogs and videos, although I live in the UK they are sometimes not so relevant practically they are always interesting. I make bespoke bags and accessories out of vegetable tan leather. For me the most important point in choosing leather is feel. I can judge what you might call the hygiene factors online. I can look at the origin of the hide, the tanning process, the environmental factors. I can check dimensions and cut. I can see the colour and finish and although it is slightly more difficult to assess these latter points just from a picture they can be improved or modified with dyes and polishes and techniques such as burnishing and boarding. However the feel of the leather, how it will work and move both in construction and in use is pretty impossible to assess without getting your hands on.
Whilst the feel, the texture and temper or flexibility is important in construction (both for design and crafting) even more important is the feel in use. Whilst the customer may well be first attracted to a bag visually they will not make the purchase decision without handling it. Once purchased they spend more time in contact, touching and holding it than they do looking at it.
All these are among the reasons I visit tanneries and exhibitions like Lineapelle, So that I can handle the leather, assess the feel and the texture and yes, even smell the leather. Because, yes, working with a product I love handling improves my craftsmanship.
Great points, Paul! There’s really no substitute for doing your own research and actually getting a hide in your hands. Thanks for chiming in.
Nice article. Keep up the good work
Thanks, Sergiu! I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond.
Such an interesting article! Thank you for the information.
Thanks for reading, Nath! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Choosing a gift for others is one of the most difficult tasks. We all want to please others by giving a gift, so we put a lot of effort into choosing the right gift. This article helped to decrease that burden on us. The way he divided this complex task into simple, easy steps that we can follow without any problem is very versatile. The gift suggestion mentioned also will help a lot to figure out the perfect gift we want to present. The vocabulary used is sweet and simple. Overall, the article is pretty intriguing and helpful.
Glad this article was intriguing and helpful for you, John. Keep in touch!
Great post, and thanks for giving valuable information. It is more helpful for me.