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How Leather Is Made? A Guide To The Leather Manufacturing Process

Widely loved for its fascinating charm, leather often amuses people regarding its complex production period. The long process which starts with raw animal skins ends up producing the most sophisticated and fine items that are to be used and cherished through the following decades. However, despite the wild craze about leather, only a few people are familiar with the process the material undergoes before taking the desired look. If you are one of those people who is fancy about collecting leather articles, but also knows a little about the production process, join us in this brief journey where together we will explore how leather is made.

How Leather Is Made?

1. Raw Animal Hides

The processing of leather starts with the basic element, which is obviously the raw animal skins. What you may find fascinating is the fact that almost any animal skin can be used to produce leather including sheep, crocodiles, pigs and goats. However, the most common source of leather is cow and buffalo. This is because they come as the by-product of the dairy and food industries. Most of the leather articles that you see or use are made of animal skins that would otherwise have been destroyed. So the art of leather is about taking those disposals and turning them into useful and elegant materials that will be cherished for decades. 

However, during the processing of hides, the raw skin and flesh are removed. This process is usually carried out manually or with the fleshing machine. When done manually, the entire removal process is completed as quickly as possible before the substance dries out. To remove the hair from the hides, it is soaked in a calcium oxide solution for a day or two, which is also called a lime bath. Once this part is done, the output will be a clean, white material with which the craftsmen will proceed to the second step i.e. tanning.

2. Tanning

The second phase of leather production is tanning, which plays a pivotal role in turning the organic hides into rot-proof material that would last for a lifetime. Also, it is the tanning process that converts raw hides to leather. 

To halt decomposition and make the substance durable, the hides are placed in the tanning drum with tanning solutions which are either chromium salt agents or a mixture of tannin extracts. Vegetable tanning is the oldest form of tanning,and it produces flexible leathers that are ideally used to craft furniture, shoes, or luggage. On the other hand, chrome-tanned leather is perfect for making items like clothing, purses, or handbags. Now that the tanning part is done, the leather undergoes a drying process to remove the moisture and gets ready for dyeing.

3. Dyeing

It's the dyeing process that adds stunning colour to the leather. While different shades of black and brown are the most common ones, the leather can be dyed with any colour. Each shade of dye is formulated meticulously through computer programs that pass multiple accuracy checkings, otherwise, it would be impossible to create the same shade each time. 

The long-standing dyeing process involves placing the leather in large drums with selected dyes that are left that way for enough time to ensure that the leather is completely dyed. After 8-9 hours of leaving the hides in the dye, a small sample cut is taken to examine whether the dye has finished saturation. The dyed leather is then rinsed multiple times to remove the residual chemicals or dyes. Once all the residues are gone, it proceeds to the final finishing stage.

4. Finishing

The final step is the finishing stage where the leather is designed for desired items and is provided with the coveted texture and finish. During this process, fine characteristics like flexibility and glossy or matte finish are added to the leather. With plenty of natural oils and staker machine, the leather is widely lubricated and stretched. This step helps to create a smooth surface and also tightens the grains for a more flexible material. Finally, the finishing touch is given with a finishing spray. The type of finishing that would be added depends on the coveted texture of the items, and if needed, engraving patterns or symbols are also done in this stage. However, the finishing part is skipped while working with full-grain leather, since it is supposed to retain the optimal natural appearance. 

Lastly, the final products are thoroughly examined through quality checks, which ensures that there is no damage or tear in the leather and it has the right shade and texture. And then, the leather is ready to be shipped for producing fine leather accessories, articles of clothing, luggage items, purses, and handbags.

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