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How are leather products made?
How are leather products actually made?

How are leather products made?

Leather is a material that has been used for a very long time to make products of every kind. However, the process of producing leather has remained largely the same throughout history.

 

Design de Valeur takes pride in manufacturing high-quality leather accessories which is why we thought it would be interesting for you to know what the manufacturing process actually looks like.

If that is something you’re interested in, please keep reading as in this article we will discuss various processes involved in leather manufacturing.

Leather production explained in 3 steps

Leather production consists of three main steps each of which involve several processes. We will discuss each step and process individually to give you an overall idea.

STEP 1: Hide preparation

Preparing the hide
Preparing the hide

The first step in making a leather product is prepping the hide. It starts as a piece of animal skin taken from a carcass – which should not come as a surprise to most of you – so the first thing to be done is cure the hide to prevent it from rotting. This can be achieved in numerous ways such as freezing, salting or using chemical preservatives.

After the curing process is complete, the hide is left to soak in clean water for a few hours as this helps to wash off dirt and debris from and rehydrate the hide.

After curing and soaking

After the hide has been soaked in water, it will be placed in limewater which is a basic solution to help loosen and remove animal hair from the surface.

The hide is then passed through machines that will remove hair and flesh. The hide may be split into layers after that.

Once the hide is clean it will be soaked in an acidic solution to avoid unwanted distortion and the temperature is raised gradually to normalize the pH level.

Further, various enzymes are added to help it become more susceptible to chemicals that are added during the tanning process. After that the hide will go through a pickling process which includes using salt and acid depending on the tanning method to be used.

STEP 2: Tanning the hide

Curing the hide
Curing the hide

Once the hide has been properly prepared it will undergo tanning. The tanners must decide which tanning method to use depending on the intended use of the hide. The most commonly used commercial tanning practices are mineral tanning and vegetable tanning.

Vegetable tanning

Vegetable tanning is a process where naturally occurring chemicals are used to tan the hide. The chemicals used are tannins that occur naturally in plants.

This is a relatively common tanning method albeit not as popular as mineral tanning because it takes more time and the resulting leather is often not as flexible or soft as mineral-tanned leather.

Even though it is not soft or flexible, it is more water-resistant which means that this type of tanning is often used for leather shoes and luggage.

Mineral tanning

This process involves using certain minerals like chromium. The minerals are absorbed by the hide to start a chain of chemical reactions required to transform a raw hide into workable leather.

This method is the fastest and produces leather that is soft and flexible; this kind of leather is ideal for clothing and accessories.

Splitting the hide

Once all of the previous processes have been completed, the hide is cut into two layers – this is called splitting the leather. The hide is split into a grained side and a non-grained side.

The non-grained side will be shaved using a machine to create pieces of leather with desired thickness depending on the intended purpose of use.

After the leather has been split and shaved, it will undergo another neutralizing process to eliminate the tanning chemicals and normalize its pH.

The hide can now be dyed or styled to change the look and color of the leather as necessary. After the leather has achieved its desired style, size and color, it will be coated with oil to retain softness and flexibility. The surface is then smoothed out to create a uniform texture. After completing all these processes, the leather will be dried until around 20% of the total water content remains.

STEP 3: Finishing the hide

Finishing the hide
Finishing the hide

After the hide has been tanned and processed, it will undergo a process called finishing to ensure proper quality.

Tumbling and stacking

The leather will first undergo a process called stacking – it is placed in a stacking machine where it is stretched to ensure that it retains flexibility.

Once the leather has been stacked, it will be taken to a rotating drum where the hide is tumbled for a few hours.

Buffing the leather

Buffing is used to make the surface of leather even softer and thin a piece of leather if needed. The leather is then brushed to remove any excess particles and debris resulting from the buffing process.

After all that is done, the leather is inspected and normalized to ensure consistent quality.

Once the color, size and texture have been inspected, the leather will be covered with a special chemical mixture to impregnate the leather and make it more resistant to water and wear. Now the leather product is finally ready.

 

Maintenance and care

As you may have already learned from our previous article, it is necessary to properly maintain your leather product to ensure its long life. You can read more about caring for your leather products here.

Manufacturing of proper leather is time-consuming

Making proper leather is time consuming
Making proper leather is time consuming

As you can see, producing high-quality leather requires many hours of work. Therefore, we hope that you appreciate your leather products and maintain them regularly.

That being said, Design de Valeur is focused on producing high-quality leather accessories that you can take pride in for years to come, and we hope that by now you have a pretty good idea of leather production and you appreciate our products even more!

You can have a look at our product range here to find the item that you have been looking for.

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