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Chrome Tanning vs. Vegetable Tanning



LEATHER [leth-ernoun 1.the skin of an animal, with the hair usually removed, prepared for use by tanning or a similar process designed to preserve it against decay and make it pliable or supple when dry and cured.

When the hides come off of at the meat packing facilities, the whole animal is intended to be completely utilized.  The hides are then sorted and packed in refrigerated trailers bound for two different tannery options.

  • The chrome tannery. (out of the United States) 
  • The vegetable tannery.  

Chrome tanning is the process of using chromium sulfates and other acids and chemicals to stop decomposition and stabilize the hides.  This process was invented around the mid to late 1800's. It created a way to cure leather in approximately 24 hours. Previously, traditional tanneries would take up to 8 weeks for proper leather curing. This marvel of the modern industrial age made leather less expensive and less labor intensive.  However this new leather was only good for certain applications. Saddles and holsters could not come from this leather. Shoes and upholstery are still the perfect usage for this tanning process. Chrome tanned leather is strong but always void of memory and stiffness.

Pros

1.Leather that has been chrome tanned has a great stretch ability to it which makes it ideal for pulling over shoe lasts or furniture frames.

2.Chrome tanning has superior resistance to climate changes(temperature), weather conditions(moisture), and allowed for even absorption of other weatherproofing agents. and overall strength superiority.

3.Chrome tanned leather had the ability to accept colorants thus allowing for the comprehensive absorption of dyes. Now many new colors were now possible with complete or struck throughabsorption.

Cons

1.The temper of chrome tanned leather had no ability to be stiff.  No matter how thick and mature the bull hides that were used, it cured in 24 hours into flexible and flimsy hides.

2.Chrome tanning turned out to be more poisonous and hazardous to the environment and to the tannery workers than first thought. Once stabilized, chromium leather is debatable to how toxic it is to humans and animals.( It would not be advisable to wear the underside of chrome tanned leather against your skin or as harness for livestock.)

Vegetable Tanning Is the process of using plant materials(vegetable) to cure leather through PH changes from tannins found in plants and trees. This presumably as old as the ability of humans to make fire.  The oldest known example of leather dates back 5,500 years.  It was a shoe found in a cave in Armenia.   It would be difficult to say how many years vegetable leather tanning practices date.

Pros

1. A naturally kinder footprint on the environment from both a process and degradable prospective.

2. A  characteristic of stiffness when wet then dried/heated.

3.The ability to retain memory and shape.

4. Superior aging and patina when exposed to oxygen and skin oils.

5. A natural and non caustic nature. Continues to be used against the skin humans/livestock.

Cons

1. Not as weatherproof or durable (as chrome tanned leather).

2. A expensive and labor intensive tanning method (approx. 6-8 weeks).

3. The inability to fully absorb multi spectrum colorants well.

 

*UNDERSTANDING HOW YOUR LEATHER WAS TANNED AND FINISHED IS CRITICAL TO HOW ONE WOULD CLEAN, MAINTAIN AND WEATHERPROOF THE ITEM.

*CONTACT THE MANUFACTURER FOR SPECIFIC MAINTENANCE AND CLEANING PROCEDURES. ALWAYS TEST A SMALL, LESS VISIBLE AREA BEFORE PROCEEDING TO TREAT THE ENTIRE ITEM.

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