From skin to leather

From skin to leather
Our ancestors already used leather since the beginning of civilized life: Leather production is one of the oldest cultural achievements of mankind. However, we know very little about how to protect animals´ skin from decomposing and how to process it in order to get high-quality material in the result.
It is a long way to go before you can call animals´ skin "leather". The main aim is to stop the material from decomposing in the first place. The skin is usually delivered to the beam house chilled and preserved with salt. The loss of moisture due to conservation of the skin with salt is then balanced in a special soaking process. Unhairing, fleshing and removing remaining dirt is also part of the process. Afterwards the tanner also removes the firm hair by adding lime and sulfur-compounds. In order to get parts that are evenly thick the tanner splits the cleaned skin (Blöße) horizontally in two layers. Then comes the tanning. This step changes the original skin to the actual material: the leather. The tannins form a chemical bond with the skin´s fibre texture. The fibres interweave and therefore prevent the skin from decomposing. The wet leather is then drained by a special sammying process and prepared for further action: by folding, the tanner regulates the leather´s thickness. In the dyeing kitchen the final characteristics of the material are being determined, depending on what it will be used for. The last step is the finishing. Here, pigments, binders and coatings are applied.