When you work with leather as much as we do, you start to become a perfectionist about it, a bit of a leather nerd.
At the start of the month we had a post on how leather is skin and like skin, leather can be tanned.
Hopefully this post will help you get even better acquainted with how tanned leather works in your equine life.
In the horse industry, the two most popular way to tan leather is either through natural (vegetable) oils or through a chemical process.
Chemical Tanned Leather:
Not as scary as it sounds, chemical tanned leather commonly uses chrome or aluminium salts. This type of process is more commonly found in the fashion world - shoes, clothing, furniture and automotive interiors.
Chemical tanning is preferred when creating light weight leather. Also, bright colors can be produced in a shorter period of time (days) when treated this way.
Vegetable Tanned Leather:
This leather is tanned (cured) in natural fat liquors. It is most commonly found in the manufacture of horse equipment and tack.
You can often see this type of leather in high quality shoe soles as well. This is due to its thickness, strength and durability.
The fat liquors, dye & tannins in vegetable tanned leather come mostly from tree bark and can take much longer to process - up to six weeks for a piece of english bridle or harness leather to soak up fat liquors, dye and be properly cured/dried.
Years ago, oak bark was commonly used in the western world to tan leather. Today, similar bark is available from the Quebracho tree in Africa.
Once this leather is tanned and colored, it is hot stuffed with waxes and tallows to give the leather substance and make it long lasting.
A well maintained piece of leather can last for years and years and give you countless hours of service.
So remember to care for your leather and be safe.
- David Freedman
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