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What is Leather Tanning Process? | Easy 12 Steps

what is leather tanning process? If you think that leather tanning is about leather dresses, leather jackets, or leather motorcycle apparel, then you’ve got it all wrong. This is not the same thing as leather tanning. Tanning takes place in a tanning facility where a person or company places animal hides (usually cattle or pigs) into a vat of special chemical solution that will cause the leather to start growing new healthy layers of color.

Tanning means removes the natural pigmentation of the hide

After several days of this treatment, the leather will be completely changed from brown or grey to a beautifully soft, pinkish tone that even the most seasoned leather craftsman will find difficult to identify as leather. This process also removes the possibility of pigmentation or any kind of coloration that could possibly make the item harder to identify as leather.

Beginners Guide.

Leather Tanning Process

If you are considering a career in leather tanning or the leather industry in general, you might want to consider learning about the different types of leather tanning on offer today. Tanning is simply the process of turning hides (especially cattle hides) into a darker brown or black color. Most leather is tanned in order to protect the hides from inclement weather. Leather tanning is also used for decoration purposes, such as creating high quality leather dresses and bags.

Leather tanning

When you’re working with hides you need to be very careful to not cut or nip the fibers. A good quality tanner will make sure to preserve the fibers. The best quality hides will have a lot of hair. When making leather products that have been made from full-grain leather, you’ll be able to see the hairs beginning to come through.

First Step.


the first step is the arrival of the hide to the tannery from the various packing houses the hides are inspected to check the quality trim and weight all leather hides are a byproduct of the meat industry meaning you only use what would ever otherwise been discarded after inspection.

Second Step.

Leather tanning

Tanning process which is done in large trump’s the hides are first thrown into the drums which start slowly turning to soak and wash them followed by the D liming and the D hearing steps when this step is complete the highs will be free of hair and ready to beat end the hides are first removed from the drums to be flashed and trend in this stage the excess fat from the back of the skins is removed.

The hides are then trimmed excess fat and trim is recycled into many products including biofuels and gelatin for food consumption skins are now ready to go back into the drums for the tanning process this process will take about a day and converts the skins into a stable material with the help of Chrome in the course so that when dried the leather would not purify and it will remain flexible once removed from the drums the skins will be in the wet blue stage the hides.    

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Specialized Room.

The leather is tanned in a specialized area or room. Different chemicals are used in the tanning process depending on the product you’re making. Beeswax is often used because it’s very similar to the skin. The hides are placed inside a tanning drum, which is covered with special strips that protect the leather from the outside environment and let it dry naturally.

Basic leather tanning can easily be done by an average person, with time and some know-how. For hundreds of years, this has typically been the traditional way used to turn hides to leather, handy tools, clothing, protection, and even tools for ceremonial purposes. It worked, in very basic terms, by treating the new hide with natural occurring chemicals from trees, called tannic acids. Over time this chemical mixture became known as leather tanning solutions or black leather. As leather tanning processes improved and were perfected over the years the leather tanning process was shortened to just a few hours with a wet process followed by a dry one.

Third Step.

Sammying Process.

through the Sammy process to remove excess water skins will still be humid but are laid out flat ready to be inspected for grain quality then a team of inspectors check the highs one by one and follow strict guidelines to maintain quality consistency for all our products

Fourth Step.

Splitting and Shaving.

the splitting and shaving processes the splitting process will generate a split hide which we sell on the local market this can be used as suede or laminated splits the shaving process brings each hide to the correct thickness excess shavings are sold and recycled into bonded leathers which are used for apparel of binding and furniture.

Fifth Step


Leather tanning
leather tanning

Skins are now ready for the dyeing and retaining process these two processes also take place in drums these steps will determine the color softness and grain of the leather this can take up to a day to complete we strictly adhere to our recipes to maintain leather consistency

One of the final steps involved in leather process is dyeing. Dyeing can be done through a variety of methods, including using chemicals or heat, though a simple home dye kit can probably be purchased for the beginner. It is common practice to dye hides by applying them directly to a raw hide surface, though some weather experts prefer to dye leather by dipping raw hide into an acrylic olefin bath. The olefin is then exposed to the light, which causes it to oxidize.

after tanning the skins will sit for 24 hours before moving on to the drying process.

Bleaching Process of Tanning Leather

Blemishes and scrapes can easily be removed from hides using a bleaching process that uses pure water, tannin, and a bleaching brush. Basic leather tanning involves applying the animal rawhide or hide to a rough surface, then working it around with a knife or rough utensil until the surface is completely smooth. For most people, basic tanned leatherworking only requires the assistance of a leather specialist or family member to make leather items.

Sixth Step.


There are two methods we use to try our leather vacuum drying and toggle drying vacuum drying is used to achieve a smoother grain during the vacuum drying process the leather is swapped onto a hot plate which gets enclosed by a top plate that is cold this creates a vacuum effect sucking excess water out of the high after vacuuming the skins are hung to air-dry until they reach ideal humidity level

The alternate drying method is toggle drying skins are laid onto frames with toggle clips and stretched they’re then sent in turn oven to dry to the ideal humidity level this method is mainly used for softer leathers with a more predominant grain make sure to be very environmentally conscious during every step of the tanning process.   

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Seventh Step


the next step after drying is the staking process the staking machine essentially massages the leather opening it up and making it rather  

Eighth Step


Next is the buffing process in this step fine sandpaper is wrapped on turning cylinders pressuring onto the leather and consequently removing any grain defects this also helps the finish adhere better to the leather.

Leather tanners would then apply what is known as “buffing” to the hides after the tannic acid has been removed using the liming method. Buffing also removes any traces of tannic acid that remained in the leather after the tannic acid has been removed. Buffing further dehydrates the leather which is beneficial as leather requires prolonged exposure to moisture in order to take its true shape and strength. After the leather is completely dehydrated, it is then treated chemically to make it waterproof before it is made usable for use in leather products.

Ninth Step


Now move on to the embossing process the highs are fed through an embossing machine that has different grain designs of choice this machine uses pressure on the surface of the leather to indent the image of the cylinder onto the leather in a three-dimensional block

Tenth Step


now the leather is ready for the finishing process the leather is placed on a conveyor belt and sent down the spray line. the spray line consists of a series of computerized spray guns that apply the finish on the surface of the leather hides.

Twelfth Step


last is the final milling process done to ensure the softness of the leather once the leather is finished it goes through physical testing to make sure industry standards are met the pleximeter makes sure the finish does not crack the well rubbing test is to make sure there will be no color transfer next is the abrasion test which is done if the leather is intended for automotive use lastly the leather is color tested both visually under lightbox and by a color computer all others are also checked for UV stability.


once the letter passes all testing the final step is ironing measuring and one last inspection all Heights are measured and inspected individually to make sure they meet industry standards during this inspection we check for hand fill grain consistency grain quality and thickness.       

Leather Tanning Terms.    

What is carrier in Leather Tanning Process?

Animal fats soak up the sun, which causes them to darken. This darker color is called carotene, and leather is tanned in the same way as it is for other materials. Different types of fats will react differently, however, so it is important to research which type of fat will provide the best tanning results before investing in a project. One of the key ingredients in the tanning process is a substance called a carrier. Different carriers have different effects on the finished product.

Collagen Cross-linking.

One important component of the tanning process is collagen cross-linking. Cross-linking occurs when the collagen (the connective tissue that makes up the skin) is dyed to darken it and is one of the main reasons the finished item may not come out perfectly. Collagen crosses-link (connective tissue becomes tightly linked) with elastin (another structural protein within the skin) when exposed to sunlight. The skin thus suffers from what is known as photo-aging. Commonly used tanning agents, including liquid vitamins and acids used in lotions, can help to reduce this effect.

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Leather tanning

Today, the tanning process is done much differently than it was in years past. For starters there are large machines used instead of individual tanner boxes to create leather. Also, the tanning solution is a different color than the pigments found in leather so that the resulting hide is completely consistent. Lastly, the tanning process itself is shorter and much less intensive allowing leather tanning to be done on a much larger scale. All of these improvements have led to improvements in the quality of the hides and the speed in which they can be processed to become functional leather items.

Tannic Acid.

Tanning hides using a tanning solution is a rather straightforward process. The hides are first brought to the tannery and cleaned to remove all traces of the tannic acid. Then the hides are prepared to be tanned. Tanning strips are applied to the hides before the procedure and these allow the tanner to apply uniformly colored drops of solution directly to the surface of the leather. This is a much faster and easier procedure than what used to be practiced in the early days of tanning.


After the leather is tanned the tannic acid is removed using a number of methods. One such method of removing tannic acid from leather involves soaking the leather in water with a small amount of tannic acid in it for an extended period of time. This tannic acid is removed through what is known as “liming”. Liming is the oldest method of removing tannic acid from leather and it is still used today where modern technologies have developed to prevent any degradation of the leather while tannic acid removal is taking place.

Sun Dying.

what Leather tanning process

After the leather is oxidized, it must be dried in the sun drying. Common methods of sun-drying involve sitting leather in a leather pit, which has holes to let the air pass through. A metal rack is laid on top of the pit to catch all the evaporated moisture, while fans blow cool air in through the holes. This method usually takes one day, though some experts recommend soaking the hides overnight, to fully dry the hides.


After the leather is saturated with dew, it is then prepared for laminating. Laminate the hides using chemical products, such as stearine or lanolin. The lamination process removes the natural proteins in the leather that makes it supple while adding water-resistant glue to strengthen the surface.

Tanning Essentials.

Leather tanners are not all created equally, so it is important to do some research on the tannery processes used at each tannery. Tanning starts with the making of the tanning products. These may include soaps, oils, leather conditioners and sprays, or even artificial dyes. After tannin is added, the hide is cut into strips, and the tanned leather is dipped into glue and squashed. The glue is strong enough to hold the leather in place, but flexible enough that it can stretch without tearing.

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