Where does leather come from?
In early times when people hunted for food they wanted to use every bit of the animals they caught to make food, tools, and shelter. They did not want to waste any piece of the animals that could be used for something.
So, they started using the skin of animals like squirrels, rabbits, beavers, goat, deer, camels, and even alpaca to make some of their goods. This was one of their ways to respect the animals’ lives; by not taking the animals for granted and never letting any piece of the animal go to waste.
As agriculture, livestock, and technology grew into the Middle Ages, the development of leather tanning also grew. Leather started being used to make items like shoes, clothes, bags, trunks, saddles, and even items for military use.
Now leather is most commonly made from cow, sheep, or pig skin because of the wide availability of these animals in farming industries. Because these three animals are frequently farmed for consuming meat, their skins are recycled to make leather- which means that less of the animal is going to waste.
However, other animals like snakes, ostriches, or alligators are not as commonly eaten and are usually slaughtered primarily for their skins.
Smoke N’ Mirrors exclusively uses cow, pig, sheep and bison leather because they are more ethical and are the best options for creating durable products.
How is leather made?
Leather comes from an animal’s hide, meaning its skin. To start, the skin is removed from the animal and the flesh is taken off of the skin, leaving a clean surface.
Then the cleaned skin is either placed in a salt brine for 16 hours or the hides are salted and placed on top of each other into a pack for 30 days; these salting techniques are what keeps the skin from decomposing over time.
When finished with the salting process, they are soaked in pure water to rehydrate and get rid of any remaining salt, blood, or dirt. After this they are soaked in a lime bath for a day or two to help remove the hair and soften the hides.
After soaking in so many liquids, the hides are swollen from moisture so they are around 4mm thick. This means they are ready to be spliced into different layers, which will be used for making different products.
These layers of the hide have different qualities about them, so some are valued more than others. You can read more about the differences between these types of leathers by clicking here.
Once the hide is split into different layers it is ready for the tanning process, which is meant to prevent decay and shrinkage of the leather. There are three options available for this process: vegetable tanning, chrome tanning, and a combination of both.
Chrome tanning can be completed in one day but requires many chemicals in the process and results in a softer, more supple leather.
Vegetable tanning uses natural materials (extracts from the bark, wood, fruit, and leaves of trees) over a period of several weeks or months and results in a firmer leather that is more water and stretch resistant.
Combination tanning results in a leather that has the soft and supple feeling from chrome tanning, as well as the firmness and durability of veg tanning.
Smoke N’ Mirrors exclusively uses vegetable tanned leathers, due to its more natural process and high quality results.
Next the hides are run through a sammying machine that uses rollers to press the excess moisture out of them.
At this point they are inspected and sorted out by grades; one being the highest quality and three being the lowest quality. The grades are rated according to how many imperfections and natural flaws the hides have, for example bug bites, and scars.
Once sorted out, the leather hides are wrapped in plastic to keep them from drying out. This finally results in what is called a naked leather, which has not been dyed, embossed with patterns, or varnished with a final coating.
Thank you for reading
I hope this answers a lot of questions for you and leaves you more informed about how leather is made and where it comes from. It is only natural if you have more questions or concerns, as the information provided here is just the basics on this topic.
If you would like to know more about the production of leather products, feel free to email me at Liz.Chasse@Smoke-N-Mirrors.net or check out our other articles to read more about other leather topics: