What Are The Best Ways To Order From A Leather Tannery
If you are looking for quality leather, then you will eventually have to deal with a tannery. Granted, you could go through a retail store, but why? It is redundant and costly. Much like a distributor of goods going through a warehouse instead of through a third party, so is the tannery to the professional leather artisan. But before you rush out to find a tannery, there are a few tips which you should consider to ensure that you get a quality product. Because while there are various high quality tannery options available worldwide, there are also a number of poor quality tanneries as well. Here are some tips for ordering directly from the leather tannery.
Understand that tanning is
Before a person can even consider purchasing a quality product, they must understand the product which they are buying. This means that the leather artisan should have a fundamental grasp on what tanning encompasses. So, what is tanning? Tanning is the process of turning animal skin into leather. It is a process which requires the removal of the hair from the skin, the cleaning of the carcass from the skin, the preservation of the leather, and finally the dye process.
Ask about the time it takes for the tannery to turn skin into leather
Tanning takes time. Specifically, the drying out of the skin appropriately as well as he removal of defects from the skin takes time. Depending on whether you chose to use vegetable tanned leather or Chrome leather will determine greatly the duration of time it takes to turn out a product. While Chrome Leather is a bit quicker and more durable, the vegetable tanning is more natural and has an earthier hue. The con of Chrome Leather tanning is that the leather tends to have a very chemical smell, not something which appeals to the potential clients in most cases.
If you are looking for a natural tannery, then expect to have long waiting times for a quality product (sometimes up to a year). Any tannery which claims that they can go from start to finish in a week or days should be avoided as they are, by necessity, avoiding or neglecting a crucial part of the process.
Is the leather Aniline or Semi-aniline?
Aniline leather provides the most natural appearance. When contacting a tannery, any product which offers aniline should be dyed by saturation of the leather to ensure that the dye is colored throughout the thickness of the hide. While this saturation is essential for the color of the leather, the method does leave the leather a bit more vulnerable than semi-aniline or synthetics. Semi-Aniline tanning uses a thin protective coating over the top-grain to preserve the dyed leather. The main difference between the two is that one has protection and one does not.
This is one of those situations where asking your tannery for a sample of their semi-aniline leather is essential. Once you receive your sample, take a swab and apply some mineral spirits to the tip. Gently rub the tip on the sample piece. If you find that the dye has come off on the swab, then it means that the leather is actually Aniline or that the quality of the semi-aniline is so poor that it might as well have been untreated. However, if you find that no dye (or very little dye) has been removed from the sample, the odds are in your favor that you have a quality product.
You can see tips on how to differentiate Aniline leather from Semi-aniline leather in here
How has the leather been cut and stored?
While you would think that the leather would be cut and then dyed according to the needs of the client, it is no always the case with a tannery. Some tanneries dye the leather and then cut the material. And while there is nothing wrong with such a method, per say, it does speak to the care and consideration of the company to their hides. First, a flag should go up that the tannery is mass producing the leather. Yes, they do need to produce some stock to have on hand, but there should not be an over abundance of material. A good artisan knows that he or she may have to wait for good leather. Secondly, if the leather is cut after the dye and treatment process (not the pre-tanning but the dye process) then there is a possibility that the leather will be more susceptible to damage and decay from “missing” a portion of treatment alongside the cut.
Are there any special treatments which will be needed for the leather?
Not all leathers are alike, and not all tanneries treat and handle leather the same. Depending on the process used to turn the skin into leather, there may or may not be a required treatment of the leather specific to that tannery. Generally, leather cleaner or a leather conditioner can be used on the final product, but you must know what is compatible and what is not. As your tannery about the recommended treatment of their products.
The number one tip I can give you for ordering from a tannery
Visit the tannery. If you really want to see the quality of work which is being conducted, the care in which the business takes in tanning the hides, the way in which the leather selections are stored, etc. then the best option is to see first-hand. Do practice a bit of courtesy and call before you show up, as tannery’s may or may not allow visitors into the facility (they are working with dyes and chemicals which may be harmful to inhale). At minimum, you should be able to meet with a member of the tannery at the facility and discuss any questions or concerns which you may have.
Remember, it is not always about finding the cheapest price or the largest quantity. Choosing leather is about finding the top quality to create a quality product. Take your time and find the right tannery which meets your needs as a leather artisan.