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Leather Tanning Process

This 6-step Process Has Made Leather Tanning a Painless Task

It must be surprising, but it is quite possible to tan leather by yourself. The article will help you with the brain tanning technique that is used to tan leather.
Mayuri Kulkarni
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
The tanning method we are going to discuss here is referred to as brain tanning, and it has been the conventional method of tanning, since Stone Age. Another method that is used for tanning is 'Tannin tanning' which, as the name suggests, makes use of tannin. In this method, the dung of animals (like dog) is rubbed on the hide. This process of rubbing the dung is called bating. Then the hide is washed to remove the dung. A mixture of crushed oak bark and water is prepared, and the hide is immersed in this mixture. The hide is soaked for many days and then removed to dry.
Steps to Tan Leather
Before moving on to the steps of the leather tanning process, lets us first make a list of tools you will need for tanning,
  • Leather hide
  • Plywood or frame
  • Blunt knife
  • Strainer
  • Tallow/ Egg yolk/ Brain of animal
  • Urine/Quicklime
Step 1
Arrange for a hide. The hide can be of any animal―cattle, cow, goat, sheep, pig, horse, or you can also order cut hides. The first step of tanning is to make the hide ready for tanning. Use a plywood or frame as a support while performing the steps of tanning. Remove the skin carefully from the dead animal. Take care that only a bit of meat and the fleshy part remains on the skin.
Step 2
To remove the meat and flesh from the hide, first soak the skin in water for several hours. Later, use a blunt knife and carefully scrape the flesh from it. Avoid using a sharp knife. It may help in quick removal of the meat, but chances are that you may cut apart the hide. If you want to remove the hair on the hide, apply urine or quicklime on the wet surface and rub the surface. This will make it easy for hair to loosen up and they can be easily removed.
Step 3
The hide should be processed to prevent it from getting rotten or stiff. There are several oil substances that can be used for this purpose, such as tallow, egg yolk, and brains. The brain of the animal that is used for hide is an agent for tanning. You can use the brain of the animal you have skinned by cooking the brain well in little water and mashing it using gloves. This process may be too stinky, so buying canned brains can be an option.
Step 4
Rub the brain mixture you have prepared uniformly on the hide and soak the hide in it for 6-8 hours. If you do not want to use the brain mixture, you can use other options (tallow, egg yolk). However, the use of the brain mixture gives the best tanning effect. Now, dip the hide in a little water for one whole night. After this step, the hide is ready to tan.
Step 5
Take the hide out of the water. Lay it on a plywood or a wooden platform. Remove the water from the hide with the help of strainer. Keep on oozing the water out of the hide, until you are sure that there is no water left on the hide.
Step 6
It is necessary to stretch the hide to avoid stiffening. You can stretch it by hand. If the size of the hide is too big, tie it against two trees and move it back and forth, so that it gets stretched properly. Work on every part of the hide by stretching, and this will help loosen the leather. The leather will become stiff if you stop stretching before the hide goes dry. This step will remove the water completely and prevent stiffening of the hide.
These days, tanning kits are also available which you can use them for tanning leather. A local tannery can help you understand the process of tanning.