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The Ancient History of Leather Making

History of Leather

Leather-making was a difficult and time-consuming task for tanners of long ago. People used animal skins for making leather, either from hunting or from livestock animals. Eventually, leather-makers refined the process and improved it so that the leather would remain both strong and flexible over time.

leather tanneryHow Leather-Making Originated

People in ancient civilizations recognized the value of animals and learned how to use every part of them in many different ways. Not only did animals provide food, but the remains of their carcasses also had value. People crafted tools from animal bones and teeth, they used the hair for sewing, and they learned how to use the skins for shelter and clothing. Early tanning processes resulted in problems with the leather because the skins rotted in warm temperatures and they became too stiff in cold temperatures. These difficulties necessitated tanning processes to preserve the leather and make it easier and more pleasant to use. Early tanning involved working fats into the hides to make them more supple.

leather tanneryMethods of Leather-Making

A common practice involved slaughtering livestock in the fall to avoid having to feed them over the winter. After the slaughter, the farmer would skin the animals to separate the hides. Next, the farmer would wash the hides in a river or lake to remove the blood and flesh from the skins. The skins would soak in the water until it was time to continue the leather-making process. The hides would then soak in vats of lime solution to remove the hair from the skins. After scraping off all of the hair, they would return the skins to the lime solution for alternate soaking and resting that lasted approximately six months. After this process, tanners would use tannic acids created from tree barks to preserve and dye the hides. Sometimes, they added other ingredients such as cider pressings or sour milk to create the desired finished effects. This phase of the process took approximately three months. The finishing process involved working oil or grease into the leather to make it supple.

Items Made from Leather

Many different items were and are made from leather. Common items include saddles, tents, awnings, aprons, pants, sandals, shoes, boots, moccasins, sacks and bags, hats, belts, and gloves. Additional items such as buckets, bottles, and even shrouds to bury the dead were also made from leather.

leather tannery

leather dogThe Importance of Leather

In ancient history, people did not have the same variety of materials available today. Plastics were unavailable, and metal was prohibitively expensive. Pottery and glass broke easily, making them undesired materials in many situations. These factors made leather an affordable and accessible choice for clothing and other necessities. People had animals readily available by hunting or from livestock. As the tanning process improved, leather became more conducive to a variety of purposes. People even used it to make bags for carrying liquids.

The Ancient History of Leather Making

The Ancient History of Leather Making

Leather-making was a difficult and time-consuming task for tanners of long ago. People used animal skins for making leather, either from hunting or from livestock animals. Eventually, leather-makers refined the process and improved it so that the leather would remain both strong and flexible over time.

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