What is Vegetable Tanned Leather?

We talk a lot about vegetable tanned leather on this site. We make all of our products with vegetable tanned leather. We believe in it, love it, live it. So what is it exactly? Vegetable tanned leather refers to the method of tanning the cowhide into leather. It’s called “vegetable” because of the natural materials used in the tanning process like tree bark. Since vegetable tanning is a natural process, it’s also eco-friendly. Vegetable tanning or veg tan as it’s sometimes called, is one of the oldest methods of tanning known to man. It has literally been around for centuries. 

Here's a great video from Chahinleather that provides an overview of the process: 

VEGETABLE LEATHER TANNING PROCESS

1. Preparing the Hides

When the hides arrive they are re-hydrated, de-haired and other operations are preformed to prepare the hides for the tanning process.

 

 

2. Vegetable Tanning

The hides are vegetable tanned using the traditional method of deep pit drums filled with a blend of vegetable tannins and extracts. These are exacted with from trees such as quebracho, chesnut, mimosa, and acacia trees. The hides will remain in these pits for about 30 days. Tanning the leather for a long period of time gives the leather an unbeatable richness. After tanning in the pits, the hides are now considered leather. 

 

3. Oiling and Finishing

Some of the leather is then dyed in large drums and then oiled. The oiling process makes the leather flexible and soft. The hides are then are taken through the setting out process to smooth out wrinkles. The excess liquid is then removed from the sides using a samming machine. After this is complete, each piece is stretched out and cleaned by hand. 

The leather is then sent to the drying chambers where humidity and temperature are controlled to allow the leather to dry slowly. Some leathers may require a final finish depending on the look desired and the use of the leather products that will be made using the leather. After the finishing is complete, the leather is ready to be used to make leather goods that can last a lifetime.