LEATHER FINISHING

Before leather can be applied to a piece of furniture, it must be finished.

The first step in this process is the rawhide stage.

Step one- Rawhide

This is a term used for raw leather, which has been removed from the carcass of the animal and then cured.

The leather is transported to the tannery where the fat and flesh deposits are removed from the hide. This process is known as the beam house process, so called because traditionally the deposits were removed by laying the hide over an oak beam and scraping with a sharp knife to remove it. Nowadays, the process is mostly performed by machine, due to its precision and speed.

The next stage is known as liming. This is a process where the hide- complete with hair is placed in a large drum and spun with a lime or calcium carbonate solution. This is done to stop the skin putrefying. This process has the effect of making the hair, and any other remaining protein deposits soluble, which can then be simply washed away.

The excess lime is now removed (de-liming) and the hide is enzyme treated to remove any final proteins (bated).

Step two- Wet Blue

The hide is now bathed in chromium salts, which are absorbed into the skin. The hide is now at the wet blue stage, so named due to the salts turning the hide a blue colour during this process. The hide is then assessed for quality. This assessment is performed by an experienced professional, choosing certain hides for grade one or top quality applications, and selecting others for more durable applications. This is a very specialised stage.

The leather is now separated into layers; the top layer being the most luxurious aniline leather- or full grain, the next layer being the most commonly used in furniture production- corrected grain, and the lower levels being the lower quality split leather.

The hide is now thicknessed or shaved to create a consistent thickness throughout the hide.

The hide is now re-tanned and re-dyed using many forms of oils, dyes, and specialist products. This adds colour to the hide and gives further lubrication too, creating a more supple leather feel.

The leather will now be stretch dried by being passed though a specially equipped oven.

Step three- the finishing process

It is at this stage where the hide gains its final surface finish. It is coated with pigment dye which penetrates deep into the leather, giving a finished colour to the hide. The hide is then re-dried and coated with a protective final fix coat to protect the achieved finish.

The leather is then pummelled or dry milled. This process further softens the hide. It is the ironed and ready for despatch.

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