Vegetable tanning in Tuscany is an extraordinary productive process performed by the skilled hands of master tanners, based on the exact mix of natural tannins, on the good Tuscan water and on all the time necessary. It’s a process that requires time and patience, and the skillful combination of technology and tradition.
Vegetable tanning process: preparation
When raw hides arrive, they are stored in appropriate warehouses. The cutting of raw hides is the first phase of the process; it’s done manually by experienced cutters. They divide the raw hides into various sections: bellies, butts and shoulders.
After cutting, hides are immersed in large drums. During this phase, salt and other impurities are removed from the hides, restoring them to their “natural” hydrated condition.
Now hides are ready for fleshing and splitting, operations done by machine with the help of a skilled worker. These procedures remove flesh and fat from the hide. Afterwards, a de-liming process neutralizes the hides while preparing them for tanning. The pickling procedure concludes the preparation of the hides, making them more receptive to the following phase of tanning using vegetable extracts.
The tanning phase begins now. Hides are immersed in a bath containing vegetable extracts for a number of days in order to obtain particular aspects. Leather, tanned using natural vegetable tannins extracted from trees, becomes softer, more ductile and durable. Colours become deeper over time and usage.
Once the hides are removed from the drums, pressing and shaving procedures begin. These operations remove excessive moisture from the hides, bringing them to uniform thickness.
Dyeing and fattening
A new phase of workmanship begins in this department: dyeing and fattening, usually done using precise mixtures. These operations add colour to the skins while making them softer.
The wet cycles terminate here. Hides are then stretched and cleaned in the final operation called “setting out”.
Drying is done in a special area where the hides are hung up one by one and remain for various days. Then a mechanical operation, known as staking, softens the skins by means of flexing.
Vegetable tanning process and the finished product
Thousands of vegetable-tanned skins from Tuscany are used to create bags, belts, footwear, wallets, small leather goods and upholstery.
Leather accessories made with vegetable-tanned leather produced by tanneries associated to the Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium can be guaranteed by the famous quality trademark “Vegetable Tanned Leather of Tuscany”. All the member Tanneries follow specific regulations in their production, to guarantee their clientele in terms of tradition and fine quality.
Vegetable-tanned leather features long-lasting and valuable qualities also because it becomes more attractive as time passes. Merit is due to the expertise of the professional Tuscan tanners, to the skilful workers and the use of vegetable tannins extracted from the barks of quebracho, chestnut and mimosa trees.