Primitive people who lived during the Ice Age some 500,000 years ago, were likely the first to use the skins of animals to protect their bodies from the elements. Just as leather today is a by product, our ancient ancestors hunted animals primarily for food, but once they had eaten the meat, they would clean the skin by scraping off the flesh and then sling it over their shoulders as a crude form of a coat.
The main problem that primitive man encountered was that after a relatively short time the skins decayed and rotted away. With his limited knowledge and experience, primitive man had no idea how to preserve these hides. As centuries passed it was noticed that several things could slow down the decay of leather. If the skins were stretched out and allowed to dry in the sun, it made them stiff and hard but they lasted much longer. Various oily substances were then rubbed into the skins to soften them. As time passed, it was eventually discovered that the bark of certain trees contained "tannin" or tannic acid which could be used to convert raw skins into what we recognize today as leather. It is quite hard to substantiate chronologically at exactly what time this tanning method materialized, but the famous "Iceman" dating from at least 5,000 BC discovered in the Italian Alps several years ago, was clothed in very durable leather.
Somewhat later, techniques used by the American Indian are very similar to those used in this early period. These Indians took the ashes from their campfires, put water on them and soaked the skins in this solution. In a few weeks the hair and bits of flesh came off, leaving only the raw hide. This tanning method, which used a solution of hemlock and oak bark, took about three months to complete after which the leather was worked by hand to make the hide soft and pliable.
Current tanning includes the use of chrome, gluteraldehide + alum & white tanning. Leather also has oils (fatliquors) included in the tanning process to provide softness and flexibility. Caring for leather requires that the tanning material should not be affected and that the oils are not removed during cleaning.
Vegetable or Bark Tanned Leather
Leather tanned in the traditional way using wood extract is now mostly found as harness or bridle leather for saddles and harnesses, craft leather used for embossing and carving and sole leather for footwear.
Chrome Tanned Leather
Leather tanned using chromium salts is the more commonly used leather in footwear, clothing, upholstery & leathergoods.
The term 'finishing' refers to the further processing of the leather. The aim is to adapt the leather, depending on the quality of the hide and to suit the fashion demands of the consumer with regard to colour, surface effect, etc., by treating with dyestuff solutions, pigment preparation, top coats and lacquers or by means of mechanical treatment such as plating, embossing or dry drumming.
1.Aniline—dyed & top coat.
Only best or blemish free hides are suitable as any marks or scars would show
2. Semi-aniline—dyed, minimal pigment & top coat.
3. Pigmented or Finished—dyed, printed (embossed) effect, pigment & top coat.
4. Antique—dyed, printed (embossed), lighter colour base pigment, 1st finish coat, darker pigment coat, which is partially removed during manufacture of the finished article giving the ‘antique’ effect & top coat.
Suede is made from the split and buffed to leave a nap and has no finish. Nubuck is top grain leather which has been buffed to leave a very fine nap and has no finish.
Vegetable or Bark Tanned Leather
Vegetable tanned leather may have no finish or may have a finish however it is more likely to ‘dry out’ than chrome tanned leather. Traditionally vegetable tanned leather is cleaned using saddle soap and treated with oils such as neatsfoot oil, dubbin or coachaline. The use of The Tanners Leather Wax, which contains natural bees wax carnauba wax and neatsfoot oil together with a water repellent agent is recommended for vegetable tanned leather. Also recommended for work boots to waterproof & prevent cracking.
Modern Tanned Leather
Modern tanned leather which is finished should meet international standards for wear resistance (dry rubbing) and flexing. Unlike vegetable tanned leather, modern tanned leather has the lubricating oils fixed in the hide during the tanning process. The care regime is therefore more relative to maintaining the finish rather than the hide itself. The use of alkaline cleaning products such as saddle soap or pure soap is not suitable as it will damage the finish. Since the finishes on finished leather is there to provide a protective layer, the use of 'conditioners' are not appropriate but products which provide protection to the finish is recommended. The The Tanners Leather Cleaner which removes the soiling from the finish & Leather Protector, which provides a protective layer to the finish, are recommended for a long serviceable life for your leather articles.
Suede & Nubuck
Suede & nubuck do not have a finish and should be maintained with a suitable cleaner together with a water & oil repellent spray with soil release to minimise staining and to enable easier cleaning. The Tanners Suede & Nubuck Cleaner removes most soiling from suede and The Tanners Suede & Nubuck Protector provides water & oil repelency and aids in the cleaning process.
Cow & Animal Hair rugs
Cowhides and other hair-on animal hides are popular as floor rugs. These cowhide rugs have been tanned to preserve the leather and are generally hard wearing. However in certain climates these rugs can develop mould & mildew due to damp & warm conditions. Tantech developed a Cowhide Cleaner that is used to clean the hair side and has ingredients that inhibit mould & mildew.
Timber is the universal material for a wide range of furniture and has character based on the species that is comes from. Timber furniture has various finishes from waxed, oiled, French polished and lacquers. These surfaces require various degrees of protection from daily use.
Craftsman Timber Wax is a blend of bees wax, carnauba wax & water proofing agent, zirconium sterate. The addition of a blend of melaleuca oil which is the scent of the Australian bush provides a pleasant fragrance that lingers on the treated furniture after use.