In Depth Look - Vegetable Tanned Leather

March 29, 2016


We pride ourselves on offering products that are made to last and get better with age. The leather that we use plays a large role in this. Our leather is made by Hermann Oak Leather Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. They are one of the longest running leather tanneries in the U.S., having been in business since 1881 when they supplied settlers traveling West along the Lewis and Clark trail. So, it’s safe to say they know their stuff.

 

 

Hermann Oak Leather Co. Founded 1881
Image: Hermann Oak Leather Co. image celebrating their 50th anniversary in 1931

 

In addition to working with a reliable tannery, we’ve specifically chosen a leather type that is minimally processed and sustainably made to ensure that it will be tough and durable and age well over time. We use a 2/3 oz. natural colored vegetable tanned sling leather.


Before we go much further a little “leather tanning 101” is needed. Tanning is the process by which animal skin is turned into leather. There are 2 main methods that are used to do this:


The most popular method is Chrome Tanning. It is widely used in the upholstery and fashion industries. It was initially developed primarily for it’s speed. A hide can be tanned in a single day using this method. It is known for creating leather that is soft and uniform and much less expensive than alternative tanning methods. The downside is that the chrome tanning process uses acids and chromium sulfides, chemicals that can be hazardous to people and the environment.


Vegetable Tanning is a traditional and more natural tanning process that has been in use much longer than Chrome tanning. According to Hermann Oak, less than 5% of all leather is tanned this way. It utilizes the natural vegetable tannins in tree bark instead of chemicals. The process takes about one month to tan a hide. The additional time and expertise necessary to tan the hides with this method mean that the finished leather costs more, but there are several advantages. The leather is stiffer allowing to hold it’s shape better and be more durable. We also feel that it ages better and more drastically than chrome tanned leathers that are often made to maintain their initial color for as long as possible and don’t necessarily wear as well over time. The vegetable tanned leather that we use has no artificial dyes (just some natural oils) and will naturally darken in color as it is handled and used, developing a beautiful patina and turning a rich brown color as it is exposed, to light, moisture and oils from your hands.

 

Vegetable Tanned Leather Side

Image: Vegetable tanned leather side being cut for a custom project

 

We firmly believe that vegetable tanned leather is the best choice for our products both for from a consumer and a manufacturer's standpoint. It creates a better product while being better for the environment as well. We want to deliver a product that will look great out of the box but that will only get better as it is used and ages over time.


Want more info?

Check out an in depth comparison of Chrome vs. Vegetable tanning here: www.carryology.com/insights/chrome-vs-vegetable-tanned-leather/

Or read Hermann Oak’s environmental statement: www.hermannoakleather.com/about/environmental

 

Browse our full line of products, all made with Hermann Oak vegetable tanned leather, on our main page here: www.engravegoods.com