Tanning in America

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DWFII

Tanning in America

#1 Post by DWFII » Thu Dec 09, 1999 7:56 am

D.A. Sent me these two URLs in connection with the 'tanning in America' subject that popped up in "Techniques, Crans, and Visualizations" subtopic. I thought I would post it here--where it probably belongs:

http://davidsr01.home.mindspring.com/html/fausts.htm

and:

http://davidsr01.home.mindspring.com/html/leatherbib.htm

"Interesting reading" says himself.

dw

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Re: Tanning in America

#2 Post by das » Wed Aug 25, 2004 4:06 am

This week's cool find on early tanning:

http://www.librarycompany.org/CE-Feature.htm

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Re: Tanning in America

#3 Post by Jarnagin » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:35 pm

Al,

I found this and I thought you find this interesting.

This is talking about currying strong vegetable tanned leather for belting. This was taken from a book on tanning published in 1852 by Campbell Morfit.

“Fish-oil alone is sometimes used for this purpose, but experience of nearly a century has proved that train-oil scouring is of all fatty substances the best for the purpose. This is a mixture of fish-oil and of potash, which has already served to clean skins converted into chamois leather; and many advantages are obtainable by using it. It has more density than ordinary fish-oil, and is more completely absorbed by the leather. Its saponaceous quality contributes to give softness and tenacity, and less of it is required than of oil.”

Chamois leather was curried with cod liver oil. This type of oil is a fast oxidizer and will turn to a fatty acid and penetrate with in a few hours in the right conditions. Another name for this type of oil is moellen or degras. These types of oils were so prized that chamois leather was tanned just to wring the leather until it fell apart to get out all of the degras that could be removed. This all ended when the sulphonated oils were invented.

I you ever heard of leather called “stretched leather”?

An old name for sole leather is “crop leather”

Thanks for the link.

David Jarnagin

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Re: Tanning in America

#4 Post by das » Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:55 pm

David,

Thanks for the additions on this topic. Being August, you going to go collecting sumac leaves for blacking now? Image

I've heard of "draw leather", waxed-calf, curried to be elastic, used for the tight-fitting boot legs fashionable in the later 1700s-early 1800s. I've got no idea how it was prepared though, sad to say.

I think "crop" is a variant of "croup", from "croupon" for a double-bend or "butt" of sole leather, if I'm not mistaken.

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Re: Tanning in America

#5 Post by Jarnagin » Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:22 pm

Al,

"Crop" is an old term meaning to cut off lesser-valued sections of a hide, leaving the "prime" part; if enough is cropped off, we have the bend. The bend makes the best sole leather. This term is used with several curried leathers. Croupon is used with a type of harness leather called oil leather. A croupon is listed as being a skin reduced to 4 ½ feet in length, and about three feet in breadth. Oil leather may have been also used as machine drive belt leather.

In the 1852 book they are still hammering sole in order to make denser. Thirty years later they are using a roller press to do the same job, and this is true with most hand operation have changed to machine. Tanning has become more of a science in the same period rather than the art it had been.

Do you know of anyone in England doing research on leather tanning? I need to see if they have definition to some leather terms. There is a major change in terms used in the tanning industry in the late 1800’s, and the second problem is most of the books concentrate on leather for shoes and I am trying to figure out terms on harness and other finished leathers.

The term that is giving the most trouble is “bridle” used by the US ordnance officers. Bridle as they defined it was leather dyed black and finished on the grain side.

Thanks

David Jarnagin

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Re: Tanning in America

#6 Post by das » Thu Sep 02, 2004 5:12 pm

David,

Roy Thompson is "da man" on historical tanning and leather in the UK, especially medieval. He's a retired tanner/leather chemist, now heading The Leather Conservation Centre, at Nene College, Northampton, UK: lcc@northampton.ac.uk

Good luck!

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Re: Tanning in America

#7 Post by Jarnagin » Fri Sep 03, 2004 7:26 am

Thanks for the address Al.

Have a nice weekend.

David

Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#8 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:24 am

I can't seem to start a new thread, so I will add my question here as it is the closest related topic...

Okay, so ooze is the old term for suede, got that... what about Buff, I assume that is a raised napped surface of grain side leather? and not the flesh or suede side?

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Re: Tanning in America

#9 Post by dw » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:34 am

Jonathon,

I'm not on real sure footing here but I'll take a crack at this because I know (or think I know) a little bit about suede.

Actually, "suede" is not the flesh side of the leather. The term suede refers to horsehide, in particular (maybe even exclusively), that has been grain side buffed.

People use the term "suede" nowadays to refer to any "rough-out" leather...even splits (maybe most commonly splits) but it just ain't so. It ain't suede and when you come right down to it, it will never look or act like suede.

As for "buff" I think it is essentially the same process as suede but on leather other than horse (mostly speculating, here).

Just another $.02 for the kitty....

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Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#10 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:52 am

Now why is it that when I ask a question here, I am sure of half of my information but unsure of the other half and then it turns out that the half I am unsure of is right and the half I was sure of is completely wrong!

Thanks, actually that makes sense as the terms suede, buff, and ooze all seem to be interchangeable. I thought that suede or ooze was the split side or flesh side so it was my fault for thinking something that wasn't true...

Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#11 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:55 am

Actually that makes a lot of sense now that I think about it more... because in the 17th and 18th century the terms ooze and buff and used to describe what appears to be the same thing, but its probably ox or cow that makes buff and horse that makes suede.

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Re: Tanning in America

#12 Post by das » Tue Aug 16, 2005 7:10 am

Jonathan,

It depends on the date the term is used. For most cases before c.1980, "buff" was bovine hides with the grain sanded off, converted into leather by oil-dressing like chamois, not tanning. The result was a yellowish to white colored leather, in texture not unlike thick hat felt.

Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#13 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 8:16 am

So suede is not tanned in the same manner then...
Can suede be made from anything but horse? (I am talking about the 17th and 18th centuries here) What do you call suede cowhide?

djarnagin

Re: Tanning in America

#14 Post by djarnagin » Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:11 am

Jonathan

This is a quick answer.

Ooze: is better defined as a bark suspended in water. Ooze was used in the pits for tanning and can be in many different strengths depending on what stage it is in the tanning process.

Buff leather: Can have three possibilities for the name.
1. That they were tanned from (water) buffalo.
2. That the remainder of the grain surface was buffed off after the liming.
3. Lastly Color which was gained by a stain in a weak oak bark solution to give its distinctive yellow color.

True buff leather used for military belts was not a full chamois but it has another tannage before being chamois.

A chamois is the only true oil tanned leather.

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Re: Tanning in America

#15 Post by marc » Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:47 am

Um, if you don't mind I'd like to weigh in on this. These are all terms that have waddled all over the field over time. Every answer that has been give here is "right", based on the information sources used, when they were written and where.

For example, "chamois" is the name of a type of antilope, and from that the term for how the hide was processed was adopted. The term doesn't seem to appear in English before the late 1500s.

However, it is likely that there were other oil cured leathers, and oil combination tannages before that time (in fact, the process goes back by itself to at least the 3rd Millenium BC in Sumer, and the oxidization of oils in skin is a crucial part of "smoke tanning", which has been demonstrated was used in the tannage of the Ice Man's garments). It been shown that the majority of leather used prior to the development of tannage in the Greco-Roman period was either oil cured or tawed, mostly oil cured [Driel-Murray, Carol van. "Leatherwork and Skin Products." In Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, ed. Paul T. Nicholson and Ian Shaw, 299-319. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 - excellent overview]. So to suggest that "chamois" is the -only- oil cured leather (there is no real tannage involved, other than a mild aldehyde partial tannage) may be a bit of an overstatement.

Buff has been described fairly well.

True suede was originally a 19th century Swedish leather, oil cured kid, The term was quickly spread to other things.

The frizzing of the corium (the buffing up the grain) is to help the oild soak even through the fibers, and not get too blocked up at the "hyaline layer", as the grain is sometimes called.

Marc

Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#16 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 11:06 am

I am getting the feeling the answer one never finds here is 'YES' or 'NO' lol

Obviously the terms change throughout history and from country to country which really makes this difficult to understand. I can see why other writers have glossed over being too specific in their books on shoes... its just not that simple to define a term in few words.

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Re: Tanning in America

#17 Post by dw » Tue Aug 16, 2005 11:59 am

All,

Jonathon, it may indeed be time to speak plainly....let's call a suede a suede, shall we?

Turning to our resident etymologist...Marc...is it possible, then, that the word "suede" comes from "Swede"?

Curiouser and curiouser in Central Oregon....

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Re: Tanning in America

#18 Post by djarnagin » Tue Aug 16, 2005 12:00 pm

Marc,

Chamois leather has no other thing protecting the fibers other than oxidized cod oil. The oil combines with the leather fibers and causes them to swell and distend. This is how oil softens leather. The advantage is the oil is mostly impervious to removal by washing. Chamois does need to be re-oiled. This type of leather was called wash leather in the older books, but from your time of study this name may help. “Lash or losh”

Aldehye tannage is the smoking process in the Native American Indian brain tan process. This type of tannage must be re-done from time to time to insure protection over a long period.

David Jarnagin

Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#19 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 12:13 pm

As I understand it, ooze and suede are the same thing, its just that ooze is the old word for suede. I have read that Suede came from 'Swede' in the late 18th or 19th century, I believe it was in one of Swann's books where she cites that.

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Re: Tanning in America

#20 Post by frank_jones » Tue Aug 16, 2005 1:12 pm

Jonathan

Elsewhere you said you were, “writing a book on shoe history 1600 - 2000”. I assume that also applies to you asking about suède. First, I am not a historian just somebody who started out in hand shoemaking and repair but then moved on into mass-produced shoemaking about 40 years ago.

If you are really working up until the year 2000, then perhaps I can provide some input for the last 40 or 50 years.

Although the word suède is supposed to be from the expression “gants de suède” (from the french as credited in the Oxford English Dictionary). The definition given is ‘kid or other skin with the flesh side rubbed to a nap’. This is precisely how tanners describe suede today. Often skins are processed as suede leather when the grain side has some damage, such as scratches which would seriously downgrade a grain-finished leather. The process in the tannery is often more than rubbing to produce a nap. I have seen suede being buffed using machinery with an abrasive band.

Many people in the footwear industry think of a suede as leather where the surface has been raised into a nap, not unlike the green baize you see on a pool table. Basically the fibres have been teased up so that they stand up on end. It is perfectly possible to produce a nap in the grain side of leather by using a very fine abrasive. The resulting leather is called nubuck.

In my experience, in modern use the term suede is not related to the type of tanning. I have seen both vegetable and chrome tanned leathers being made and sold as suede.

Changing the subject slightly, if you are looking at shoemaking terms you should have the “Concise Shoemaking Dictionary” as part of your tool kit. It only provides current terminology because it is was produced four years ago but does have many drawings to explain a wide range of specialist terms.

I did not produce the book but feel free to email me, if you want more details.

Frank Jones
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Re: Tanning in America

#21 Post by marc » Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:05 pm

DW,
Suede/Swede - almost certainly.

David,
I may well be mistaken, but I am under the impression that as the oils oxidize, particularly oxidizing under the manipulation, as well as the decomposition of the fatty esters, aldehydes are released into the skin, thus creating the partial chemical change that occurs to the skin. Cod oil is very good at this, hence its traditional popularity.

Smoking the skin, particularly with the application of oils, also releases aldehydes, as well as phenols that can confuse chemical testing.

I assume you are referring to the losh hide, another sort of oil cured skin (elk, if I’m not mistaken). 15th and 16th century.

Marc

Jonathan

Re: Tanning in America

#22 Post by Jonathan » Tue Aug 16, 2005 4:15 pm

Thanks Frank, I will email you for the ISBN of the book, publisher etc. if you have it.

There is a joke told to me by a jewish friend: Ask three jews a question and you get 9 answers. I am beginning to think shoemakers are the same!

I recall now why I kind of gave up on the topic of shoemaking when I was at the Bata Shoe Museum, because it does vary so much in terms according to when a term was defined, in what country, and who defined it.

The books I have in regards to shoemaking are by Salaman, Swann, Diderot, Thornton, United States Shoe Machinery CO., and a few others which at the moment are scattered about the room and not at hand, plus the usual dictionaries and online sources. It took me a few days to trace the definition of Cordovan through a couple of continents and a millenium to find out that it has a half dozen definitions as well... let alone that kid can often be sheep -- who knew? I didn't... I assumed kid was kid.

I think I will stick to heel shapes and buckle closures... I am a lot more comfortable with that!

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Re: Tanning in America

#23 Post by dw » Tue Aug 16, 2005 4:39 pm

Jonathon,

I don't think it's deliberate. It's partially, as Al and Marc have suggested, the long, unbroken tradition of shoemaking, in general...tempered by language "creep," social change...and continental drift, as who should say.

I prefaced my remarks by saying that I wasn't on real solid ground...but I do know and I do believe that, "technically," suede is always a grain-side buff...at least in this country. About the only place you would hear flesh-side or splits referred to as "suede" is in some honkey-tonk where Joe-Bob's braggin' up his new suede (read roughout, probably a split) Dingos.

A grain-side buff produces the finest of nap. A whisper of velvet...in leather. Rough-outs, splits, none of them will even approach a nice sued for feel and looks, IMO.

But whether we can all agree or even turn back the clock, it is a worthwhile endeavor, I think, to "standardize" or at least recognize a common language.And not to beat a dead horse, it is also worthwhile to remember, at least, where the language has been. I've no problem with "ooze," "coade," "rhan," "snab" "yickey-yeckie"... It just feels kind of disrespectful to let these word pass into obscurity. They were/are every bit as much "tools of the trade" as the actual implements of making.


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Re: Tanning in America

#24 Post by erickgeer » Tue Aug 16, 2005 5:28 pm

All this talk of Tanning has moved me to ask some things I've wondered about for a while...

Part 1:
As I browsed (not read- yet) Golding, they explain not to mix Vegtable and Chrome tanned leather because the Veg-tan leaches the chrome salts from the Chrome-tan. How significant is this, and does it still hold true for the Veg-retanned leather?

Part 2:
what is the functional difference from tooling leather and veg-tanned leathers with glazed or polished grain? I've been experimenting with coloring and polishing tooling leather for an upper - is anyone going to tell me I shouldn't do this?

Thanks, this discussion has corrected one of my long held stances against "suede", since I was under the impression that suede was split by default.

Thanks,

Erick

djarnagin

Re: Tanning in America

#25 Post by djarnagin » Wed Aug 17, 2005 8:04 am

"I may well be mistaken, but I am under the impression that as the oils oxidize, particularly oxidizing under the manipulation, as well as the decomposition of the fatty esters, aldehydes are released into the skin, thus creating the partial chemical change that occurs to the skin. Cod oil is very good at this, hence its traditional popularity."


Marc,

Here is what I found in two different book by leather chemist.
Henry R. Proctor in describing the process of hot stuffing states how the oil was in the leather and not in the fibers. “The leather is now impregnated with grease, but is far from being properly stuffed. Instead of the grease being spread over the finest fibers in a minute state of division, it simply fills the spaces between the larger fibers.”

John Arthur Wilson states in his book “The vegetable tanning materials causes an oxidation of the unsaturated fatty acids, as indicated by the formation of oxidized acids and the simultaneous disappearance of water from the leather, water presumably being essential to the reaction.”

The other source of information came from studying the only true oil tanned leather. In the tanning process it was found that the oil did just what was described. The effect on the fiber was to make it grow larger and longer; but at the same time, the fibers became softer and weaker.
For information on oil causing the reduction of tensile strength in leather I would suggest looking in Wilson’s book same page as above.

Henry R Proctor, Text Book of Tanning (New York: E. & F. N. Spon, 1885) page 201

John Arthur Wilson The Chemistry of Leather Manufacture (New York: The Chemical Catalog Company, Inc., 1923) page 324

Sorry but I could not make the footnotes work right when I posted them.

I have also spoken in depth about this with Shep Hermann and Waldo Kallenburger (SP?). I did not want to know the exact chemistry behind it but what happen when it oxidized. I needed to know this information when I was researching buff leather.
I know that in the late 1800’s leather was chamois for the purpose of getting oxidized oils for re-sale. They would press the hides until they fell apart since the oils would bring more money than the leather.

I have enjoyed the exchange. If you have any more information on Losh leather please e-mail it to me. It might help me with buff. I am an 1800’s leather researcher and I am working on several articles right now, but buff leather is coming very soon.

Here is a link to the first article I have had published.

http://www.jarnaginco.com/cmharticle.htm

David
djarnag@tsixroads.com

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