Friday, June 26, 2009

Leather Tannery

I've been ignoring the handbags because I had lost my leather supplier. I had given up on the handbags for months. I finally decided that I had to do something about it and the Weaver Leather annual auction was the trigger that set me off. Weaver is in up state Ohio and I'm in Georgia so it was to be a good road trip.
I wasn't going to just go there. This was to be a visit to several suppliers along the way. The first stop was Radio Shack for a GPS. I left the next morning at 3:00 am GPS wanted me to drive to Atlanta and then up the highway to Chattanooga. I ignored that and headed across lots for Cleveland GA then west. Eventually the GPS came around to my way of thinking.
Tennessee tanning was the first stop. They are the real deal old time tannery. The last time I was at some place this real was in Lhasa Tibet. The tannery smell, the hides, and the old equipment were something to behold. We looked at hides, they showed me the processes they could do, and gave me a tour.

A pile of finished hides on the left and workers opening a stack of the blue "crust" they start with. It was dark in there which added to the aura of the place but it meant that my camera used a slow shutter speed.

The worker at this machine is removing the flesh from the back of the wet hides. The blade has to be sharpened twice a day. I was told that this guy, in the years that he has worked there has "fleshed" over a million hides.

Here they are stretching out the wet tanned hides and nailing them to a piece of wood. It takes a couple days for them to dry.

The final step is measuring the number of square feet. It is done mechanically as the leather is fed through this machine. If there is leather there the lever is up if it isn't the lever is down. The dial at the top records the amount of leather going through the machine. The machine is calibrated daily by running a piece of known size through the machine.

Tanning is a chemical process that has a lot of variables. Over the years they have found formulas to produce different types of leather. To reproduce the same leather every time they have to control the variables, one of which is the water they use. They have their own wells from which they have been getting the water they use for tanning for over 100 years. To test the leather and the solutions throughout the process they have their own testing lab.

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1 comment:

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