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Why Leather Is Special

Indeed, tanning has been described as the first human skin-making process. But what are the qualities that make these skin-based products so special? Initially, the skin is a sheet of material with the area of ​​each piece ranging from tens of square centimeters to six, seven or more square meters depending on the animal from which it came. Until the development of woven fabrics it was the only material available in sheets of this size. Then there is the complex physical structure of leather and the materials made from it. A close examination of the makeup of a piece of leather shows that it consists mainly of long thick fibers and bundles of fibers interwoven three-dimensionally within a jelly-like “ground substance.” There are other features such as hairs and hair roots, muscles, blood vessels and fat cells, but it is this complex, three-dimensional, woven structure that dominates and gives skin-based materials many of their unique physical properties. These properties include flexibility, relatively high tensile strength with particular resistance to shock loads, tear, puncture and abrasion resistance, low bulk density, good thermal insulation and water vapor transmission. They also include moldability, resistance to wind and wet water, and the ability to stretch and compress without deforming the surface.

Many of these characteristics are common to both leather and other leather products, but linguistic studies indicate that materials such as rawhide, oil-tanned, alum leather, and vegetable-tanned leather were differentiated from each other by the early years. It was not until the late eighteenth century that the true nature of the tanning process was examined and the question raised as to whether leather was different from these other materials. These will be looked into. A fundamental property of leather is that while a rawhide is subject to rapid bacterial degradation mainly due to the action of proteolytic enzymes, the leather is resistant to such microbiological attack even if kept moist. However, there are a number of techniques such as salt curing, drying, solvent dehydration and pickling that will provide temporary preservation against bacterial attack. This wear resistance, however, is lost if the fibers are allowed to get wet. Likewise, the effects of the treatments involved in making parchment or alum hides, both known for their longevity, are reversed by repeated immersion in water.

Leather is a material produced from the skin of a vertebrate, mammal, reptile, bird, fish, or amphibian, by a process or series of processes that renders it non-putrid under warm moist conditions. A genuine leather retains this property after repeated wetting and drying. Leather usually dries to give a relatively flexible, opaque product, but it can be hard or soft, flexible or rigid, stiff or flexible, thick or thin, loose or elastic, depending on the nature of the leather used and the process followed. is used. The aim of the tanner through the ages has been to manufacture a product with only the combination of properties required by the end user.

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