Station: [10] The Tanning Process

In tanning, a basic distinction is made between three different tanning processes: bark tanning, tawing, and oil tanning. Each is suitable for a different range of hides and produces different kinds of leather.

To carry out bark tanning, you need those constituents of oak or spruce bark that are rich in tannin. This was the process used in Leustetten to produce hard leather, which was sought after by shoemakers as sole leather. It was all about the durability and resilience of the material. This type of leather was made from cow hide. Before the invention of plastic, hard leather was indispensable and ever-present as a tough, resilient and waterproof material. But the Mantz tannery was also able to produce softer leather by the vegetable tanning process. Even here at the museum, you can see some industrial uses for leather. Even the transmission belts that transfer energy to the pulleys are made of leather! In the age of the horse, bridles and saddles were of course also made of leather.

In tawing, alum salts were used to produce finer, softer types of leather from sheep, goat, calf and game skins. These were turned into the uppers of shoes as well as gloves and bags. The tawer, or dresser of white leather, also produced furs, since the process preserved the hair.

The third major tanning process is oil tanning. In this process, animal fats, generally beef tallow or fish oil, were worked into the prepared hides. This was a long-winded process, but it made them particularly soft and supple. That was the process for which the fulling barrel here at the museum was used. Oil tanning is one of the oldest tanning methods and is still considered the finest today.

All depictions: © Gemeinde Fricklingen