You have probably heard about vegetable tanned full-grain leather. This is the most traditional, desired and expensive of all leathers. The appeal of vegetable tanned full-grain leather is kind of hard to define. Its smell, how it feels when you run your fingers over its surface, the way it changes color and develops a patina with time. There really is no other material like it.
This is why we use full-grain vegetable tanned leathers in all Woolnut products. In this short article, we will give you a brief understanding of the basics of leathers and why we use vegetable tanned full-grain leathers for all Woolnut sleeves, cases and other accessories. We will cover the following subjects:
What is leather?
Leather is a flexible and tactile material with a history spanning thousands of years back in time. It is made from the skin of a dead animal and most typically today; a cow hide. Instead of this skin becoming a waste product of the dead animal, it can be transformed into leathers with a multitude of uses.
It is the layer of the skin called corium and its junction to the grains that leatherworkers find very valuable. This consist of protein collagen built as fibers and grouped into bundles. The interweaving of these fiber bundles gives leather its unique strength, structure, adaptability, flexibility, elasticity and the ability to breathe. The fibers are finer and more closely woven towards the surface of the grain.
This leads us to the different layers of leather, where full-grain leather is widely recognized as the best-quality leather on the market. The entire grain of the hide is used as well as the corium interface (often known as corium junction). This leaves the imperfections and inherent toughness on the surface. With time, this leather will soften and develop a rich patina, leaving it more and more beautiful as it is being used. Imperfections in the full-grain leather could be small marks or subtle blemishes. This makes each and every full-grain leather piece unique.
This leather is also more durable and if you take care of your product made from full-grain vegetable tanned leather, it could be your partner for the rest of your life. It will also grow more beautiful for each day.
Now that you know what full-grain leather is, let’s look into the basics of tanning leathers and why we use the most superior tanning method of them all known as vegetable tanning.
What is tanning?
Tanning is a process which alters the highly complex nature of skins or hides into a sophisticated, durable and stable material that we know as leather. This process has been around in one form or another for thousands of years. Before the tanning process can begin, a series of pre-tanning operations such as soaking, liming and splitting is required in order to prepare the material. The tanning in itself takes place at the tannery where different liquids, agents and chemicals could be used to alter the leather together with processes such as stretching or tumbling. There are basically two tanning methods used in the world today; chrome tanning and vegetable tanning.
Chrome tanned leather
Chrome tanning was developed towards the end of the nineteenth century and facilitates for mass production of chrome tanned leathers. This is due to the speed and efficiency of this method. Today, chrome tanned leather is by far the most used throughout the world. The leather is widely used in for example clothes, shoes and upholstery. However, this tanning method has several drawbacks.
The chrome tanning uses chemicals such as chromium salts which are not only bad for the environment but also harmful to the workers in these tanneries. The chemicals make the leather water resistant and it can easily be dyed in different colors. It gets a protective surface that does not change much over time.
Chrome tanning is a much faster process of tanning compared to vegetable tanning. A batch of chrome tanned leather could be completed in a single day while the vegetable tanned leather could take up to 60 days to be fulfilled. This is the main reason why chrome tanned leathers are much cheaper than vegetable tanned. As an end-product, the chrome leather gets a much more artificial feel to it than vegetable tanned leather would ever get.
Vegetable tanned leather
Vegetable tanning is the most traditional and natural tanning method of them all. It has been around for centuries and has since then been perfected in every possible way. This method does not use chromium, making it significantly better for the environment compared to chrome tanning. The leather can also be recycled and is biodegradable.
Instead of chemicals such as chromium, tannins are used (hence the word tanning). This is a substance that naturally occurs in for example bark. The bark of trees like oak, chestnut, mangrove and many more are used to extract tannins into which hides are immersed for several weeks. The leather gets a wonderful earthy, woody and natural smell – but the method is costly due to the traditional process, the need of highly skilled craftsmen and the long production time. However, the end-product of a vegetable tanned full-grain leather is nothing except extraordinary. In our opinion, this is truly the greatest leather you can get your hands on.
Why we use vegetable tanned full-grain leather
The vegetable tanned full-grain leather that we use in our Woolnut sleeves and other accessories holds exceptional characteristics. It is the most traditional and desired leather type where the patina grows stronger with time, leaving every sleeve beautifully unique. It can not really be compared to other materials. Not even other leathers such as chrome tanned leathers. It really is a material of its own.
The traditional approach gives the leather its earthly smell. On top, the vegetable tanning process is much more environmentally friendly than chrome tanning. The leather gets wonderful aging-qualities with the ability to develop a rich patina with time and use. It feels organic and alive. It has durability and strength. It is irregular and unique in a natural way, with genuine aesthetics.
When we combine this wonderful leather with the 100% natural wool felt, our MacBook leather sleeves truly come to life. These materials blend together perfectly which results in unmatched beauty. The soft, water-repellent and shock-absorbent wool does not only look stunning together with the leather but also helps protect the MacBook through everyday life. However, the backbone of our products has always been the premium vegetable tanned full-grain leather. And after reading this short article, we hope that you will appreciate this part of our products just a little bit more.