Consumers always touch leather first. Is it soft, warm, natural? Consumers want soft garment leather, as well as car or furniture leather. Leather in most cases should be as soft and natural as possible. The tanner achieves this through various processes.
The process of softening the leather fibres is achieved by a rotating movement in a narrow, high, rotating barrel. This is necessary because the leather fibres stick together during drying, making the leather feel firmer. Also the finish on the leather makes it stiffer and must be softened. Short rods and steps in the barrels reinforce the movement of the leather.
The drums are narrow and the fibres are additionally loosened by rods or steps when rotating in the walking barrel
Stacking - Stacker - Stacking machine
Stacking also makes leather softer by softening the leather fibres. A stacker (stacking machine) has two plates with knobs and opposite recesses. Constant vibration ensures the leather is punctually pressed into the recesses by the knobs causing the fibre to stretch. This method stretches and softens the leather so that the total surface of the hide increases. Stacking also reinforces the grain pattern and reduces looseness.
The stacking machine softens the leather.
Softening leather by hands
Wet leather is often stiff once dry. The leather fibres stick together during drying and the easiest way is to wipe the leather when it is still slightly moist. Then the fibres can be loosened more easily, rather than waiting until the leather is completely dry. However, dried leather fibres can also be softened by wiping.
For light leather clothing, it is enough to wipe, rub, knead and pull the leather with the hands. Alternatively, the clothing can also be placed in the dryer with cold air and tennis balls. This method replicates the tumbling process in the tannery. Motorcycle suits are too big for that.
To soften furniture or car leather, hold the neck of an empty glass bottle with one hand and roll the leather softer with the lower edge of the bottle by pressing and rolling with the second hand. The rolling movement ensures the surface is not damaged by abrasion.
Video about the treatment of hardened vintage car leather
Video about leather production
|Process steps in the leather production|
|Storage - soaking - liming - fleshing - splitting - pickling - tanning - neutralising - withering - sorting - shaving - dyeing (through colouring) and fatliquoring - drying - finish - softening - final check|
|Chrome tanning - Vegetable-tanned leather - Synthetic tanning - Tanning with fats and oils|