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A leather manufacturer prepares animal hides so the leather can be made into products, such as purses, coats, furniture, and other items. Generally, the leather manufacturer will partake in a three step process: preparing the leather, tanning the leather, and crusting the leather. These steps may vary slightly depending on the kind of leather that is used and the desired end-product.
One of the first things a leather manufacturer may do is prepare the hide. Basically, in the preparation stage, the parts of the hide that are not wanted on the leather are removed, leaving only the top level or the dermis. The leather manufacturer has many different options during this stage. For example, many times the hide is preserved to ensure it will not rot, or it can be degreased so that oils are stripped away. In addition, it may be soaked in water to cleanse and rehydrate the hide.
The hide may also be de-haired, and slit into multiple layers. If the hide needs to be softened, it may undergo a bating process during the preparation stage, as well. Some manufacturers bleach the hide to lighten the color of the skin. In addition, pickling or depickling may be done to reduce or, in the latter, increase the pH of the hide and help the tanning agents penetrate the skin.
The second major step occurs when the leather manufacturer tans the leather. Through tanning, the hide becomes resistant to bacteria and becomes increasingly supple There are many variations of the tanning process. For example, several different classifications of tannins exist, such as mineral, vegetable, aldehyde, and synthetic or chemical tannins. The types of tannins used on the leather depend on factors such as the condition of the hide and its pH.
The third step used by most leather manufacturers is crusting. To crust the hide, it is thinned, tanned a second time, and then lubricated. Again, there are many sub-steps that may occur during the crusting process, but it is up to the discretion of the manufacturer to decide which steps are necessary. For example, the hide may be rehydrated, shaved to remove any leftover subcutaneous fibers, and dyed. The skin may be filled with chemicals to make the leather denser and stronger, or it may be softened and buffed to reduce the texture of the hide.
Occasionally, a leather manufacturer may apply a top-coat to the leather. During this finishing process, the leather may be oiled, brushed, embossed, ironed, or glazed. If the fur of the animal was left on the hide, the fur may be brushed at this time, as well. The manufacturer will then either sell the leather to another company or will begin to manufacture specific products, such as purses or coats.
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