The Best Things Take Time
The video above outlines a local tannery here in Oregon that has insisted on using old fashioned methods since their establishment in 1863. This process is called vegetable tanning and uses natural chemical compounds called tannins in place of the environmentally hazardous chromium salts. Muir and McDonald Tannery's primary product is steer leather-- which is used in the manufacturing of saddles. The company only produces about 60 hides a week due to the time that it takes to complete the natural tanning process. This is compared to commercial tanneries that have outputs near 50,000 hides a week. But there are several advantages to waiting the long 10 weeks:
1. Use of natural products – This means that there are no harsh synthetic compounds, no potentially cancer-causing dyes or other artificial substances added. What you get are the deep, rich hues created by Mother Nature herself in the great outdoors. And when you smell it, it smells like leather—not a chemical factory.
2. Benefits of aging – Artificial tanning methods can cause leather to fade, crack, or even bleed after a short period of time, staining your garments and making frequent replacement or treatment necessary. On the other hand, vegetable tanning is a gentle method that adds a lustrous patina to leather, and produces a soft and supple product that does not crack or harden.
3. Truly unique characteristics – Some things, like aircraft wings or car keys, should come off the assembly line as close to the design specs as possible. Others, however, suffer when subjected to such a one-size-fits-all approach. Leather goods fall into this latter category. Impersonal tanning methods used in giant factories turn out millions of items in rapid succession, each of which is virtually identical to every other one. But no two vegetable-tanned products are exactly alike. There will always be some subtle variation in hue or tone that makes it truly one-of-a-kind. This allows its owner to say that they have something no one else on earth has.
4. Environmentally friendly practices – Modern industrial leather tanning methods uses highly toxic compounds that poison the earth and pollute streams and oceans. What makes this worse is that these methods are most commonly used in nations with few (if any) laws in place to protect the environment. When these noxious chemicals are dumped on the ground or into water sources, they kill fish and wildlife, fill the atmosphere with deadly fumes, and eventually find their way to the air you breathe, the streams you fish in or drink from, and the creeks or swimming pools in which your children play. [S. Texas Saddlery]