How to Tan Leather

A Beginner’s Guide to Tanning Leather

Have you ever wanted to try your hand at tanning leather? If so, you’re in luck! Tanning leather is a long process but it can be incredibly rewarding when done correctly. It also has a long history, with people tanning leather as far back as ancient times. So let’s get started! Here is everything you need to know about how to tan leather.

Step One: Preparing the Leather

The first step in the process is preparing the leather. This involves removing any dirt and debris from the hide and then soaking it in a salt solution overnight. This helps break down some of the proteins in the hide and makes it easier to work with. 

Once that’s done, you’ll need to remove any hair that may still be present on the leather by singeing it over an open flame or using a chemical depilatory agent. Be very careful when doing this step – if you leave too much hair on the hide, it won’t turn out properly!

Step Two: Tanning the Leather

Once your hide is prepped, it’s time for the actual tanning process! There are two main ways of tanning leather – veg-tanned and chrome-tanned – both of which have their own unique characteristics and benefits.

 Veg-tanned leather tends to be more durable and stiffer, whereas chrome-tanned leather tends to be softer and more supple. Whichever method you choose, make sure you follow all safety precautions when working with chemicals like chromium sulfate or vegetable tannins.

Step Three: Finishing Touches

Once your leather has been tanned, it’s time for the finishing touches! This includes dyeing your hide (if desired) and applying any type of finish or wax that will help protect your piece from water damage or other environmental factors.

You can also use stamps or tooling to add decorative elements if desired before applying a final coat of wax or oil for extra protection. Now all that’s left to do is enjoy your finished piece!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the two types of leather tanning?

Leather clothing and upper leather of shoes are mostly tanned by chrome tanning, leather belts, sole leather, and riding leather are mostly tanned by vegetable tanning and leather is tanned by synthetic tanning. For the final product to have certain properties, different tanning methods are often combined.

What are the benefits of tanning leather?

During tanning, the protein structure of skin is permanently altered, thus making leather more durable and resistant to decomposition.

How do I choose the right leather for my project?

When considering leather for a project, the number of leather types and leather tanning processes may seem overwhelming. It’s important to understand leather tanning first, as it is what gives leather its characteristics. Different leathers are treated with different tanning processes, giving them their distinctive textures and colours. 

To select the leather that is ideal for your project, take into account the look and feel you want from your leather as well as where it will be used.

If you’re looking for leather that will be in an outside environment or exposed to direct sunlight, opt for leather tanned with synthetic materials; if indoors with low levels of direct sunlight exposure, try vegetable-tanned leather which has a more rustic appearance. 

No matter what type you choose, make sure to invest in quality leather that won’t easily show wear and tear over time.

What are the different types of leather?

  • Bonded leather
  • Bridle leather
  • Deerskin leather
  • Full Grain leather
  • Genuine leather
  • Goatskin leather
  • Grades of leather
  • Lambskin leather
  • Nubuck leather
  • Split grain leather
  • Suede
  • Top grain leather
  • Vegetable tanned leather


Tanning leather may seem intimidating but with a few simple steps anyone can learn how to do it correctly and safely! All it takes is patience, knowledge of proper techniques, and an eye for detail!

The end result will be worth every minute spent perfecting these age-old techniques – not only will you have something beautiful that was made entirely by hand but also something that will last for years to come.

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