Tanning  

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Tanning is the process of treating skins of animals to produce leather, which is more durable and less susceptible to decomposition. Traditionally, tanning used tannin, an acidic chemical compound from which the tanning process draws its name (tannin is in turn named for an old German word for oak or fir trees, which supplied it). Coloring may occur during tanning. A tannery is the term for a place where the skins are processed.

Tanning leather involves a process which permanently alters the protein structure of skin. Making "rawhide" (untanned but worked hide) does not require the use of tannin. Rawhide is made by removing the flesh and fat and then the hair by use of an aqueous solution (this process is often called "liming" when using lime and water or "bucking" when using wood ash (lye) and water), then scraping over a beam with a somewhat dull knife, then drying. The two aforementioned solutions for removing the hair also act to clean the fiber network of the skin and allow penetration and action of the tanning agent, so that all the steps in preparation of rawhide except drying are often preludes to the more complex process of tanning and production of leather.

Tanning can be performed with either vegetable or mineral methods. Before tanning, the skins are unhaired, degreased, desalted and soaked in water over a period of 6 hours to 2 days. To prevent damage of the skin by bacterial growth during the soaking period, biocides, typically dithiocarbamates, are used. Fungicides such as TCMBT, 2-(Thiocyanomethylthio) benzothiazole, are added later in the process to protect wet leathers from mould growth. After 1980 the use of pentachlorophenol and quicksilver (mercury base) biocides and their derivatives was forbidden.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tanning" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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