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I did a major rewrite of this article and upgraded the modern tanning section. The ancient method section still needs upgrading. I'm removing this from the cleanup list. Jerdwyer 07:05, 12 November 2005 (UTC)

Saying that the ancients considered tanning a job for the poor, or attaching negative connotations to it in general is hugely culture specific. To assign that attitude to a group of people dubbed 'the ancients' is plain folly. This world has birthed untold millions of cultures, and certainly many of them did not treat tanning hides with such distaste. The indigineous peoples of North America treated brain-tanning with great appreciation and respect. They were in possession of the knowledge of many scores of different tanning processes, utilizing hundreds of different plants or other naturally produced resources. It was the combination and re-combination of these processes that allowed someone with a creative urge to entice highly specific qualities out of the hides they worked.

Unfortunately I don't have first hand experience in tanning under a primitive setting, but I know lots of people who do. It is a vast field, with many many many things that aren't even touched upon in this article. I will try and find someone to edit this.


"except Buffalo" ???[edit]

what's with that buffalo bit in the last paragraph of the 'ancient tanning' section? Looks like random vandalism or something to me. It should be elaborated on if it is true...I'm certainly not familiar with it and it appears to be some local thing —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 03:21, 19 February 2007 (UTC).


I am in the process of writing the entire leather making process linked through the "Leather" main page in accordance with the WP:MOS. This page is ambiguous as it lumps other leather making operations into the "tanning" operation. I acknowledge that tanneries do many things other than tan and for many years the entire leather making process was called the tanning process but I submit that this terminology is misleading and confusing for the reader and not robust enough for the encyclopedic nature of Wikipedia. With this in mind I propose that we move some of the valuable content from this page into the relevant sections of the leather making process and use this stub as the rightful place of the "tanning" operation to avoid reader confusion. I welcome any discussion on this before I start these changes.Plugflower (talk) 15:38, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

-- There's a lot of bias in this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:46, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Changed a bit[edit]

Now I have done a major rewrite of the page.Specially the "Modern methods of Tanning" portion. Feel free to upgrade it or pass suggestions to make it even better

urbane26 8th December 2007


I just deleted a link (that has aparenly been deleted before) to a comercial site selling cow hides, leather rugs, and other products. Had they ANY discussion of the tanning process (which could have been linked to directly) I would have perhaps seen some relevance. I also added back a link to a U.S. Government publication on home tanning of leather from a previos version of the page. For some reason somebody thought it was link spam. There are probably more good links out there to be found. Ferritecore (talk) 23:48, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

Wet white and Tanwater[edit]

The above articles should probably be turned into redirects to this article and anything relevant incorporated into this article. If anyone is interested, please go ahead and do it. dougweller (talk) 23:08, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Unclear sentence[edit]

Curing is employed to check putrifaction of the protein substance (Collagen) because of the chance of bacterial infection due to the time lag that might occur from procuring it to processing it.

This is unclear. How is bacterial infection caused by a time lag, and what is being infected? The hide? The tanner? I don't know what it is supposed to mean. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:48, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

I recast that sentence, and worked over that whole paragraph to some extent. It's better, but still needs improvement. If nobody else works it over I'm likly to have another go at it later. Ferritecore (talk) 01:23, 13 March 2009 (UTC)

Whiskey making[edit]

Just for the record there appears to have been economies of scale between whiskey makers and tanners in late medieval Ireland with the same person receiving a license for leather tanning and whiskey making. This was probably connected with the need for oak casks in both professions, although there could be another reason that I am unaware of. (talk) 11:01, 25 April 2009 (UTC)

ancient and modern tanning methods[edit]

I came looking for tanning in Wikipedia because of that reference form Silence of the Lambs about using brains to tan skins. I found that reference, sure enough. Now I'm getting more and more curious about the history of tanning, and the transition from ancient to modern methods. Can that be included?--Alphapeta (talk) 01:28, 6 July 2009 (UTC)


Well now, can we get back to basics, which are unexplained (at least in layman's language), and should be in the first line. I presume the object is to stop the hide rotting, and as such is a more localised form of embalming which aims to prevent the whole corpse rotting? Embalming works by making the whole corpse extremly poisonous.

Why does this process work?

Am I correct in inferring that (oak) bark is poisonous (presumably to protect the tree from insect, animal, vedgetable and bacterial attack)? And this process removes most of what would rot and then makes the remainder poisonous ditto? Is leather poisonous? Could I chew, suck or eat leather, or would I be poisoned? Could I chew, suck or eat (oak) bark, or would I be poisoned? Why is oak bark used in horticulture to provide a plant (and therefore weed) free surface - presumably because it is poisonous? (talk) 10:33, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

We are always looking for ways to make articles both accessible (understandable to people not versed in technology) but accurate. Your analysis of what is at work is probably partly correct but it is imprecise because "poisonous" is too vague. An intelligent person could extrapolate several ways to think about tanning, one being that the processing is somehow supposed to do for the skin what the living creature did for it. Furthermore chrome-tanning is somewhat like vulcanization of rubber and embalming of corpses: it entails a crosslinking process that enhances the mechanical strength of the material. This aspect is explained in Tanning#Mineral tanning. One message being delivered in many Wikipedia articles is that the fundamental basis for many consumer products (soap, hair dying, toothpaste) is often technical, unavoidably. Nonetheless editors here are conscious that the article need to be readable, especially in the opening paragraph.--Smokefoot (talk) 13:04, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, some of us have little chemistry (and biology!). Also on the page on chamois leather it mentions tanning using oxidised fish oils, but there doesn't seem to be anything here on that subject. Vince Calegon 13:26, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

Ready for a section, "Leatherworkers and Culture"[edit]

By now this has become a superb article, useful for teaching four or five kinds of cultural history classes. Henry Mayhew, for instance, in his pioneering work of sociology, the 1850s London Labour and the London Poor, could count on his readers knowing what the people collecting "pure," (dog's feces) from the London streets were doing. My students can't guess, and are shocked to know. Since, in several cultures, the people who handled leather were considered ritually unclean-- and perhaps we get a better idea why, after reading this-- can we add a section on leatherwork and culture? Just from memory, leatherwork was reserved for "untouchables," so to speak, in Japan and parts of India. Perhaps in Europe the Ashkenazi Jews were accepted as furriers, and as cobblers, because there was an overlap with the tanneries? BTW, my great-grandfather was a cobbler in 1890s London. The East End was full of cobblers and other Jewish leather workers. Profhum (talk) 23:33, 15 February 2015 (UTC)