Thomas Ware and Sons take great care and pride when it comes to purchasing their raw materials especially hides. Only wet salted hides from Beef cattle, such as Hereford’s, are wanted for colouration and thickness and they will all have been reared to meet exacting standards.
Thomas Ware and Sons believe the best methods of hair removal, liming and tanning for the types of leather they produce are carried out in pits, “the traditional way” whilst many of their competitors elect for more rapid cheaper processes.
STAGE 1 – PREPARATION OF THE HIDE FOR TANNAGE
The first part of the Process which takes 10 days, is to prepare the hide ready for tannage. This is done in the Limeyard, or what was traditionally known as The Beamhouse.
First of all the hides are weighed, opened up and inspected before being soaked in a water pit for 24 hrs, then placed in a de-hairing pit for a further 24 hrs containing the appropriate materials to loosen the hair.
The hides are then placed in a solution of lime for 6 days to open up their fibre structure, to dissolve out all the unwanted inter-fibrillary proteins and to swell the hides so they can withstand the next two machines which remove the hair and scud and surplus flesh.
The hides, now called pelt, are then sorted, graded, rounded (cut up into butts, shoulders and bellies), lime split and de-limed as necessary depending on the end product.
STAGE 2 – THE TANNAGE
The next process is the actual tannage which can take up to 13 months in tan liquor.
These liquors are made up of carefully selected blends of at least three different Vegetable tanning materials. The composition and strength, the acidity and temperature and the time in these liquors are all carefully controlled in the laboratory to give the end product the desired properties such as hardness, strength, colour and flexibility. Different processes are required for each individual type of leather.
STAGE 3 – THE SHEDDING OF THE LEATHER
After the tanning stage the leather goes to the Sheds where it undergoes a number of other processes, machine operations and drying operations in order to give the leather its desired characteristics. This can take up to another 4 – 6 weeks before going to the warehouse for sorting and grading.
STAGE 4 – DRESSING AND FINISHING
Having been selected for specific end uses this leather can then go back into the Tanyard and Sheds to be further processed into speciality leathers i.e. for leather goods and for the equestrian trade. Therefore some leathers can take in excess of 15 months to be converted from the raw hide to the end product.