How We Make Our Leather

At Thomas Ware and Sons we take great care and pride when it comes to purchasing our raw materials, especially hides. British beef cattle, such as Herefords, provide the optimum colouration and thickness and they are reared to meet exacting standards.

It can take in excess of 15 months to convert these raw hides into the end leather product. This might sound like an age, but we believe investing the time gives the best results.

At TWS, decades of experience tell us that the best methods of hair removal, liming and tanning for the types of leather we produce are carried out in pits, “the traditional way”. Read on to discover how the magic happens. 


The first part of the process is to prepare the hides ready for tannage. It takes up to ten days and happens in the Limeyard, or what was traditionally known as The Beamhouse.

First all the hides are weighed, opened up and inspected before being soaked in a water pit for 24hrs. Having arrived wet salted, soaking the hides in water removes the salt and other farmyard muck. They then spend a further 24hrs in a solution which helps to loosen the hairs from their roots in the hide so they can be easily removed.

Once the hairs have been loosened, the hides are placed in a solution of lime for six days to open up their fibre structure. All the unwanted inter-fibrillary proteins are dissolved and the hides swell so they can withstand the next two machines. These remove the hair and surplus flesh.

The hides, now called pelt, are next sorted, graded, rounded (cut up into butts, shoulders and bellies), lime split and de-limed as necessary depending on the end product.

Cow hides in the lime yard before tanning.



Once the pelts have been sorted and prepared, they enter the actual tanning process. This turns the pelts into leather and a pelt can spend up to 13 months in tan liquor.

Our liquors are made up of carefully selected blends of at least three different vegetable tanning materials. We carefully control the composition, strength, acidity and temperature of the liquors and the time the pelts spend in these pits. Varying the liquors and soaking time determines the properties of our end products, such as hardness, strength, colour and flexibility. Different combinations are required for each individual type of leather.

The Tanyard


After the tanning stage the leather is moved to the Sheds. Here it undergoes a number of other processes, machine operations and drying operations to help give the leather different characteristics. This can take up to another four to six weeks before going to the warehouse for sorting and grading.

Leather ready for sorting.


In the warehouse we sort the leather in accordance with our Clients’ specifications. It’s either packed ready for despatch or moved back to the tanyard and sheds for further processing as required. This is particularly the case for more specialised leathers.

Specialty leather - floor tiles

Once the tanning process is complete, our leathers are prepared for individual Clients ready to be dispatched from Bristol, destined for a wide variety of uses all over the world.