How to make high-quality leather products

Elmo Leather’s tanning factory continues to deliver high quality for the cruise industry
How to make high-quality leather products
Elmo Leather’s tanning factory in Sweden

By Alex Smith |

Elmo Leather creates a number of leather furniture and furnishings for cruise ships. The company uses an extensive process at its tanning factory in Sweden to ensure these products are of the highest quality. The company produces about 8,000 hides a week, almost exclusively from Scandinavian cattle which are well looked after and live in an ideal climate.

The first step in the process of creating leather is liming, where the hides are cleaned from salt and dehaired. Up to 350 hides are dehaired with water and hair dissolving chemicals together with lime in cylindrical steel drums.

Following this, the half-inch-thick hides are split into two layers where the top grain is separated from the bottom layer – only the top grain becomes high-quality leather at Elmo. The bottom layer, called split, is sold to the bicast leather market.

Next, a tanning process is used to preserves the hides and their natural characteristics by transforming the protein in the rawhides into a stable and durable material. After tanning, the hides are graded in order to be allocated to specific products. This is done manually in two different quality groups based on natural characteristics such as scratch marks, open scars and visible spots on natural pigment. Only the top-quality hides become aniline leather.

When the hides have been chosen for a specific product, they’ll be shaved to the exact thickness. The hides then undergo dyeing, drying and conditioning processes. Once tumbled, the hides will shrink and form a natural grain structure.

Finishing gives the leather its final colour, textures and pattern. It also provides the leather with a protective surface in order to fulfil customer demands and technical specifications.

All batches are tested for rub fastness, tear strength, light fastness, wear resistance and burning behaviour.

After approval from Elmo’s test lab, all hides are inspected and graded in different classes based on surface utilisation. Elmo produces three different types of leather: aniline, semi aniline and technical leather, with each of them used for different purposes within the cruise industry such as luxury chairs and public spaces.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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