Factory Walkthrough pt.1

Factory Walkthrough pt.1

Many customers visit Horween Leather Co. and notice that the tannery is like a "photographer's dream". There are seemingly endless textures, colors, and shapes to shoot and machines that have been in use on a daily basis for over a century. I call Horween a working museum and I still don't get tired of walking through the tannery even after ten years of employment.

Below: A photo of the liquor yard tanning pits where every piece of shell cordovan goes through a two month tanning process. The cordovan butts are nailed to slats of wood that lay over the pits. The cordovan butts soak up the rich tannins from the special, house-cooked blend of tree bark extracts.

Horween Leather Tanning Shell Cordovan Pit Tanned Liquor Yard

Below: Shell Cordovan butts have been pickled in this wooden paddle. Picking is performed just before the pit tanning to ensure the tannins penetrate the skin evenly.

Horween Leather Pickeld Butts Paddle Old Tannery

Below: Loading up chrome tanned steer hides to produce Horween Chromexcel. In the tannery we abbreviate Chromexcel to simply, CXL. CXL takes about six hours to retan in this mill but is later hot stuffed with raw oils, waxes, and greases; a process that takes seven to nine days.

Loading color and retanning leather drums at Horween Leather in Chicago

Below: Draining out a color and retanning mill after drum dying some red Horween Latigo. I'm a big fan of heavy metal and if I ever make a new metal album this will be the cover!

Retanning Horween Red Latigo color mill

Below: Two mills are dumping from opposite ends of this drain creating a great color contrast! Most leathers run at Horween are earth tones (browns, tan, black, etc.) so seeing two colors like this is a rare sight.

Draining out the color mills at Horween

Below: Hand setting hardware on a special project for local construction contractor: Bulley & Andrews. We are crafting some special items for their 125th anniversary party.

Ashland Leather crafting for Bulley and Andrews leather tech accessory wrap

Below: Using a hydraulic press, also known as a clicker, to cut out color #8 Chromexcel into straps.

Using a clicker press to cut Horween Color #8 Chromexcel

Below: Dan carefully lines up the hot stamping press to emboss the customer's logo.

Careful alignment for hot stamping a logo into Horween Color #8 Chromexcel

Below: Burnishing Chromexcel with gum tragacanth and beeswax to create a nice, finished edge. 

Using Beeswax to burnish Chromexcel

Below: Tech accessory roll for Bulley & Andrews 125th anniversary. These came out beautifully in the Horween Color #8 Chromexcel!

Ashland for Bulley and Andrews Tech Accessory Wrap in Color #8 Chromexcel CXL

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1 comment

Some big wonderful dreams.I’m working in this sector from 1972, and know everything about this one, so this ancienne tannery is a very big dream

Marcelo Mora

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