boot leather

Submitted by lil beaver on 12/25/04 at 2:32 PM. ( )

I'm interested in using the balance of deer and elk hides, after capeing, for making boots.

Also, there is a boot leather called "French Calf" What is the processing difference between that and regular calf boot leather

How do I go about making boot leathers. This would be for the uppers
not sole leather

Thanks, Lil Beaver

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Where's Bruce when you need him?

This response submitted by cur on 12/25/04 at 4:51 PM. ( )

Son, here is what little I know about how that used to be made:

The old French process involved vegetable tanning in pits with, I think, chestnut bark and water. It was a slow process that took months to complete. Hides were fleshed, slaked, limed and bated. then rinsed, shaved and placed in pits with chestnut bark and water to soak. Sometimes willow bark was used, I guess, because some French calf skins were called "willow calf". The finished leather was boarded in two directions for suppleness and then oiled with cod liver oil. I think mostly black calf skins were used.

In the US, Chestnut bark was used in similar pit tanning until a blight killed all the Chestnut trees. Hemlock bark and oak bark was used, sometimes both together. The bate was made up of all kinds of goo, like chicken crap and other smellies. A couple of history texts that I have read mentioned digging pits in the ground and lining them with limestone and clay for the tanning process.

The same old process may still be used to make "French Calf", but I would think it had been modernized by now - at least outside of France......LOL

In any event, a lot of shoe leather is made by vegetable tanning process for two reasons. 1. It can be processed as cuir bouilli, which is a method of boiling vegetable tanned leather to cause the tannins to melt and fuse in a manner which produces a material like some modern plastics, and 2. Vegetable tanned leathers can be boiled for 20 seconds or so and mold formed. Chrome tanned leathers will not keep their shape if formed after wetting.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have no clue about all the steps involved in making what is called, "French Calf". I have only read about it and have never done it. I am sure there is a fast and efficient modern method of producing the same effect with hides, but only a Bruce Rittle, or another Tanning expert could really tell you how.

I am no better tanner than most taxidermists and outside of making a few bucksins I have never done any tanning except for mounting or rugging purposes. I suggest you try browsing for a solution. What I do is call Bruce...LOL

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