Crafting with Bark Tan
The art of crafting with bark tan is highly developed and takes many forms.
It is well covered elsewhere, so we'll just introduce you to the different
possibilities and sources for learning more. It is all based around using
the heavily tanned hides that are still produced on a large scale.
Leather Carving or Tooling
The art of leather carving is probably the most popular and highly developed
of modern leather crafts. Sharp gouges, knives and stamps are used to carve away
the leather to various depths and at various angles to produce beautiful and
intricate designs. It was re-popularized in the '50s by Al & Ann Stolhman, who
have written numerous books on the subject that are available through Amazon.com. There also is an entire magazine devoted mainly to this art known as
The Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal. It has a circulation of over
8,400 people. You can get a hold of them at 715 362-5393, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a large website for the The International Internet Leathercrafter's Guild,
which is mostly based around this type of leathercraft.
One really cool thing you can do with bark tanned skins is known as
"cuir bouilli", meaning boiled leather. Here's a description from R.
Reed's Ancient Skins, Parchments, and Leathers:
vegetable-tanned leather begins to shrink above 75 degrees Celsius and so lose its
shape. After thorough softening in water at ordinary
temperatures the leather can be formed or moulded into the most remarkable
shapes which on drying retain a fair degree of permanence. This shape can be
set more permanently by drying under moderate heat, the skillful choice of
temperature determining the degree of rigidity obtained."
This technique has been used historically to make anything from leather canteens
to armor to intricate masks. You can read more on the web about the interesting
of a group of
re-enactors experiments with cuir bouilli.
"A quicker process
which produces extremely hard and rigid articles is to dip the moulded shape
into boiling water for about 20 to 120 seconds. This partially melts the
tannin, allowing them to flow and redistribute throughout the fiber network.
On cooling, it turns into a tough, three-dimensional polymer network or resin,
not unlike more modern materials such as Bakelite and the aminoplastics."
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