Leather in it’s many forms is one of the most significant natural materials used by human kind and leather manufacturing has long tradition. Beside new synthetic fibres leather is still respected as material and it has several applications from clothes to shoes and small objects to furniture.
Leather is composed of collagen fibres. Collagen construction is multileveled combounded of collagen molecules wich has four macro molecular levels. First the molecules pack together as organised construction that is called fibril. Fibrils form up as bigger bundles and further bigger units until they finally form fiber bundles.

All the vertebrate species leather consists of in outline three different layers that differ from each other as their construction and chemical composition as their physiological characteristics. The layers are epidermis, dermis and subcutis.

Tanned leather contains depending on type of leather and method of tannage 45-75% parts of leather, 8-45% of tanning agents, 1-25% of fat, maxim 3% of colourant and pigments ans 8-15% of humidity. When using tanning agents origin from plant kingdom their share of leather composition is maxim 30%.


Leather is mainly used for parts of shoes, clothing, furnitures, vehicles, bags and belts. Every yearit is produced about 500 000 tons or 1,5 billion square metres of leather.

Consturction of leather and qualitites are different with different animals so all leather can’t manufacture same types of leather. Different animal leathers has typical structural differencies such as thickness, fibre construction and so on,. That is why for example sheer lamb leather is not good for shoe sole leather and thick bull leather is not good for fine gloves.


From local hunting companies can be bought deer skin. Local slaughterhouse you can get brains and lard for tanning and greasing. You can also get animal skins direct from the animal breeders and finished leather can be bought from leather stores and fabric stores.


It is worth asking some of the shoemakers in local workshops about traditional leatherwork: for example, in Viljandi, in Leola office building, located at Jakobsoni 11, Lennart Männiste has been working already for 12 years. Lennart mainly repairs leather goods. He has worked with many different products: saddlebags, steering-wheels, leather jackets, leather belts. He has also repaired leather furniture. The necessary materials for his work, he brings from Jõgeva. It is possible to get in touch with Lennart through Facebook: „Leola kingsepp“ or contacting him on his phone (+372 55 155 68).

Priit Reimand has been working with leather for 21 years. He started working in Tallinn at the cooperative „Välk“ as a shoe fitter under master Jaak. There he was taught how leather drags. For example: neck and stomach skin drags lengthwise, skin on the bottom does not drag at all, but the skin under the armpits drags in every direction. Priit already orders his parent material in the required thickness and colour. Priit also manufactures Estonian traditional leather shoes in his workshop. 4 pairs of leather shoes are being made simultaneously and they will be done in 2-3 days. The leather needed for making the shoes is being ordered from Lithuania. Contact phone number: +372 50 90 402. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Selection of Estonian businesses processing leather as handicraft – although most of them are in service in dealing with cars and motorcycles, it is still worth asking them about the maintenance of other leather products:

HELM GRUPP AS E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Laki 7, Tallinn, 10621, Harjumaa


ANTURAŽ AS Pae 7-47, Tallinn, 13619

Phone no: +372 6 327 537; +372 56 641 327


TUNINGSTYLE OÜ Seebi 22, Tallinn, 11316



AUTOX OÜ Leather work is performed on cars, boats and motorcycles.

Their address in Viljandi is Uus tn. 38. It is also possible to get in touch with them online on their website www.uus38.ee

Phone no: +372 56 644 837; +372 55 561 443


Where to get crude material from? Some workshops have referred to „Nevotex“, which has a good variety of leather (www.nevotex.com)


NB! Businesses whose websites have been mentioned are not in any way privileged. All of the businesses are not the very best and they might not have quality goods. Their websites do not give full information; the client has to be careful and gather additional information about them. The quality of the websites might not correspond to the quality of their goods and products.

Manufacturing process of leather (in Finnish):
Working with leather (in Finnish):


Harrastajanahkurin käsikirja. Jouko Esklinen ja Kari Franck. Datafun 1999.



The meaning of tanning is to make easily spoiled and poor heat-resistant skin into well preserved, heat-resistant, well-treated, almost forever lasting raw-material for different purposes. Qualities of tanned skin depends a lot of used tanning method.
Different natural materials can be used in tanning, such as bark, sour stock, rancid grease or brains.

Plant tanning

In plant tanning it is used parts of plants that contains tannins. Many plants and groceries such as tea, wine, blueberries and strawberries contains tannins but it is easiest to use bark.
The amount of bark used in tanning depends a lot from how much tannins the bark consists. Proper amount is usually about twice the weight of the skin. Suitable Finnish trees used in tanning are including birch, alder, few willows and oak.

Oil tanning

Oil makes the skin water proof and water-resistant. For oil tanning it is used rancid grease, usually animal's own brain that last for whole skin. The brains are pulped with blender or crushed with water into paste which is spread on the skin. Tanning process lasts only two days (plant tanning two weeks).