Böle Tannery

Spruce bark tanning

Spruce bark tanning, with our recipe, is simply mixing Pite river water with spruce bark flakes in open vats where Swedish cattle hides are placed. (This kind of spruce bark tanning goes back at least 1000 years, so we consider it a proven technique by now.)

However, there are a few more things one should think about when spruce bark tanning. The hides should be from the very best quality, since it would be a waste of a lot of time to tan hides that are bad to begin with. The spruce bark should be harvested during the right time of the year. In our part of the world that means during May and June when sap is rising in the trees. The water you use should be as “natural” as possible. For us, that means taking it directly from the Pite river running just outside our door. You need to tan the hides gradually, by taking them through a chain of baths going from weaker to stronger and stronger spruce bark concentrations. This takes time, currently we take up to 12 months to tan the hides through. During all this time, you must stir the hides in the vats, at least on a daily basis. Moving hides between baths and stirring them in vats should preferably be done manually, with a wooden pole or a shovel. Otherwise, you may damage the surface of the hides. After tanning, the hides are shaved, fattened and nailed onto wooden frames for drying in fresh air.

The result is leather with a unique colour and an undamaged surface that is so beautiful it needs no further treatment in the form of dying or painting. You also get leather that is stiff enough to make long lasting products such as our bags.