Tallow and Dubbin Appreciation: The Traditional Oak Bark Leather Dressing

Tallow and Dubbin Appreciation: The Traditional Oak Bark Leather Dressing

July 24, 2023

As part of the final hand finishing or 'currying' process, our oak bark tanned hides are coated in tallow.
J & FJ Baker & Co have developed 20 different speciality dubbins. Each with a different secret blend of natural fats and oils, tailored to the specific leather to enhance and support the leather's different properties.
The tallow is applied by hand with a brush to ensure
a thorough and even coat is worked in. The leather is then left for a week for the dubbin to soak in. 
     Photo Credit J & FJ Baker & Co
The tallow comes to the surface of the leather and forms a white waxy coating.
Once we have finished making each individual oak bark tanned Tanner Bates piece, we then brush off any remaining visible tallow with a horsehair brush to reveal the beautiful rich leather beneath. 
When the leather is new, or if it is left unused for a while, the tallow will reappear in its white waxy form.
This is a natural and unavoidable process.
However, with use, the tallow will soon rub off, or if you prefer, a quick buff with a soft bristle or horsehair brush will once again reveal the stunning characterful oak bark tanned leather in all its full glory.

Now for a bit of a closer, more detailed look at tallow and dubbin, hopefully answering some popular questions.

What is Tallow for Leather? 

Tallow is a form of rendered fat, typically from cattle or sheep, that is often used in the leather industry as a conditioning and preserving agent. Treating leather with tallow helps to soften the leather, making it more flexible and durable.
The fat absorbs into the leather, replenishing any natural oils that may have been lost during the tanning process. This helps to prevent the leather from cracking or drying out over time. For example, if you were to apply a tallow-based conditioner to a pair of leather boots, they would likely become more comfortable to wear and last longer. The tallow would penetrate the leather, helping to maintain its softness and flexibility.
Moreover, tallow can give leather an appealing distinctive sheen. In summary, tallow for leather is a time-tested method for preserving and enhancing the natural qualities of this versatile material.

Is Tallow for good for Leather?

Yes, tallow is indeed good for leather. There are several reasons why tallow is beneficial for leather. Firstly, tallow is a natural conditioner that helps to preserve the flexibility of leather. Leather, being a natural material, can dry out and crack over time if not properly maintained. Tallow penetrates the leather, providing essential moisture that helps to keep the leather supple and prevent damage from drying.
Secondly, tallow can provide a protective barrier on the surface of the leather. Exposure to moisture or wet conditions can cause leather to become dry, stiff and potentially warp or crack. The application of tallow once the leather has been allowed to dry naturally can help to restore some of the natural fats and oils lost. It may also help to repel other damaging substances.
Thirdly, the use of tallow can enhance the appearance of leather. It can give a soft sheen to the leather and help to highlight its natural colour and texture.
For example, a wallet, belt or pair of leather shoes can be maintained with the use of tallow. By applying a small amount of tallow to a cloth and rubbing it into the leather, the shoes can be kept in good condition, with the leather remaining soft and flexible, and the wallet or belt looking polished and well cared for.
However, it's important to note that while tallow is beneficial for many types of leather, it may not be suitable for all. Some leathers, particularly those with a very smooth or glossy finish, may not take well to tallow. Always test a small, inconspicuous area first before applying to the entire leather item. If too much tallow is applied, the leather cannot absorb it all and may feel greasy or oily to the touch. 

Can you condition leather with Tallow?

Yes, you can indeed condition leather with tallow. Tallow has been traditionally used to condition and preserve leather for centuries.
The process is quite straightforward. You first need to clean the leather properly, removing any dust or dirt. After this, you can apply a small amount of tallow to a soft cloth and then rub it onto the leather in a circular motion. It's essential to note that a little goes a long way with tallow, so you don't need to use too much. The heat from the friction of the rubbing will help the tallow penetrate into the leather.
Once you've applied the tallow, leave the leather for 24 hours. This allows the tallow to be fully absorbed and conditions the leather. After this, you can buff off any excess with a clean cloth or horsehair brush.
The tallow will help to keep the leather soft and supple. It helps to prevent cracking and drying out, which can extend the life of your leather products.
An example of this can be seen in the way saddles are cared for. Many horse riders and equestrians use tallow to condition their leather saddles. Not only does it help to preserve the saddle, but it also ensures the leather remains flexible and comfortable for both horse and rider.

What is Tallow used for?

Tallow is a form of rendered fat, traditionally from cattle or sheep, that is used in a variety of applications.
1. Cooking: Tallow is extensively used in cooking due to its high smoke point and long shelf life. Its robust flavour makes it a preferred choice in frying and baking, especially in traditional recipes. An example would be the use of beef tallow in creating flaky, delicious pie crusts or French fries.
2. Soap and Candle Making: Tallow has been a key ingredient in soap and candle making for centuries. Its consistency when cooled and long burning time make it an ideal choice for candles. In soap making, tallow contributes to hardness, stable lather, and conditioning properties.
3. Cosmetics and Skincare: Tallow finds its application in creating moisturising skin and body care products. It is believed to be compatible with our skin's biology, contributing to its hydration and protection.
4. Lubrication: Due to its high stearic acid content, tallow is often used as a lubricant, particularly for machinery and tools. Its use in this context can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution when it was used to grease locomotive components.
5. Biofuel: Recently, tallow has been used in the production of biodiesel, a renewable energy source. Through a process called transesterification, tallow is converted into a non-toxic fuel that can be used in diesel engines.
6. Leather Conditioning: Tallow can be used to condition and preserve leather goods, as it nourishes the material and helps to prevent drying and cracking.
Each use of tallow leverages its unique properties, demonstrating its versatility and importance in different industries.

Does Tallow smell?

Yes, tallow does have a distinct smell. Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, and it carries the aroma associated with these meats. The scent is typically described as "meaty" or "beefy". However, the exact fragrance can vary depending on the source of the tallow and the rendering process.
Tallow that has been rendered properly will have a clean, mild aroma. This is because the rendering process, which involves slowly heating the fat, is designed to remove impurities and any strong odours. However, if the tallow is not properly rendered, it can retain a stronger, more unpleasant smell.
To give you a practical example, consider a piece of beef being cooked. As the beef heats up, it releases a distinct, meaty smell. This is similar to the smell of tallow, although the scent of tallow is generally much less intense.
In cosmetic applications, such as handmade soaps or lotions, the natural scent of tallow is usually masked with essential oils or other fragrances. This allows product makers to capitalise on the beneficial properties of tallow, such as its moisturising capabilities, without having the end product smell like meat.
Overall, while tallow does have a smell, it is not necessarily a strong or unpleasant one, especially when handled and rendered correctly.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in News

How a Devon Leather Messenger Bag Transforms Your Office Style
How a Devon Leather Messenger Bag Transforms Your Office Style

May 08, 2024

One accessory that can truly elevate your office style is the messenger bag, but not just any ordinary messenger bag. We're talking about the exquisite Devon leather messenger bag from Tanner Bates.

In this article, we'll delve into the unparalleled quality, durability, and timeless style of the Devon leather messenger bag. 

Read More

Discovering Compact Travel with the Venford Hip Bag
Venture Further with Less: Discovering Compact Travel with the Venford Hip Bag

May 08, 2024

Are you tired of lugging around massive suitcases and feeling weighed down on your travels? Well, get ready to embrace the minimalist travel trend. It's all about packing light, staying mobile, and truly immersing yourself in the journey. 

And let us introduce you to the perfect companion for this adventure: the Venford Hip Bag from Tanner Bates. This sleek, compact bag is designed for those seeking the perfect balance between style, functionality, and mobility.

Read More

A Detailed Comparison: Full Grain and Top Grain Leather Explained
A Detailed Comparison: Full Grain and Top Grain Leather Explained

April 29, 2024

When it comes to the world of leather, the difference between full-grain and top-grain leather can often lead to confusion. Both terms are frequently thrown around in leather-related conversations, yet the exact distinctions between the two remain unclear to many. Considering the significant impact these differences can have on leather goods' quality, durability, and aesthetics, it's crucial to get a solid grasp of these concepts.

Read More