WW2 A-2 tanning

Officer Dibley

Well-Known Member
Couldn't find a thread specifically on leather tanning. Forgive me if there is one and mods delete this thread if there is.

We're talking specifically A-2's now

So, veg tanning seems to be the one most "experts" deem the most period authentic but i believe chrome tanning was also done in WW2.
Was veg tanning cheaper ? Or the most common '39-'45 ?
What pros & cons do each of the two methods have ? I find ELC's leather never truly softens up. Jackets always look stiff and feel a bit like cardboard.
I used to have a Sefton A-2 in the early 90's that was steer and chrome tanned but it looked (and my mates who still have them) and felt very pukka WW2 based on the few originals i have handled. The Sefton draped . Shame Steve stopped making them....
I know the steer/horse debate goes on but has tanning method been squared up against maker and contract ? Was goat tanned both ways ?

And is there a way to tall the tanning method ? How many modern repro makers veg tan ? GW ? ELC ? Aero ? BK ? QMI ?

Sorry for all the questions but wondered if some folk could ejakate me please ?
 
Last edited:

2BM2K

Well-Known Member
Every jacket.

ELC, BK veg tan

GW, DD mostly veg but do have chrome options.

QMI don't know

Aero use veg, don't know if they use chrome tan.

For repro makers veg tan is the first leather of choice.
 

Officer Dibley

Well-Known Member
Thank you. Interesting. A real fixation on veg. It seems to me to make the leather like cardboard. Does it make it more durable ?

This could be a very short thread !
 

Falcon_52

Active Member
Thank you. Interesting. A real fixation on veg. It seems to me to make the leather like cardboard. Does it make it more durable ?

This could be a very short thread !
This is just my experience but I find that veg tanned leather seems a little more rigid out of the box but I think a lot depends on the top finish coating. For example, my Lost Worlds jackets (chrome tanned) started out really stiff but that may have more to do with the heavy pigment top coating. My Eastman B-3 (veg tanned) was unbelievably stiff at first but over the years has gotten more supple everywhere except the sleeves. I'm not sure if this is due to the top finish or the double leather.

Both types seem very durable to me - no issues of breakdown or rotting over the last 10 years.

Noel
 

Ken at Aero Leather

Well-Known Member
From my experience of different leathers on many vintage jackets going as far back as the 1920s I'd say the donor animal of the leather has far more to do with the longevity of the leather than any tanning method

As far as jackets go, from least durable to most

Sheep Leather
Goat Suede
Sheep/Shearling Leather
Goat Leather
Steerhide
Horsehide

As someone who is very hard on his footwear, un-believably but true, I've found Glace Kid to be far the most durable leather of the lot
I've got several pairs of 1920s/30's Glace Kid boots thatI've had for decades that are still going strong, and they are worn fairly regularly
I have to admit that during that time I've wrecked at least two pairs of Aero's Horsehide Boots, but it's not just our own boots, I've run through several pairs of Timberlands, even a couple of pairs of Aldens
 

Edward

Well-Known Member
I have to admit that during that time I've wrecked at least two pairs of Aero's Horsehide Boots, but it's not just our own boots, I've run through several pairs of Timberlands, even a couple of pairs of Aldens
darn 21st century horses.. but they just don't grow quality pasture grass like they used to! :p
 

Ken at Aero Leather

Well-Known Member
In terms of longevity both types of tanning should last a life time.



Which Aero leathers, suitable for an A2 , are chrome tanned? Will this info be on the new website?
I'll have to double check on the Battered Steer (My current favourite for an A-2) Beautiful leather I'm pretty sure it's Chrome Tanned.
The Jerky Horsehide certainly is. These are probably the closest to original A-2 leathers

The new website will be full of info on all sorts of things, history of pieces, etc we've got most of the text done, almost all the photos, looking like early October
 

Officer Dibley

Well-Known Member
I've got a "Real Deal" jerky on order with Aero. I'm not bothered how it's been tanned provided it feels right tbh.

Now i'll know it'll be chrome tanned, i'll let you all know how it looks and feels.

If it looks like a dog and barks like a dog........then for me it is a dog
 

Kennyz

Active Member
I wonder if the reason repro makers use veg tanning more is because this method more quickly develops that "50 mission look" that we all seek...?

Ken
 

Officer Dibley

Well-Known Member
I wonder if the reason repro makers use veg tanning more is because this method more quickly develops that "50 mission look" that we all seek...?

Ken
Or an opportunity to charge more ...?
I'd say chrome tanning develops quicker.

Ken (at Aero....) what do you say ?
 

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
There are two US tanneries still producing predominately veg tanned leather exclusively.
Wickett and Craig in Pennsylvania. (I actually visited the tannery)
The other is Herman Oak.

My opinion on why repro makes use veg tanned a lot is because it patina’s and wears a lot differently. Depending on who does it, chrome tanning remains the same. I read over on the FDL about a pilot who was issued a us wings A2 and he did everything to it to make it look worn and it still looked the same. They just make that stuff to last a lot better than they used to.
 

zoomer

Well-Known Member
Yes...hand-done and natural techniques can be replicated with care and study. But sometimes when technology was involved, it has changed too much with time, and It Just Ain't Worth It. At least with - say - selvedge denim, looms survive in Japan. But how do you justify recreating a chrome-tanning process that doesn't work as well as the current standard?!

I come from the saxophone world, where you can get your classic '20s or '30s instrument re-silverplated and the bell re-gilded to look BETTER than new - but NOT JUST LIKE new. The old finishes were coin-grade silver and gold (±92% pure), sandblasted (with actual sand), and they polished down to a uniform dull shine in a few decades. Nowadays it's all 24 karat beadblasted perfection, costs it, and looks it. Much nasty chemistry is involved, just as with chrome tanning.
 
Last edited:

jeremiah

Well-Known Member
Right. No way would they do that. Would not be smart.
That said, I am not saying the methods used back then were not as good, its just that leather seems to be different these days in some regards. I don't know, maybe its all on how one takes care of the product.
 
Top