Vegetable Tanned Leather

Since leather Tanning, and specifically vegetable tanning, is an ancient practice with long traditions and in-house variations (or recipes) across tanneries, I will share just a brief overview of vegetable tanning.

Leather tanning is the process of turning animal hides into usable material. There are two main Tanning methods: chrome tanning and vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning is the relatively newer method that utilizes chromium sulfates and takes approximately one day to process. The resulting leather is typically more water resistant and can be split and finished to a wide variety final products. Vegetable tanning uses tannins derived from plant matter and tree bark and requires about 1-12 months to process. The tradition of vegetable tanning is carried on by trained craftspeople at the few remaining vegetable tanneries remaining. Veg tanned leather is preferred for its strength, pliability and impressionability and can become tough when left unconditioned. The ruddy tan color of veg tan hides is due to the tannins which come from oak, mimosa and other tree species. Click here for further reading from Wickett Craig Tannery.

At Tallgrass Studio I carefully inspect each hide I use at the local leather shop, which I have visited since childhood. EC Leather has long worked with domestic and international tanneries to provide Tulsa craftspeople with the best hides.


At the shop, I cut and prep each hide to be made into goods. Part of this process is oiling the leather to give it its final surface finish. Each piece is given two generous coats of neatsfoot oil applied by hand. Neatsfoot Oil has long been used as a conditioner to soften and rejuvenate worn leather. Neatsfoot Oil is a cattle product that replenishes natural oils in the leather that are lost due to wet / dry cycles. To keep Tallgrass goods healthy and strong against the elements I recommend Huberd’s Neatsfoot Oil. Huberd’s is designed to penetrate deep into leather with oil and beeswax.

See their online store for purchase.


Oiling Process

Oiling your veg tanned goods is a simple and straightforward process. It just takes a little time and elbow grease to see that your bag well maintained.

  1. Ensure that your product is clean and free of loose dirt / dust. Simply wipe clean with a dry rag.

  2. Using a clean cotton rag work oil into the leather in circular motions. Begin in a discreet area to practice and keep the rag wet and moving. DO NOT be afraid of darkening the leather just keep the oil moving evenly over the entire product. This process takes about 10 minutes and can be repeated with a second coat shortly after the first.

  3. Let dry in an area with normal air circulation at room temperature for about an hour before use. The darkening of the leather will nearly disappear as the oil soaks into the leather and disperses.

  4. Frequency of care is entirely dependent on use. Veg tan goods can be treated anywhere from 1-6 times a year.



Tallgrass goods are made to be weather resistant with proper care. In my opinion much of the process that renders leather waterproof masks its natural character. Tallgrass goods are made to showcase the unique story of each hide combined with that of each owner. Brand marks, slight blemishes and watermarks are normal elements of a bags life while its construction remains true. Water will leave a slightly darkened mark on the leather’s surface. These marks along with small surface abrasions will become lessened with oiling and appear subtle as the bag darkens. If you live in wet climate consider increased oiling cycles or a more weatherproof treatment. I am happy to answer any questions through our contact page.