Oak bark leather has been tanned at J. & F. J. Baker’s Tannery on the banks of the River Coly in Colyton since Roman times. Over the centuries the oak bark tanning process has changed very little.
The raw hides are immersed in lime and water to loosen the hair and then soaked in weak tan liquors in pits called handlers.
Having passed through the handler pits the hides are then layered flat, one on top of each other, with a layer of ground oak bark between each hide. These deep, layer pits are filled with a stronger oak bark liquor and the hides remain here for nine months.
The long, slow, oak bark, tanning process ensures that the natural fibres making up a hide are allowed to remain in their natural weave, giving the leather a higher tensile strength.
All saddlery and harness leathers are heavily dressed, giving the fibres a generous coat of oils and greases. This ‘currying’ process, as it is known, not only gives a softer, more supple leather, but also improves the waterproofing and strength. This is thanks to the historic and unique mix of naturally occurring greases.
The combination of traditional tannage and currying produces first class, bridle, stirrup and harness leathers.
The bridle shoulders supplied to Purdey are selected, after tanning, for the quality of their grain. They are then shaved to a level substance, dressed and stained using the traditional methods to produce a fine, full grain, aniline finish. This type of finish improves with age and use, as did the leathers of centuries gone by.
J. & F.J. Baker is Britain’s only remaining traditional oak bark tannery. Their unique leather is favoured by distinguished craftsmen for its quality, durability and finish.