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Re: fountain of youth?

Thanks David for the swift response with the details of fat liquoring.

So much has changed in leather tanning technology and terminology during
the last 20 years. I'm glad that fat liquoring is as I recalled. I tried
talking to someone about catechols and pyrogallols (in a conversation
about why I prefer sumac to mimosa in tanning for binding) only to find
I was using obsolete language. I am curious about the current views on
this in the tannery. Is sumac being used at all for bookbinding leather?

When tanning the (Nigerian goat) skins with sumac for the blank book for
Tom Phillips' Dante manuscript (1978), I left out the fatliquor, and
oiled the binding after blind tooling it. The result was a very toolable
skin which allowed a lot of control of both impression and darkening,
using a combination of wetting the leather and heating the tool.
Multiple impressions of the tool in the same spot (up to 10 times) with
increased moisture and heat resulted in a rich dark color, and the
pattern of lighter and darker impressions was important to the design. I
have used this technique on skins from many tanneries, including
Russell's Oasis goat, Hewit's calf and Chieftain goat, Harvey's goat,
calf from several USA tanneries, as well as Argentine, French and
Italian skins. The unlubricated sumac tanned skin was the easiest to
pare, to work onto the book and to tool.

I still have one of the skins I tanned and dyed in that drum, and though
it has a very dry feel it is in excellent condition and is quite
flexible. If anyone is interested in seeing what the book I described
above looked like after tooling and oiling (with a 50/50 mixture of
lanolin and neatsfoot oil), there is a photo of it at


If someone needs to see it, the book is now in The Ruth and Marvin
Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry in Miami Beach, Florida.


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