to Ruskin Inside™
A labour of love. The incredible journey of a Ruskin Design leather interior.
We pride ourselves on the exceptional car interiors that we produce, and we’re champions of UK craftsmanship and manufacturing which, we believe, is among the finest in the world. Our leather production is no exception.
The tradition of producing fine Scottish leather has been established over centuries. One of our fantastic suppliers NCT Tannery at Bridge of Weir and Muirhead Leather is based close to Glasgow and have quality, care and sustainability at their core. They are leaders in their field, and we had great pleasure in paying them a visit.
Let’s take a closer look at the people and skills that help bring a Ruskin Design leather interior to life.
How do the hides go from their raw state to the finished product?
The Raw Hides
Bridge of Weir has a rawhide warehouse on site, hides come in different shapes and weights. Some are preserved in salt and others have to be processed as soon as possible as they’re very fresh. They will go through the tanning process within 24 hours of coming to the warehouse. The NCT Tannery will ship out around 2,500 hides a day.
The hides will go around on a conveyor and get dropped into different containers depending on their weight.
These hides will then be sent to the liming drums to remove the hair. This process takes 22 hours and each one of the chemicals used has to go in at the correct time. It’s a careful balance which has to be done correctly as there can be up to 200 hides in a drum.
Fleshing and Splitting
Once the hides have been limed they will go through the fleshing and splitting machines. This is where the hide is split into top and bottom layers, any excess is removed or trimmed off. When the hides arrive in their raw state they can be up to 1cm thick, this will be split down to the customers’ requirements. Here at Ruskin the leathers we use range from 0.8mm to 1.2mm.
NCT Tannery makes sure there is no wastage so every little bit that’s trimmed or split will go on to be used in food or oils if it can’t be used elsewhere
The top grain of the hides will go through to the tanning drums for another 22 hours of processing to stabilise the hides.
Drying and Grading
The hides will come out as either wet blue or wet white, they will then go through a pressing machine on a conveyor which will wring out the hide and take down the water content. At the end of the conveyor, the hide will stop for a matter of seconds for someone to check and grade it. They need to look at any scars and marks and decide which category the hide falls in to. Their decision needs to be correct and precise, there’s very little room for error as whatever decision they make determines which pallet the hide goes on.
Dyeing and Finishing
Then it’s over to Andrew Muirhead for the dyeing and finishing process...
Once the hides are packed they’re shipped to Andrew Muirhead for dyeing and finishing.
The first machine the hides go through is a shaving machine which shaves the hide underneath. After this, they are laid on a table and any straggly ends on the hide are trimmed to create a uniform shape. None of the trimmed shavings goes to waste, they’re all swept up and will be used for other products. Great care is taken to make sure no part of the hide goes unused.
Re-Tanning, Dyeing, Fat Liquoring
Next, the hides go into drums. These drums are used for different stages; they will neutralise and balance the chemicals that are already on the hide, the hides will be re-tanned and then dyes can be added. The dyes are usually added in powder form and have to be worked out correctly as each colour has a different combination of colours to make the main colour. They will also go through a fat liquoring process to add texture and softness to the hides in the drum.
These stages are a balancing act with chemicals and dyes, they have to be precise or the whole drum of hides may be ruined. This process can take 8-12 hours to complete depending on the desired qualities of the hides.
The hides will come out of the drums wet, they will go through a machine that will smooth out the hide and remove any excess moisture.
To get the maximum from the hides they’ll be stretched on frames, clamped into place and a machine will go between the two frames and stretch the gap between them. This will increase the size of the hide and its cutting yield. The hides are kept in here to dry as well.
The hides then go onto another conveyor and through a machine that will pummel them, to improve suppleness and give them a beautiful, soft texture.
The hides are then put through to the finishing stages. They’ll go into a machine that has a container with 12 sprays, these sprays are programmed so that none of the hide is missed and gets an even coverage. In this stage, any coatings that the customer requires can be added.
Once this has been completed it will go through quality control checks. Every hide will be placed on the table and thoroughly checked for any faults. They will also check the size, weight and thickness of the hide and make sure it is suitable for the customer.
All these hides will go through testing procedures and they will each come with a technical specification which shows their results. This helps to make sure the leather is suitable for the customer
Warehouse & Shipping
Now the leather can be shipped to the customer, ready for use. Andrew Muirhead supplies a range of industries, the automotive industry being one of them. They supply high-quality leathers and are very thorough with all the checks done throughout the tanning process. The hides will finally arrive in the warehouse and are carefully packed by the warehouse team.
Andrew Muirhead has a room full of sample cuttings of all their leathers. Customers can order a sample to check the colour and specification of a hide before they make a purchase.
Finished Types of Leather
During the tanning process, the leather is split so you have a top and a bottom layer. The top layer will contain full grain and top grain leathers and the bottom half is referred to as splits, and these splits go on to become nubuck and suede.
Full grain leather is the very top of the hide and this is regarded as the highest quality because it remains natural. It will show wear and tear over time but that is why you would pick this type of leather, you would want the leather to fade and have natural characteristics over time.
Top grain leathers will go through the process of being sanded and have coatings added, from this you’ll get the pigmented and corrected grain leathers.
The splits at the bottom will go through buffing and brushing to create the soft velvety feel of suede.
Finished types of leather fall into different categories depending on the finishing and coatings that are added.
These are the most natural with their full-grain intact, they will show all-natural markings giving a distinctive look appreciated by many. The colour will fade if exposed to light or heat for a prolonged amount of time.
These go through the same process as the aniline leathers but have an extra coating and a pigment added to their base, they still retain their natural look but are more durable than pure aniline leathers.
Pigmented go through the same process as the semi-aniline leathers but they’re given additional pigmented finishes and treatments to enhance their durability and give them extra protection. These leathers are easy to maintain and usually have a good colour fastness to light due to their extra protection. These leathers should provide a better yield as the finishes will cover some of the markings, helping to utilise more of the hide.
This is top grain leather that has undergone buffing to remove any unwanted marks and give a uniform colour and consistency.
Hair on Hide
This is where the hair has been left intact. The hair can have colours and patterns cut into it which make it a very distinctive and acquired taste.
Embossed leather goes through a machine that adds extreme heat and pressure to emboss the chosen design into the hide. Embossing the leather can mask any unwanted marks and give a better cutting yield.
Pull up Leather
This has waxes and oils added to the hide to achieve the pull-up effect, which means that when the leather is pulled tight you can see a distinct colour difference between the top and base of the hide. This is a leather that is made to show the distressed look and will show any wear and tear.
Which types of leather do we use?
At Ruskin, our main choice is auto grain. This is a pigmented leather that has had a slight correction, to give it a uniform grain look. It’s durable with a high resistance which makes it the perfect choice for the automotive industry.
Smooth Nappa is another option we have, this is also a pigmented leather but with a smooth finish rather than a grain like one.
Executive Nappa and Supersoft
The executive Nappa and our supersoft range both have the same finishes, they are pigmented with a slight correction but have a softer feel compared to the auto grain and smooth Nappa.
We also offer a vintage range, which is an aniline leather but is scratch resistant and durable. This differs from the pull up because when this is pulled tightly the colour will not pull out.
The highest quality leather and cutting edge design.
As you can see by this amazing and complex process, we source only the highest quality leather for our trims. We check the specifications to make sure they’re appropriate for the automotive industry and strive to pass on our insight and expertise to help you decide which leather would work best for you.
We keep an eye out for any new developments when it comes to leathers, there are so many options out there for embossing, printing and weaving with leather. We like to keep our mind open to new designs so that we can offer you an inspiring choice of quality, texture and colour for a truly unique Ruskin Design leather interior.