Become a Leather Tanner
By Eric Hammer
Photo by Jorge Correa
Jerry Seinfeld has a joke where he asks why, if a leather
jacket is ruined by rain, cows aren't hurt when they stand out
in the rain. The answer is that the leather jacket has been handled
by a leather tanner to turn it into a fine piece of clothing
rather than simply an animal pasturing out in the field. If you
would like to get into this business, you can make a pretty nice
living doing it.
A leather tanner takes the raw animal hide which has been
harvested after the cow is slaughtered (unlike many other animals,
all parts of the animal are used and cows are generally raised
only for slaughter). The process is quite involved and generally
requires that you understand a great deal about it. Generally,
you work with a professional leather tanner as an apprentice
in order to learn the business rather than going to school for
How Much Can You Make?
According to StateUniversity.Com, the average salary for a
leather tanner is $50,000 per year.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Remember that a leather tanner has a difficult job. It is
considered to be a fairly dirty and even dangerous job since
you need to work with certain dangerous chemicals to get the
job done. Leather tanners also need to have an eye for detail
since you are working with a rather expensive piece of material
and you need to know where the damages are so that you can pick
out the most important pieces of leather when you are working
It's also useful to understand the various kinds of leather
curing that you may engage in, including such things as creating
parchment (a much more rarefied profession since there is little
call to create such material today, except for very specialized
purposes). Understanding such things is often a good idea, even
if you don't ever intend to do it because it means that you will
become a much better leather tanner than someone who doesn't
understand all the ways in which a piece of cowhide can be used.
Qualifications / Requirements
Generally, you will not be able to take any kind of formal
training to become a leather tanner. In most cases, you will
learn the profession from a professional leather tanner who will
take you under their wing and help you become a leather tanner
in your own right after about a year of apprenticeship.
Start by looking for a leather tanner who is interested in
taking on an apprentice. Generally, the work will be either unpaid
or pay very little because you are just learning the process
of doing the job. However, once you understand the work, you
can generally land a job which pays fairly well.
Check out these helpful resources to learn more about becoming
a leather tanner:
State University: Leather Tanning and Finishing
Worker - an excellent introduction to what it takes to become
a leather tanner.