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leather processing


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This thread is specifically for processing animal skins into usable materials and not finished products. The intent is to come up with answers to these questions:

  • What ways should be included in-game to process leather?
  • How many ways should be included?
  • Should different ways produce the same usable material or a different usable material for making specific sets of finished products or changing the stats of said products?
  • How difficult and how many steps should be involved and what should those steps be?
  • Should there be an easier/lower tier way of processing leather and a more difficult/higher tier way that produces a superior product? 


Now in my research of leather processing, I came across smoking, different ways of tanning, leaving as fur, leaving as rawhide, waxing to increase stiffness and various methods of softening it. All ways started out as soaking in water. From there some were put in lye water, others weren't. Then some were stretched, some were put on a log, both had the inside of the pelt scraped and for furs, the hair was left on and for rawhide, it was taken off. Those that were scraped on a log at this point were then stretched and both methods allowed the hides to dry. The hides at this point were trimmed. Those that didn't undergo tanning where then rubbed with oils and beaten, twisted, chewed, or rubbed until soft. Rawhide at this point also optionally was tanned. Tanning was done several different ways. Some were covered in a mixture of brains and animal fats, some smoked the hide, some soaked the hide in tannins derived from tree bark known as vegetable tanning, some used alum, a naturally occurring substance, though what passed for alum differed in different places. Strangely there was a reference to a few tribes submerging rawhide into bogs to tan them. In the middle ages, they discovered they could use quicklime for tanning. Modern-day they use chrome salts, different tannins, and a spinning barrel instead of a tanning pit. I assume we will not be adding modern day practices, and I'm iffy on using quicklime. After tanning all were then stretched to dry and then worked in various ways until soft. 

After leather was processed it was sometimes used as protective armor from minor cuts and scrapes by hardening it with wax. Things I would personally like to see is leather and furs maintaining the name of the animal it is from if only to add variability in name only. Though in addition different colors or slightly different stats would be neat as well. I also like the idea of stretched hides on a rack because I think they look neat. Anyway, I want to hear the communities thoughts on the above questions.

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What can players make from leather? Maybe make a list and depending if the final list is long, introduce more leather working ways? If it is just mid-tier armor - some basic leather working would suffice.

So armor/clothes, backpacks, water bags, decorative furs (like furniture), parts of other crafts (strips for sword handle) ... What else?

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So the TFC standard was, iirc, scrape it, lime it, water it, tannin it.  A four-step process, 3 of which were several hours soaking in a barrel.  For me there's always a consideration of, how useful is the material going to be?  It will presumably play into:

leather armor (this wears out with damage, obviously) possibly shields?

leather backpacks/satchels/bags/pouches


saddles (I think these should wear out)

bellows (I think these should wear out)

That's basically the standard TFC went by (minus the containers).  In TFC leather was a dead-end material.  The armor was quickly obsolete, and everything else you made never wore out.  What will VS's scenario be?  If similar, then the production timeframe probably doesn't matter as much.  Eventually there won't need to be anymore production.  But if there's items that wear out, then consideration might be given to the ongoing process. 

It would indeed be neat if the player could make furs.  Perhaps use them decoratively on floors and walls (bearskin rug).   in order to facilitate this, there would need to be a point at which hair is removed.  Logically this would probably be after the lime soaking.  So after the lime soaking the player *either* scrapes off the fur, *or* just puts it directly int the clean water barrel.  Not entirely realistic (the lime would have ruined the hair - that's the whole point of the lime) but fits pretty well into the process.   Another option might be that if the player wants to keep the hair, instead of putting the hide in a barrel of lime, they stretch it on a stretching rack, and apply lime powder to the raw skin side.  This sits for a time, like soaking, and then the player takes it off and proceeds with the fresh water soak.  That puts racks into the process (which I also think would be fun), and makes it a little more believable imo. 

Another way to do it for stone age people - if we don't want to give them a clay vessel to substitute for barrel - might be to allow them to use pits of water.  they toss in the quicklime or tannin producing stuff.  The quicklime instantly makes its slurry.  The log may have to convert to an in-water object, so that it sits around soaking for a time, rather than despawning.  The player will have to make these pits by basically breaking up a pond with blocks to get individual pits. 

I don't really see a need to provide any other alternates, personally, unless the item quality thing does come into play. (btw here's a good page that talks about leather in broad historical strokes) But that might be more a case of tech progression than alternate, idk.  I'd have to see some proposals.  The processes have to be different enough to justify it.  The one thing I can think of is maybe vellum, which could have it's own process.  But again that would need to be justified as existing, vs paper.

Other suggestions for leather items:

hide rugs and wall hangings

hide 'doors' (for stone age)

leather endless belts (for line shaft technology) - these would wear out and potentially be a large sink of leather.

leather straps as components of metal armor

harnesses to attach livestock to carts and machinery (wears out)

vellum (potential large sink of leather for books/maps, though doesn't wear out)

leather clothing (which could wear out)

water flask (could wear out)

aprons (for blacksmithing and alchemy)


That's about all I can think of.  I think endless belts has maybe the best potential for ongoing use, unless we take the step of clothing wearing out.  Leather armor will quickly be surpassed by most people.



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Oh, another potential wear use, seals.  Leather seals were used for water pumps I think till the mid-20th century (basically until synthetic rubber was widely available).  Could be a replaceable wear item for water/air pumps or similar things (like the tuyere in the TFC blast furnace). 

Also, leather mitts for handling very hot items (another wear item)

Edit:  Oh, and then there's the atmospheric railways of the 19th century.  They used a pneumatic tube with a leather flap on top.  Irl rats eating the leather killed it.  But in-game, that'd be pretty steampunky!

Edit 2: Oh, and conveyer belts of course.  both leather and linen options.

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Different final materials can skip steps. That wouldn't be too difficult. For instance, fur can do a first water soak but then skip the quicklime(I think it should be alum or tannin) and go straight to the scraping. Clothes and bags could wear out with distance traveled which would create a mid-game need. That could be helped out with a leather crafting skill that allows you to make items with greater durability. Backpacks, when worn out, might not accept new items being placed in them. Vellum might be a good sink if there we a need for books. Leather belts, strips, and seals could be good uses for later machines. Wet and dry mechanics could work in this process and would be good tags for other things as well.

There definitely would be a need for leather in decoration. Early game throwing leather into water should give it an increased time to despawn and convert it slowly to a soaked pelt. Maybe tanning is something you can only do after you've got a saw and are stuck with rawhide until then.

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Where would alum be obtained?  Ore like any other?  Pretty hit and miss for stoneage people with no propick, unless it's a surface ore on the commonality scale of copper, and then how do they get it out?   If item quality makes it in game, I'd definitely be all for alum contributing to quality, as a rarer material. 

How would a rawhide process look?  scraping soaking drying beating-till-supple?

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From what I understand alum is from salt crystals forming on certain rocks when it gets wet and then dries leaving behind a white powder. Tannin is probably the better choice for the stone age. Also, alum was used way before quicklime because it was easier to obtain.

for rawhide it'd be soaking in water, soaking in lye water, stretching scrapping both sides, let dry, trim, oil, beat till supple. I like how beat till supple sounds.

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We could at least have Brain Tanned Leather, (It's a misnomer since Tannin was not actually used there) But it made a soft and water-resistant leather ideal for clothing.

It should split into fur and hide.

If the idea is to create uses for leather we could have the metal armor to require undergarment. After all, no one would use metal armor over bare skin.

So the game would just not allow you to wear the metal armor.

As much as I like to have a nice Tech tree, the truth is that brain treated leather is actually superior in many aspects to the medieval tanned process. So unless we want to have different uses for different treated leather I don't know how to proceed to have a progression.

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