Drum Stuffed vs Dry Leather
Well these are often asked questions, What is the difference? Which is better? Just to throw the spanner in the works, I use both, I’ll now answer the second question first, it really is a matter of personal preference and by the time you have finished reading hopefully you’ll have enough info to make your own mind up.
Drum stuffed Leather
This is from Packers a tannery in Australia and is what is in essence is a process the leather is put through once its finished being dyed etc…a hide is covered in tallow, or sheep fat and another placed on top and another and another, a bit like stacking slices of buttered bread I guess is as good a way to describe it as any. The hides are then placed in a barrel or drum that rotates over a fire pit, the heat melts the fat turning it to liquid which is sucked into the hide, after a long period of time the hides are taken from the barrel or drum and put through set of revolving poles, imagine a mangle they used to use many years back to squeeze the water from your clothing, like that but many sets as opposed to just the one. What this does is force the liquid fat into the fibre of the hide and as the mangles are set it also makes the hide an even thickness. Once the heat is removed the liquid again solidifies making a very greasy hide, that in essence is drum stuffed.
This needs much less explanation, this is a hide that has either been left natural or dyed and once dried is ready to be sold, some dependent on where they are destined have a finish added but us whip makers shellac so buy unfinished and finish them ourselves.
So quite a big difference on the face of it, but in the whip making process near no difference at all. I’ll run you through it so you can make your own minds up.
As you can see from the picture above there are parts of a Kangaroo hide that are better than others that’s not to say that the other parts are not good leather just that they are not the best for plaiting a fine overlay with, the stuff round the outside usually is great for making shot bags, end caps under knots, bolsters and that sort of thing, very little of a kangaroo hide goes to waste.
Here comes the first of many differences, on a dry hide this is very easy to feel and see, on a drum stuffed one the leather appears even and all good. A novice might be tempted to thing the leather was good for a fine overlay, often whip makers refer to this as false leather Just saying…
So with a dry skin, I get them out the night before I’m going to use them and give them a generous coat of leather dressing and let that soak in over night. Grease added, Just saying….
The next day I come in to start making the whip, trim the hide, make a shot bag, bolster it, then cut some strings for a belly plait, strings are cut over size, greased with leather dressing, (more grease added, just saying) then stretched, resized and as I’m plaiting them I add leather dressing which I use in place of plaiting soap, grease added, just saying…..
The final bolster, heavily greased is added, grease added, just saying….
Cut the strings for the overlay, over sized, leather dressing applied, then stretched, resized, bevelled and tapered and split for a nice even lace both width and depth, then greased again with leather dressing and ready to plait…more grease added, just saying…..
With a drum stuffed hide the leather is pretty greasy already so whilst you might use a bit of grease to plait with you certainly have no need to apply the amount of grease that you do to a dry hide, you’ll find an almost even split of those for drum stuffed and those against with a lot like myself who use both…
And it is just that, my opinion……
I pretty much drum stuff my dry leather myself by the time I’m finished, I have done this as an experiment put two whips side by side and asked a man with many many years of whip experience to pick which is which, they can’t and neither can I on an finished whip. So it is personal preference thing.
A couple of foot notes, dry skins are available in many more colours than drum stuffed hides, drum stuffing adds much weight to a hide so if your in the UK that will make them much more expensive as the postage goes up because of the weight so then in turn does the import duty and the V.A.T, on a parcel of say 50 hides the difference is considerable.
Again thanks for reading