Saving time in Natural Operations
Too Long; Didn't Read47. The process of tanning will furnish us with a striking illustration of the power of machinery in accelerating certain processes in which natural operations have a principal effect. The object of this art is to combine a certain principle called tanning with every particle of the skin to be tanned. This, in the ordinary process, is accomplished by allowing the skins to soak in pits containing a solution of tanning matter: they remain in the pits six, twelve, or eighteen months; and in some instances (if the hides are very thick), they are exposed to the operation for two years, or even during a longer period. This length of time is apparently required in order to allow the tanning matter to penetrate into the interior of a thick hide. The improved process consists in placing the hides with the solution of tan in close vessels, and then exhausting the air. The effect is to withdraw any air which may be contained in the pores of the hides, and to aid capillary attraction by the pressure of the atmosphere in forcing the tan into the interior of the skins. The effect of the additional force thus brought into action can be equal only to one atmosphere, but a further improvement has been made: the vessel containing the hides is, after exhaustion, filled up with a solution of tan; a small additional quantity is then injected with a forcing-pump. By these means any degree of pressure may be given which the containing vessel is capable of supporting; and it has been found that, by employing such a method, the thickest hides may be tanned in six weeks or two months.