Böle Tannery – fine leather goods from Sweden
Böle Tannery was founded in 1899 in Sweden and is one of the last standing spruce bark tanneries in the world. Under the same roof, Böle crafts its unique cattle leather into bags and fine leather goods. The company is family run in the 3rd and 4th generation by Jan and Anders Sandlund.
Mr. Sandlund, you tan all your hides with spruce bark without using any chemicals. Please, tell us more about this unique tanning process.
It is a very old method of making leather, said to come from China about 5-7000 years ago. Today, this method of tanning in pits and with the bark done directly without any extracts, is according to our knowledge done in only 4 tanneries in the world. Böle Tannery is the only one in the world to be using spruce bark and also making consumer goods in its own saddlery.
It takes 12 months to tan the leather. For this, one gives spruce bark into the vats/pits where the hides rest 10 months and have to be moved every day. The bark is taken by hand in the forest and chipped to small pieces. The tanning comes from the bark which also gives the nice natural colour.
The tanning water has not been changed since 1918, because tanning in old tanning water penetrates the hides better. After the tanning process, the hides are set out on the table and finally are being stretched out and nailed on wooden frames for drying. After 12 months, the leather is finally ready.
Your current fine leather goods collection includes backpacks, briefcases, classic bags and small leather goods. How does your product range look like in detail?
We have a much larger product range than shown on the website. Mainly you can divide it in the main ranges below:
- Briefcases and bags
- Exclusive leather items by order, like hatbox, ostrich leather products, golf, furniture, hand sewn items like cigar cases, western saddle, we can probably make most what our customers want to have.
- Game and hunting, everything in this field
- Outdoor and backpacks
- Office and writing desk, different products for your office/desk
- Interior decoration/furniture
- Small leather goods
- Bespoke items
It seems to be a large range but some of them are only custom made. Most of the pieces shown on the website we produce in „larger“ volumes, however. They all have a very high quality which is always approved by our customers.
Since 1996, Böle tannery is one of the purveyors of the Swedish royal court. Which leather goods do you provide to H.M. the King of Sweden?
That depends on the product, mostly our spruce bark tanned leather, also reindeer leather and sheepskin in form of picture frames.
Sustainability is a key value of your tannery. What does that mean for you?
Maybe you can say that it is in our genes or DNA. When my grandfather started in 1899, products were made for hard daily work in the forest and in agriculture. They had to last long like for example the harness of the horse could not brake in the middle of the forest when driving timber. Also, straps, gloves, shoes etc. were made to be functional and very durable.
Myself having grown up with this kind of thinking (I was born 1946 and spent much time with my maternal grandparents who were farmers) just continued this legacy. For us, it feels natural, we don´t know any other way to make things. Products which don´t last are just a waste of time and material!
Also, I strongly feel that one should be ashamed for making inferior products.
Your company has a long tradition and history. Do you train young craftsmen in order to preserve your cultural heritage?
This is a soft spot for us and for many other specialities. Our son Anders is now thinking about this. It is very hard to find young people who are ready to devote so much time which is needed to reach the top level in the world. Many young people go to astonishing levels making e.g. computer games or sports, but it is not so easy to find people who are interested in handicraft.
Our son devotes much of his time to a very interesting and highly sustainable venture we are running in Bangladesh at the moment: www.sandlundhossain.com.
There, my wife and I worked as volunteers from 1977-79. He is also thinking about a possibility to link these two different companies.
The goal in this venture is to make a real difference for the people in that region by creating many new jobs and being fully transparent. It will be real Corporate Social Responsibility!
More information about Böle Tannery and its fine leather goods is available at: www.boletannery.com
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