Leather, extensively used in pipe organs, is a perishable material. Its durability has always been a matter of concern because it must be periodically replaced at great expense. It is a common belief that an organ needs to be re-leathered after 25 years or so.
Our experience is quite different. At Fratelli Ruffatti we only use leather which is tanned utilizing traditional methods, costly and difficult to find, but which has great long-term advantages. By tanning with the traditional methods, the leather retains its natural oils, which keep the material supple. Rather than drying out and cracking when it is used as a hinge, or when it needs to inflate and deflate, the leather stays soft and flexible for a surprisingly long time. This is a lesson that we have learned from restoring ancient organs. In many cases we find leather in almost pristine condition, after well over half a century of use.