Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tanning / Pelting a Hide

There's always more to learn.
Yes, I am one of those.
I have to be learning something.
Some things I learn and promptly forget, or learn and don't really
feel connected to, or learn and enjoy so continue.
When we butcher the lambs, I want to pelt their hides.

We don't like waste and the fact that each year so many
deer, elk, and other critters are hunted and the hides left to rot
in addition to the waste of such parts as ribs or shoulder meat
kinda irks me.
I've never done any tanning of hides - actually never considered
that it would be something I would be remotely interested in.
I have a feeling it will be one of those things
I learn but don't do much of, which is fine.
I like having the knowledge and experience even if I don't often use it,
just in case.

From what I've read, rabbits are great to learn on.
They are small so they don't use a lot of solution, and are typically
rather plentiful so are not difficult to find.
We didn't happen to have a rabbit, 
but we did have a raccoon coming in devouring entire bags of cat food
and causing the dog fits in the middle of the night.
We trapped it, and I figured I could learn on a raccoon
as easily as on a rabbit.
If I messed up - oh well, no great loss.

I found various instructions, using various methods and solutions.
Being novice, I chose the one that seemed the safest to work with.
It's alum, salt, and water.

First rinse the hide in cold water to both clean it and cool it.
In a 5 gallon bucket mix:
 1 cup alum, 1 cup non-iodized salt and 2 gallons tepid water.

Then add the rinsed/wet hide and stir making sure all parts of the hide are exposed to the solution.

Stir at least twice per day.
After two days, take hide out of solution.
Squeeze as much solution out as possible (back into bucket.)

Then "flesh" the hide.
This is removing any fat or meat material from the hide.
This picture isn't great.  I was losing light but had to get it done.
Add another cup of each the salt and alum to the same solution
and stir well.
Then add fleshed hide back into the solution again stirring to make sure all parts of the hide are exposed to the solution.
Stir twice per day for another 5 days.
Then remove hide from solution and rinse well.
Stretch hide on a frame or board so it can dry.

When it is almost dry, it's time to "break" the hide.
This means working it by hand in small sections to soften it.
*Note: no, I am not going to chew on it as certain tribes were know to do and as my mother says I should to be authentic:)

(This is where life came at me.)
I have my hide stretched and dried.
I will have to re-wet it, let it partially dry then break it.
As far as the fleshing, I want to ask a neighbor who has done tanning
how I did and if there is a method better than my very slow tedious one.
Mr. LB left the head on thinking it would be "cool."
Again I am learning - I will have to just cut it off since it's inside-out
and hard as a rock.
Any ol' trappers, tanners out there,
feel free to offer advise.


  1. First off, I've never tanned ANYTHING, but I've read a lot about it (disclaimer). It seems to me that I've read that salt is unneeded, unless you must leave the hide sit raw and rolled up for a while.

    1. Can't say one way or the other - I just "followed the recipe." Many (most) methods I found used commercial products which I am leery of. Mystery chemicals and me??? I might blow up the hide on accident:) I don't know if just alum would work. After the two days, it wasn't gooey feeling, but already began feeling like leather.

  2. Oh my goodness - you're a brave soul to tackle something like this! Not something I would ever do, but I did enjoy reading about the process. Is there a coonskin hat in Mr. L's future?

    1. Not sure about the hat:) but will say when my son was a toddler, he had a fake one he loved. He would run around with his rubber boots, diaper, and coon skin hat. Thank you for reminding me of that precious memory.

  3. Great job! My daughter did a goat hide a few years ago and it is still sitting pretty next to her bed. She is currently working on a cow hide from the beef we slaughtered however it is slow going as we haven't been out there much to do the peeling... Like you said, it is good to know how to do certain things even if you don't practice it all the time. Knowledge during the good times is gold, during the bad times it is everything! :)

    1. A beef hide is a huge undertaking! I might be asking her for pointers:) Good for her. There is a market for the deer hides (at least over here) if you know folks who are hunters and can get their hides.

  4. Learning a new skill is always a good idea :)
    I would like to have some lamb pelts done.
    My husband did rabbits when he was younger, not sure if he would want to tackle a lambskin. It is tedious!

    1. Yes! I am learning now because I want to do our lamb pelts this fall. Even over the backs of chairs they are so warm.

    2. Just wanted to let you know this was this weeks feature on the hop :)

  5. had no idea how this was done until now quite a process I am impressed it would need such a large container to tackle a large hide

    1. Good point - not sure what I will use for the lamb hides. I better start planning/looking now:)

  6. So interesting....good job. I have never thought about doing this but more power to you! Yes, I would say the head must go....ha!

    1. It wasn't as "icky" as I thought it might be:) After the two day mark, it actually felt pretty much like leather. And I'm right there with you - no more heads!

  7. This is something I want to learn to do as well. My neighbor has done this and some taxidermy so maybe I can get my hands on a pelt sometime and try it. Great job!!