Hello all, new to this forum, new to a lot of things and no good mentor in my area.
I recently had to cull some New Zealand breeders. Not wanting to waste the pelts of these beautiful creatures I decided to tan them myself. After reading and watching hours of the same types of videos I decided on using the salt and alum bucket method. All was going well until I realized that hand fleshing 3 year old rabbits was much more difficult than anticipated. An hour and a half spent on each of four hides and I was sure that my fingernails where going to fall off my digits and my hands were so tired I couldn't make a fist. 14 days in the pickle and it was time to stretch the pelts and dry them out. Twice a day I would hand stretch the pelts this way and that, breaking the leather best I could, until my arms were Jello. Now came the real problem, some of the hides are so thick and tough I can't break them anymore, and parts have shrunk back up and are tough like rawhide, I mean I could give it to my dog to knaw on! I've worked so hard on these hides and though I'm feeling defeated, I don't want to give up. They are mostly dry. What should I do? Should I spritz the dried out spots and keep working them? Should I totally soak them in a bucket and start the stretching process over? What steps can I take to salvage them at this point. I have my 7th child coming in September and I really wanted to make some hand sewn baby moccasins and hats for my kiddos.
What to do when things go wrong? Is all lost?
Thank you in advance
My understanding with hides is they will revert back to rawhide when wet unless it has been smoked. Smoking breaks up the glues that binds.
My experience is limited. I have completed one deer hide and am working on a sheep hide. I used a power washer on the deer hide to flesh it. Its something i saw on utube. I fleshed the sheep in a more traditional way but i think the power washer did a better job. It was quicker for sure.
I sent your inquiry/post to a friend who used to live here, and who has tanned many hides. Following is her reply.
.."I'd tell her that leather stiffening or turning into rawhide isn't a sign that it's a lost cause. It only means she stopped working it too soon. If there is any moisture AT ALL when she stops, it will dry stiff. Especially around thicker parts of skin, like the neck of most animals, need extra attention because they will take longer to work dry. All she has to do is re-hydrate the stiff parts and rework them, so her assumptions at the end were correct. Since they were already tanned in a solution, she would only need to add water till saturated in the parts she has to start over. But it also wouldn't hurt if she wants to apply the solution to those spots again. But they only need soaked till saturated for this. I would suggest working them in a warm dry place, like by a fire, if she can. Trying to break up hides till they are dry in a dark, damper environment seems to take impossibly long (I learned this in the cabin). Doing it outside on a warm sunny day would help too." -Christine McGuigan
Creating sustainable life, beauty & food (with lots of kids and fun)
Shouldn t be much fat or other on skins. Learn to pull the skin off slowly and only use knife to slice the membrane. Cut paws and head off as the skin pulls tight.
They say the best tanning is by soaking the skin in a mixture of the brains and water. then smoke as mentioned by others . make a tripod of green sticks and stretch skin around , skin side in over small firepit or old pot get a small smouldering fire started with rotten wood , don t let it burn. quite a chore watching this until golden inside but nicest hide. I should then be rolled or by old time method "chewed" to make soft.
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