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Two ways to tan leather.

When a reader asked for tanning recipes, Mrs. D. Traeger of Kalispell, Montana, sent him one. The unusual part is, it was a photocopy of a page of Countryside from September, 1973... which included a letter she wrote to us more than 20 years ago!

Indian-tan leather

Skins must first be put in fresh water and soaked until soft, for 24 to 36 hours. They are then put over a round beam and the flesh scrapped off with a knife. The skins are then hung up in a warm room until the hair slips. The hair is scraped off with a knife over the beam. (The hair can be dried and used for stuffing purposes.) The skins are then ready for tanning.

To make tanning mixture use: 1 pound of any good soap 1 pound of cod or seal oil 5 gallons of water

Boil until a good emulsion is made and then let mixture cool. When cold, stir well and put the skins into the emulsion and let them lie for 24 hours. Take the skins out and hang them up to dry. (They can be hung over poles out-of-doors.) When the skins are dry, put them in water and soak overnight or until soft. Then work them over the beam to stretch and soften.

Put the skins back in the soap and oil mixture for another 24 hours. Then hang them up and dry them. When dry, work over the beam to stretch and soften them. The leather will be firm and strong with two dippings.

If the leather is required to be softer, put skins back again into the soap and oil mixture and repeat the operation. Each time the skins are soaked in the soap and oil mixture, they will be softer and more pliable.

The leather, when dried the last time, should be dampened and laid away for a few hours and then worked and stretched until soft.

Note: The proportion of soap and oil is the unit to work by. Regardless of the quantity made, the proportion of soap and oil should be about the same. Any good fat or oil will make leather, but cod oil is the best. When skins are first hung up in the warm or hot room after being soaked in water, as soon as the hair slips so that it will come off easily, the skins should be taken out of the warm room at once and worked. If left too long, the skins will deteriorate and spoil.

Tanning with alum

Prepare the hide in the usual way by first salting it; removing all flesh and fat; and, if necessary, shave it down to the desired thickness.

The alum method of tanning is one of the oldest and simplest methods known. It is suitable for both light and heavy hides, but requires considerable "breaking up" as the alum has a tendency to harden and contract the skin.

Into four gallons of water stir one pound of powdered alum and one pound of salt. For very heavy hides you can put in as much as 1-1/4 pounds of alum to each four gallons of water.

Place this solution in a barrel and put the skins into same. Be sure that all parts are submerged. As the tanning liquor works on the skin, it puts it into such a condition that the fleshing knife will take hold, so after a hide has been in the solution a week or so, it should be removed, worked over a beam, and fleshed as found necessary. Work all hard spots until the tissue is thoroughly broken up and made as soft as the surrounding parts, so the tanning liquor can penetrate, which it cannot do if any part of the surface is hard and flinty.

After you have done this, apply to the interior of the hide a coat of neatsfoot oil, or softol. You can apply the oil quite liberally to heavy hides. It can be put on with a brush or cloth.

After it has been oiled, hang it up in the shade for several days, then take it down and work it over a beam again, and continue to do this until the hide is nice and soft.

A plastic trash can is an excellent container for your tanning solution.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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