Template: Skinny | Lean | Well Rounded | Plump
Old 23rd December 2008, 09:59 AM   #26
Kiwi303
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Re: Tanning hides

That depends on what the drum last held most chemical drums are coated inside with a clear enamel to stop them from rusting due to condensation, or being etched through if the contents are acidic, however some drums are left plain inside if the contents are harmless to iron (oils and such) being non-acidic/alkaline and not containing any water etc.

As to heating them, a small fire is perfectly fine, you want the temperature to be such as you can barely manage to keep your hand in the water, no hotter. Too high a temp when simmering the bark will break down the tannic acids to different, useless, compounds.

As to the macro... well a little google says that redwoods (sequoia) have plentiful tannic acid, and they are members of the cupressae (Cypress) family as well. Some more googling shows white willow (Salix Alba) has plentiful tannic acid, but no data on other members of the willow family which suggests they are too low, so don't use weeping willow or others. A little further looking under a few different search terms reinforces that macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) has suitable tannic acid supply to tan with.

I would suggest you try with only Macrocarpa bark first. Strip the younger flexible bark off fresh cut branches, and if using the old hard bark, shave the fibrous inner bark off the hard outer bark and discard the hard outer bits. dry in the shade and then weight out weight-for-weight with the dry salted hide and simmer for a while to obtain a rich brown tea. Strain out and put the fire go out, then immerse the hide. Swish around twice a day or whenever you go past. After a week when the tannic acid in the water ought to have been absorbed within the hide, make up some more tanning tea and add that to the drum. keep checking penetration. Bullock hides can take months :P sheep and lambs should be ready sooner.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 10:21 AM   #27
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Re: Tanning hides

I have just picked up my Leders tanning kit, very sparse instructions for us novices who would be lost without the expertise of Kiwi303 and the likes. Can I ask again is table salt OK to use or do I have to use "Chromium Salts?". My damp hide weighs 6kgs so I'm going to have to use the whole lot of mixture when I thought I might get 2 hides done, with 2kgs of salt to be bought as well it is going to be quite expensive so I surely don't want to stuff it up!

PS.....what is the point of salting if I'm going to put it in the tanning solution straight after I have cleaned the skin and wool?
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Old 23rd December 2008, 10:28 AM   #28
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Re: Tanning hides

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rod Brown View Post
with 2kgs of salt to be bought as well it is going to be quite expensive so I surely don't want to stuff it up!

The Supermarket that stocks the "Home brand" stuff, has 2kg bags of salt for $1.39 per bag, so not going to break the bank there. The rural supply stores also have it in 25kg bags for about $12.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 11:30 AM   #29
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Re: Tanning hides

Hi Rod, is that 6kg a cow hide? I am looking at tanning a cow hide next year but wouldn't the foggiest how heavy they are.
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Old 23rd December 2008, 12:52 PM   #30
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Re: Tanning hides

No skyline glenn it's a lamb with about 80-90mm of wool length which was damp when weighed (as per instructions). At a guess I'd say a cow hide would weigh 20kgs!!!. Got that Supermarket salt thanks ronnie.

Can I answer an earlier question of mine..............I have just started scraping off the membrane on the skin and "man" this is going to take days, so is the salt to keep it preserved over the days you are scraping?.............is it easier to scrape a dry hide or damp one?
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Old 23rd December 2008, 03:30 PM   #31
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Re: Tanning hides

The salting is to dry and protect the skin from detoriation during storage, it also helps with removing the membrane as when the skin is dry you can sand (carefully) the membrane off the skin side with either pumice or sandpaper or sandstone. When the skin is still wet, the salt retards decay.

It also changes the salinity of the skin which makes it easier to tan, and provides a more even tan. on a tanning site I used to frequent, there was a post by a tanner who had just done two skins, one had been salted and stored dry in the shed for 3 years, the other was a fresh hide that had just been slated and cleaned. The stored skin provided a easier to tan, more supple and more even tan than the fresh hide.

Table Salt is fine. I just use the standard 2Kg bags from Pack n Slave that are white with red and blue writing/circles on them, $1.50 a bag I think. The Chromium Salts mentioned are the tanning agents in a chrome based tanning solution like Leders. Potassium Dichromate and similiar, the Chromium attaches to the collagen of the skins and artificially preserves it, turning skin into leather. Same result as Tannic acids attaching to the collagen and changing it, just a different (non-natural) chemical.

You can wash the skin, scrape the flesh side clean and add it to the leders solution direct without ever having salt go near it, I'm just more of a traditionalist and prefer to dry the skins to a salted green skin state before doing the tan. I also have never used a chormium salts commercial solution myself and when using a vege tanning solution, if you don't add salt the tannic acids can eat at the skin and cause it to disintegrate before they change sufficient skin collagen to leather form. The salt buffers the acids and helps prevent damage from a too-strong solution of tannic acids.


Back to the question that was asked about vegetanning discolouring white furs/wools... I have done white before via vege tanning, the white bellys on alpine kids, and white bits on ferals, and while they may have a slight beige taint when wet, it's not particularly noticeable once they have been rinsed, worked and dried.
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Old 27th December 2008, 03:18 PM   #32
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Re: Tanning hides

Hmm ok well it worked but it's not the result I wanted. The blue cromium solution has 'stained' the leather 'blue' (i'll post a picture of it when I get back home to my computer) and the wool feel's 'greasy' so I'm not sure I washed it enough beforehand? The leather itself is quite hard and dry. (Not enough 'working' it?) The blue 'stain' is visible thru the wooly side of the fleece. Still, it's only my first and there's plenty more sheep out there.......
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Old 27th December 2008, 07:16 PM   #33
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Re: Tanning hides

holidaying in nelson? why not take a daytrip drive out here to the nelson lakes and have a look at mine

Some times face to face is better than over the 'net

Hard and dry sounds like insufficient working while damp, it should be stretched and the skin fibres "broken" while drying. I also have some neatsfoot oil here as well to oil it up for better flexibility too, just like with horse tack
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Old 28th December 2008, 06:08 PM   #34
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Re: Tanning hides

Hay Kiwi a visit may not be a silly idea, then you can show me how to do it and what I've done wrong. Would love an excuse to leave the olds, mother is driving me crazy again............

I'll PM you and if you're around tomorrow let me know, I'd be up for a wee drive.

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Old 28th December 2008, 06:24 PM   #35
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Re: Tanning hides

PM sent, I see the green light is still on under your name hope you get it before you sign off :P
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:45 PM   #36
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Re: Tanning hides

Gidday

Well I haven't done any tanning for over a decade and had always used the Chromium tanning kits. It sounds like they have become bloody expensive these days. I have a big kit for cattle hides that I bought more than a dozen years ago and am planning on using it soon.

Bit bloody slow Eh!

I have saved up about 2 or 3 dozen sheep skins, all salted down over a few years but am now waiting to get the power down to my shed before I start.

It also looks like those kits have not only gotten expensive but they sound like they now lack good instructions. You people are really lucky that you have Kiwi on here to talk you through things. One question that seems to have cropped up a lot is how to tell when the hide is tanned. I remember the old instruction used to tell you, when cutting a thin strip of the hide off to check, always tak the cut from the neck as that is where the skin is thickest.
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Old 29th December 2008, 08:31 PM   #37
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Re: Tanning hides

Gidday

Hey Kiwi, I know I am getting old and forgetful and thick. Can you please run through how to prepare the bark for a natural tanning. I have read it on here once but buggered ifin I can find it again.

Sorry about that.
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Old 29th December 2008, 09:42 PM   #38
Kiwi303
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Re: Tanning hides

Thats alright.

It's pretty simple. what you want is the bark with the most tannins, fairly new growth, off the branches, small twigs, things like that. It's better to lop off some branches and strip the bark off than it is to take chunks off the trunk... especially given the effort many on here take to stop their cattle doing exactly that If you do use the older trunk bark, you only want the fibrous inner bark, not tha hoary old solid outer plateed bark.

To prepare, chop it up into small chips, or grind it up, an easy way is to waterblast the underside of your lawn mower and clean the bag out, spread the bark strips onto concrete and mow them up into the bag. Then spread it out on a smooth surface (makes it easier to sweep up than on gravel ) somewhere out of direct sunlight but with a good breeze through, a carport is ideal, and allow to dry until it snaps instead of bends when you flex it.
Never use bark off a dead tree, or off a tree that has been rained on between your felling it and your stripping the bark. the tannins are very water soluble, and with the trees systems no longer keeping them in the bark, the rain can wash them out. Always use bark you remove from branches between rains also what a carport is ideal... keeps the bark out of the rain if a shower whips up before you can get it inside

You'll find many different recipes out in the web about how to brew it up. ranging from dancing widdershins around a cauldron on the night of a full moon naked... to far more prosaic methods

I prefer to use the twice the weight of the dry salted skin in bark and half the weight of skin in salt. simmer and strain, then submerge the skin in the resulting brew... stir twice daily until done.

Got to sign off now, we have enough rellies here for Xmas/N.Year that the office/comp den is a spare bedroom and they're wanting to sleep :P Any more questions or I think of clarifications or how I can make more sense... I'll answer tomorrow, think of the above as a draft
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Old 30th December 2008, 09:39 AM   #39
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Re: Tanning hides

I saw something i one of the Lifestyle magazines recently - ws it Lifestyle Farmer? Had photos of all the stages of doing this - and the hide was blue afterwards until it was roughed up with the tool that came with the kit.
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Old 30th December 2008, 08:20 PM   #40
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Re: Tanning hides

Gidday

Thank you very much for helping a poor dottery old man out.
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Old 30th December 2008, 08:24 PM   #41
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Re: Tanning hides

you're welcome, but if you use the widdershins around a moonlit cauldron method please don't post pics
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Old 30th December 2008, 09:36 PM   #42
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Re: Tanning hides

Gidday

Youre a bloody beauty mate. Your bloods worth bottling.

I take it the simmering is not actual but just quite hot buit still under boiling. So I may try to set up a solar heater hooked to a plastic drum. Whadaya think about that.

I think I will give the dancing idea a miss, especially the naked bit.
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Old 31st December 2008, 08:43 AM   #43
Kiwi303
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Re: Tanning hides

yep, hot enough it's painful to put your hand in but not so hot it does actual damage to the aforementioned hand If it actually reached boiling temperature, the tannic acids start to degrade to different compounds which are useless for tanning with. Turn the heater off or disconnect it before adding the skins, having it warm when the skin goes in helps the first initial softening and penetration of the dry skin but the end result is no different when starting with cold or warm solution. it's just faster having the skin go soft and squish into the solution. Besides the tannic acids and other associated bark colourings will leave a brown film on glass and I don't think brown solar collectors will be as efficient down the track so it may pay to heat the water, disconnect the solar system and then add the bark and let the ambient heat without further application of solar energy do the work. maybe paint the barrel black and put it somewhere warm and sunny for a while?

thew heat might make the plastic go a bit soft, but I can't see why it wouldn't work given what others on here have reported getting with their solar heaters.
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Old 1st January 2009, 07:11 PM   #44
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Re: Tanning hides - SUCCESS!!!

Right, so I buggered it up by not stretching and working it after the wash following the tanning process. So I've re-wet it, stretched it out and now started the working process. WOW, how soft it is, from what Kiwi generously called 'armour' it's now taking on the appearance of lovely soft leather. The blue 'stain' from the Tanning kit disappeared pretty quickly once I started working it, and it's now mostly white, well, very pale blue. Success!! Thanks everyone, especially Kiwi, who's offered unmeasurable advice, in this process. I've got two more lamb skins which I'll do before attacking the cattle skin but I reckon I can do it.........
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Old 1st January 2009, 07:45 PM   #45
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Re: Tanning hides

Good to hear it's gone soft and you're happier with it now as I said it's practice that makes perfect and my first skins were a long way from perfect :P
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Old 13th April 2010, 09:30 PM   #46
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Re: Tanning hides

I thought it was easier to bring this thread up again instead of starting a new one.
Kiwi303, or other tanning experts, what have you found to be the best "tool" to use to scrape the membranes & fat off sheepskins before salting?

Thanks.
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Old 13th April 2010, 11:23 PM   #47
Kiwi303
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Re: Tanning hides

A butter knife, one of the old good quality stainless ones with the faux ivory bakelite handles...


They're old and not that common now outside of an op shop or antique shop, but they're far better than a modern butter knife, and don't slice the skin like a real knife, and are sharper than the tool that leders include with the kit... that tool is hopeless.
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Old 14th April 2010, 02:49 PM   #48
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Re: Tanning hides

I second Kiwi's decsription of the 'knife' in the leders kit. I've since learned to sharpen a knife to the point where one could shave with it (if one was male), and now I very carefully leave all the crap on the animal when skinning it. If I'm not happy with my skinning job then I nail the skin up tight against a piece of ply and using a delicate artistic sweep of my wrist I slice off the excess fat and membrane. Then I throw it in the washing machine (wool wash) then straight into the Leders stuff.
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Old 14th April 2010, 10:01 PM   #49
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Re: Tanning hides

Ok thanks, don't hold out much hope of finding a butter knife like that around here though.
I picked up the Leder kit this afternoon & their knife thingy does seem quite blunt. Would the back (non sharp) side of a normal butchers size knife do the trick instead? I've got 3 sheepskins to play with, so far I've got as far as putting them in an old bath with some washing powder & scrubbing them to get all the blood off the neck area, & I've given them their first, generous, coating of salt. Tomorrow I shall start scraping.
The plan is to use the finished product in the dog kennels as winter bedding, so I guess they don't need to be as perfect as if they were going to be floor rugs.

DrVee us women do shave too you know, only I'd be a little cautious about what areas I shaved with your super sharp knife.
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Old 15th April 2010, 12:10 AM   #50
Kiwi303
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Re: Tanning hides

If they're for dog bedding, I'm not sure I would be using Leders for that job, theres a reason that Cooper-Chrome-Arsenic was the original Tanilising treatment for timber, they use something else, formic acid or formalyn/formaldehyde now I think, but CCA is still used in some timber treatments.

I wouldn't want my dogs munching on a Chromium treated skin like a Leders kit tanned skin when they get bored. Have a read of the bark tans mentioned earlier in this thread. Acacia or pine bark would be best.
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