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Author Topic: How to Tan your own Hide?  (Read 4644 times)
trampledbygeese
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« on: June 20, 2012, 06:07:57 pm »

Leather is such an integral part of steampunk that there are bound to be a few of us trying to save a few bob by processing hides into leather. Let's have a thread discussing various techniques, successes and inevitable failures of tanning.   

I've managed to successfully tan rabbit hides using alum method.  I know this is not 'proper' tanning, but it made a soft (albeit furry) leather.  It was rather easy (except for the scraping part) and something I would be more than interested in trying again one day.   I will post it here when I find it again. 

But the real reason I'm starting this thread is that a neighbour of mine is an avid hunter and promises to bring home a(t least one) moose hide for me.  Never seen a moose up close before, but I understand it's a bit larger than a rabbit.

Anyone processed a hide this big before?  Would it work with the alum method (I can get alum in bulk and can use the waste water on the farm as alum has some nice natural agricultural uses) to do a whole moose hide?  How do you get the fur off? Any hints or tips?

Please share any experience you have.
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2012, 06:40:23 pm »

A holiday in Ibiza works well.
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2012, 10:42:36 pm »

Walking home from work between two towns, across a bridge, every day......

Well actually I sweat a lot in the summer from such activity and one of my belts has taken on a very nice coloring.  It is that very desirable aged-leather look.  When I was working on a project a few months back I decided I wanted to try to replicate the process on an accelerated level, (as it was intended to be a prop on character that had worn the device for years...so new would not have been convincing)  so I investigated all of the chemicals that are in sweat and searched the kitchen for similar ingredients.  It actually worked.  I forget the exact process but salt and vinegar were key components. 
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2012, 04:01:41 am »

Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred
Tan me hide when I'm dead
So we tanned his hide when he died, Clyde
And that's it hangin' on the shed!!
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trampledbygeese
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2012, 02:12:00 pm »

Well actually I sweat a lot in the summer from such activity and one of my belts has taken on a very nice coloring.  It is that very desirable aged-leather look.  When I was working on a project a few months back I decided I wanted to try to replicate the process on an accelerated level, (as it was intended to be a prop on character that had worn the device for years...so new would not have been convincing)  so I investigated all of the chemicals that are in sweat and searched the kitchen for similar ingredients.  It actually worked.  I forget the exact process but salt and vinegar were key components. 

That sounds really neat.  Very much like the chemical process to create leather from hide which is basically salt, acid, time and tenderization.  Do you have any photos of how it turned out?
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2012, 06:21:00 pm »

I don't know about alum tanning, but if you want to it the old, old, old fashioned way, there's some good resources here:
http://www.braintan.com/articles/index.htm

Just make sure your friend gives you the moose's brain along with the hide.
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2012, 11:16:08 pm »

Tan me hide when I'm dead, Fred
Tan me hide when I'm dead
So we tanned his hide when he died, Clyde
And that's it hangin' on the shed!!

my exact first thoughts too....

 Grin
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2012, 07:08:31 pm »

The old ones are the best.
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 10:15:11 pm »

The old ones are the best.
And some of us are getting better all the time......
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2012, 06:41:12 pm »

There are a number of ways to tan hides.  YouTube has several.  I have tanned whitetail hides with a paste of kerosene and baking soda rubbed in every day for two weeks.  That worked OK.  There are a number of tanning kits available like: http://www.thetanneryinc.com/index.php  What I would worry about is the rough finish of most home tanning jobs.  This would be fine for black powder events but Sp seems to favor the more refined leathers which became common throughout the 19th century.  IF it was a nice game hide that I was proud of I would most likely send it off to a professional and spend a few hundred dollars.  I met a Lady in the SCA whose friends bragged had paid for a large farm house with things that she had made from road kill.  You might want to get your rabies and anthrax shots before doing that though. 



BTW - try and talk them out of a few pounds of course ground moose burger - it is the end-all-be-all of chili meats!  My wife also loves moose breakfast sausage. 

Moose bones can also make nice buttons, knife handles, pipes, and gun grips even before elaborate carving or scrimshaw.  Antlers are nice to carve too IF they will part with them or you find dropped ones in the fall before the marmots do.



I understand that a lot of this carving is done with a common Dremel tool (and dust mask). 
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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2012, 06:48:14 pm »

Funnily enough, yes the dremel works on moose antler, smell is horrible though.

I modded one of a pair of moose antlers  which was deformed to make it look far more like its partner, turning a bargain into a premium pair.
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« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2012, 06:32:47 pm »

Funnily enough, yes the dremel works on moose antler, smell is horrible though.

I modded one of a pair of moose antlers  which was deformed to make it look far more like its partner, turning a bargain into a premium pair.
Although I own and often use a "Dremel" I know it is not the best for every situation. When drilling into bone {Antlers are} try using a small Brace-and-bit or hand-drill. There is far less of the smell that way.
I have not tried to drill bone myself, but I hear that it is smelly. Kinda like the smell if a Dentist's room when getting cavities .... wait... that's bone too!
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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2012, 08:35:00 pm »

I was just reading about oak bark tanning, and it mentioned that the oak bark contains tannic acid, hence "tanning". Could you not, then, use tea to tan leather?

Oh, and the process also involved rolling the leather up tightly and letting it age for 18 months. Obviously I haven't done much additional research here.
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Samuel Xavier Watson
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« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2012, 06:52:08 pm »

Someone told me once that bone and antler dust can be toxic or something bad, for humans.  I don't know how accurate this is, but fine dust plus lungs in confined space are usually a good reason to wear a mask.  - just saying.
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« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2012, 08:12:31 pm »

Someone told me once that bone and antler dust can be toxic or something bad, for humans.  I don't know how accurate this is, but fine dust plus lungs in confined space are usually a good reason to wear a mask.  - just saying.


I have heard the same thing several times but when I ask why horn, antler, bone dust is bad I have gotten questionable answers like:  the worm medicines given to cows builds up to toxic levels in the horns, the proteins form glues when mixed with the moisture in your lungs, radioactive fallout collects in bones, etc....  Huh  Breathing fine, dry dust is rarely healthy though and it stinks to help remind us to wear dust masks.   Better safe than sorry.  Also, goggles and working in a well ventilated area are good ideas since I have noticed some eye irritation. 

Oddly, I can find more to support the improbable sounding radiation build up theory than anything else so far: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/contaminants/radiation/impact/arctic-caribou-arctique-eng.php   A new theory is that bone, antler, horn, and ivory from the arctic and antarctic might have normally higher radiation levels due to the thinner magnesphere at the poles (as seen in Aurora Borealis).   
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Prof Marvel
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« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2012, 04:54:37 am »

My Good Netizens -

Bone dust is basically an irritant, with some "calcium dust in the lungs" issues.

Antler and horn, as well as hooves and dried hides do literally form "hide glue" gumming up the lungs in a manner that you do not want to experience.

yhs
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« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2012, 07:58:21 pm »

I was just reading about oak bark tanning, and it mentioned that the oak bark contains tannic acid, hence "tanning". Could you not, then, use tea to tan leather?


oak bark has a very high concentration of tanic acids, so while I suppose you could use tea, you'd have to brew the strongest tea the world had ever seen then boil off almost all the water and repeat untill you had enough volume to summerge the hide.

Using tanic acid is the procces that is known at Vegtable tanning. as with most methods, it is labor and time intensive.  be ready to stir vats of rancid skin for a few weeks.

Someone also mentioned brain tanning. as the old saying goes, "God graced every animal with just enough of a brain to preserve it's own hide"
the basics of this one is after cleanign the fats off the skin, cook th ebrain matter into a paste that you rub into the skin to cure it, after curing you smoke the hide to finnish the proccess.

personally, I prefer using a product called Tan-it. scrap, salt, rince, dry the apply Tan-it and wait.
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« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2012, 05:41:45 am »

A couple weeks ago I went on my first hunting expedition and managed to successful shoot a mule deer to death. I processed it myself and now the meat is in my freezer and the hide is coated with salt and drying in my kitchen.

 I was planning on using the Alum method since I have a lot of it laying around but if anyone has a better idea I'd like to hear it.
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