OK Like many other topics of taxidermy I seem to find articles regarding both theories and now I am more confused that ever. I understand that when using salt, this helps to kill the bacteria, so after fleshing put a lot of salt and let it dry hard (Make sense). ......now I hear on the other hand that salt attracts moisture, and we don't want moisture in the skins (or it does not matter becasue we have salt protecting it?). Now I know that some of the skin that is used for garments ussually comes from trappers who dry without salt and the skins are just fine. So I am really confuse, I feel that salting is the way to go but I am not so sure now. Please have patience with me I know I have been inundating the board with questions. you ideas are appreciate it
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Osmosis= the movement of water molecules from areas of greater concentration to areas of lesser concentration. This means that the water in the skin cells will move out of them into the salt. When the concentration of water is equal in the cells as in the wet salt, the hide will not dry out anymore. This is why after salting for 24 hours you need to shake all the salt off and salt again. Bacteria are cells, and because of osmosis, the salt kills them. (It "pulls" the water out of them.)
I can understand some confusion over this question - but to give you a general answer - I salt everything that will be used for Taxidermy! If its salted, it will relax easier - and that includes a squirrel up to a Bear, or bigger! Trapper trapped skins are usually used for only the fur. The head, tail and feet are considered secondary when it comes to tanning them for a fur coat. So - air drying is considered OK in that market, simply because many backwoods trappers find it hard to pack in salt, and air drying is convenient. But - anything with flesh as thick as a Deer or thicker should always be salted. When you get into the Deerskins or thicker fleshed animals, you are dealing with marketing to the leather industry, and they prefer salted skins. Air drying is only done for marketing trapper skins destined for the coat market!
Your questions are really good Leon, because there are pluses and minuses to using salt...so as Bruce said...it depends on your application. When they say that salt helps 'relax' the skin, it means that when you (or the tanner) go to resoak the skin later, it soaks up much easier and faster because the salt draws water into the skin. I brain tan deerhides for part of my living and greatly prefer 'wet-salted' hides for this reason, which is also preferred by most tanneries for doing hair-off hides. Wet-salting means that you salt the fresh hide, and you don't let it dry out....this is the easiest type of hide to rehydrate and tan, but its not good for hair on hides as there will be enough bacterial action to make the hair slip after a few weeks. You can store wet-salted hides intended for grain-less buckskin for years in a plastic container and they'll be fine.
Dry salting is preferred for hair-on hides and furs because they are easier to rehydrate, and the moisture isn't there to cause the hair to slip. The salt also makes it easier to fully remove the membrane (hypodermis) from the flesh side. However, as you mentioned, dry salted hides attract moisture. So this isn't a good option if you are going to store them in a shed, or anywhere that is exposed to natural outdoor air, during the moist time of year. They will seemingly magically get soggy wet everytime it rains and it will cause the hair to slip. So if you are dry salting furs, you musssssst store them in a dry climate controlled environment (be anal about it)...or ship them to a fur buyer who will do just that.