What is the shelf-life of a tanned skin in the dried state? I have heard the rule of thumb is about one year. When the skin becomes rehydrated before mounting, chances are the skin will disintegrate. Is this true?
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You must keep a tanned skin dry. That means away from humidity, they can be frozen to do that or they can be rehydrated and frozen. That may seem to be a contradiction but it works. In the dry western climates hides last longer. Shelf life will vary from tanner to tanner and some species seem to hold up better than others.
I have had skins crumble when rehydrated, and I have had rugs brought in for repair that were falling apart. When you buy a tanned skin always find out where it was tanned, how long it has been tanned and how it has been stored. I have one freezer dedicated to storing tanned skins. All my own stuff goes in it because I never know how soon I will be able to mount them.
If tanned properly it should last 40 or 50 years.Wheather its laying in your closet or glued on a manniken,it dont matter.Thats why we tan'em.
Do as what old fart said: Freeze them. If a hide is left out it will lose it's elasticity. Hoe much time before this happens depends on heat, humidity etc. Never count on a tanned hide to be salvageable to mount if it's been laid out for quite a few years and I do mean a few years not 2 or 3 but even that may be a problem for some.
A tanned hide for no other purpose other than being tanned will last a life time and then some.
What Larry's saying is correct for face value, BUT not in practicality. Most tanneries tell you that they do not warrant any of their work FOR MOUNTING PURPOSES after one year unless the hide is frozen as Old Fart stated.
I'm just the hard-headed type who never bought in to the idea of freezing tanned capes.I've got scraps of tanned deer hide laying around that look as good as the day I tanned them(over 10 years ago)To each his own.I kind of wish Bruce Rittel or Mark Knobloch would chime in on this cause I've wondered about it myself.(I use their products)
The reason we have the skins tanned is because they last, but their elasticity for mounting doesn't. Larry your scraps will stay soft and workable and so would my cape that is mounted on a form, if it wasn't glued down. But they loose something with time that makes them harder to work with if you are mounting them.
It was explained to me, by a person in the fur industry, that is due to the amino salts that occur naturally in a skin. When exposed to moisture, usually in the form of humidity, these salts become weak acids and work on the skin. That is why furriers offer cold storage for fur coats, the colder the air the lower the humidity and the effects of the humidity. Predators seem to be more effected by this that herbivores, and canids(fox,coyote,wolf) seem to be the worst.