OK, I got some gorgeous ermines today. They come from a guy who uses alum and an auto-tanner. I was told by Bruce Rittel, that alum washes out easily with soap and water. So, knowing the age of the skins (brand new), I dipped all of them into rehydration... and attempted to wash out all the alum. Lots of steps later...
I think I was successful, because after a time the skins began to smell kind of "meaty"? and looked like pickled hides with "raw" areas (especially in the facial area). They felt slippery (which I assume was the tanning oil washing off).
I neutralized the skins and popped them into a tanning bath, Lutan-F. Used proper ratio of Lutan-F to skin weight. pH was 4. Salt added. Water is cold.
They're going to turn out ok, correct? Should I do anything else to these little northern Canadian wonders, before the normal post-tanning steps?
If this is successful, will it also work for my red fox, coyote, etc? (also new, from same supplier)
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This does work on newly tanned Alum skins - but once older skins have begun to break down - the weakness is irreversible.
As far as what improvements could be made - keep the water lukewarm. It doesnt have to be cold, in fact, too cold will slow down the tanning process. Also - be sure to keep the tanning time less than 24 hours - otherwise everything appears OK.
Bruce, thank you so much, as usual.
The skins began to look very "tanned" (all of the "raw skin" areas turned white, and the skins began to smell sulfuric, which I take it is a sign of collagen breakdown / "becoming tanned"), and began to feel like well-tanned pelts feel - kind of harder to mash around in the bowl, so I waited another hour, and then took them out. In toto, they were in the tan approx. 7 hours after a rehydration and washing session of 1 hour.
They were extra-easy to do the fine fleshing that a couple of them needed, and retained an unbelievable amount of stretch.
Are my hands tanned? I put them on the stretchers, bare-handed, after they got the "final rinse". :)
I now own 2 ermine as big as small female mink! (yup, 7.5" tail on one and 8" tail on the other, 2.75" wide case skinned, them's some big ol' boys.)
The pelts are currently on stretchers, all oiled up. Can't wait for them to be "almost dry" so I can assess their quality, do minor repairs, groom, etc.