Have built a tumbler that is turning about 22 rpm's at what point do I put my elk hide in to soften it up and for how long.
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22 rpm is a bit fast - for a 6' high by 4' wide Drum used for softening. Usually they are run at 16 rpm ideally! "If" you dont have a Drum at least 6'X4', and you arent using 100 lbs. of sawdust in there - then you simply wont soften it! Any Drum less than 6' X 4' simply will not soften your skins! It will damp-dry them for mounting - but not give you the softening action that you seek!
It would help to know the size of your Drum as well as, is this a tanned and oiled skin at what stage? After its been oiled and dried? Or is this the final tumbling - after degreasing in a sawdust and solvent mixture?
The drum is 6'by 4' and the elk hide is dryed all the way I only have about 50 #'s of saw dust why 100#'s
The 100# of sawdust plus the weight of the other skins in the Drum is what causes the skins and capes to flex and crush - thus promoting softening! The speed is what determines if they are being carried to the highest point in the Drum and then dropped - also contributing to a softening effect. If they are simply rolling in the Drum because its going to fast, they will not soften.