I did a bunch of searching and reading on the site already. Most references i came across to breaking, re-oiling etc seem to be if you are tanning a hide your self. I had several bear hides(with the heads/faces) tanned and just got them back but would like to soften them up a bit so they hang nice (they were folded up so have hard creases in them every 18 inches or so!) Is there a way i can do this? I'm not a taxidermist and we take everything in for professional work, but the hides we get back that are just tanned and not mounted always are so stiff. I'd really like to be able to get rid of the creases and get the face and ears to lay nice when i hang it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! thank you!
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Cheri, if you send your hides out to a professional tannery, they should come back nice soft and flexible. If they are not, then your tannery is not doing a good job and you need to look for a better one. There is really not much you can do to soften the hide up anymore now. For the creases it might help to lay the hide out flat for a few weeks and put something heavier on the creases. They should disappear after a while. It won't help the softness though.
there are alot of different variables that come in to play when tanning a bear. Where and when was it killed can mean a big change in skin and hair type, which means alot in how the tanner deals with that one bear. Some fairly large bears have a very deep hair root, which means that they can not be shaved thin or the hair will fall out. These same bears can not be tumbled long, or you will have alot of hair coming thru on the skin side. Cant shave thin, cant tumble long, could cause a bear to come back a little stiff, especially in the head and neck area. The type of bear I am talking about will usually have short course hair, not long and wooly. Boar capes are also a good example of this problem tanners run into from time to time. I could name more, but I guess what I am trying to say here, is that everything is not as cut and dry as you might think.
Who tanned the hides and what type tanning solution is used? If you can rehydrate the skins, re-stretch and tack them on a piece or two of plywood depending on the size. They will not be as soft as you would like but they will certainly hang straight as a board with no creases. We have tacked down hides for several people who want to hang the hides on a wall or use them for rugs. The soft hides just crumple under your feet if you catch the edge with a toe. I don't like to tell people it is ok to use a hair on hide for rugs though. They don't seem to wear very well.
Just spray the hide down nad let it soak in. Work the hide while it dries again. You should be able to soften it pretty good.
Also, you could stake it to the ground or a large piece of plywood and pull it tight and let it dry like that. The aditional oil and pulling it tight will soften it and you can break it more while it is staked. Just take a dull knife and scrape the skin with it putting a lot of pressure on the knife.