Methods for Tanning Cattle(Highland) hides

Submitted by Shelby Hendershot on 4/20/05 at 12:52 AM. ( )

Hello all,

I sent some Cattle hides to the tanners way back in October... and should get them back in a week or so(in transit) for the SMALL fee of $800(hides are off coming two year old beef steers). My question is... I want to know if it would be faster/cheaper to do it my self(I have the time, effort, and stomach for it)... and if so What method(chemicals and such) and in what quantity would you recommend? I would be tanning Standard(short hair) cattle hides and Highland(long hair) Cattle Hides... and maybe the occasional deer, elk, goat or rabbit.

Please any suggestions/comments are welcome and appreciated.



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This response submitted by Tom B on 4/20/05 at 6:23 AM. ( )

Keep sending them out they have the equipment for cattle hides.

Don't even think about it

This response submitted by George on 4/20/05 at 9:31 AM. ( )

As Tom said, this is one job you don't even want the heartache with. It's backbreaking and your end results won't be anything close to what the professionals would do. If you think $800 is steep, once you try one for yourself, you'll want to add another zero on that number.

Ok... What about the other hides?

This response submitted by Shelby Hendershot on 4/20/05 at 9:34 AM. ( )

Ok but what about the other smaller hides? and What is so difficult about full sized cattle hides? ( I always do things by hand(little or no machinery)and find no trouble with putting out the extra effort)



Dear Shelby

This response submitted by Tom B on 4/20/05 at 10:11 AM. ( )

Its great that your not afraid of good old hard work but have you ever tried to lift a full cow hide that is wet and then flesh it thin,and after that work it soft, forget it, send them out.
Tom B

Tom is right again

This response submitted by George on 4/20/05 at 10:46 AM. ( )

I can tell he's had this joy as well.

Cattle hides are like working with a circus tarpaulin. They overpower you with size and weight, To top it off, the leather is much like African game(another one you'll want to send out) in that it has very little stretch. To get it soft, it will take hours of backbreaking effort to "break" the hide and it will still have hard spots. I feel the same way bout bison, moose, and the trophy sized wapiti. They are just too time consuming and difficult to pull off when I could be making money doing more tasteful jobs.

"Smaller animal" are OK, but if you're looking for soft tans as in hanging hides or garments, you're just going to be disappointed in the quality you turn out at home versus what the professionals can do. BTW, most cowhides are "split". That doesn't mean cut in half, but they are run through a machine that shaves them off to a uniform thickness. When you buy garment leather, you know that's critical in making apparel.

Hair-on hide

This response submitted by Shelby Hendershot on 4/20/05 at 11:35 AM. ( )

These hides are off my cattle and I would only be looking to make rugs, throws and wall hangings(hair-on)... not soft garment leather. We only have one local taxidermist that does cattle hides and they are horribly overworked. I was looking for an alternative as the Highland cattle I raise have very beautiful long hair(similar to buffalo) and I do not want these hides to go to waste. I have hefted the wet hides in and out of the truck to the taxidermist and they are rather heavy but not impossible to move. I have salted and fleshed skins(rabbit, ostrich, snakes) before and was just looking for information on properly tanning something larger.



This response submitted by Bob on 4/20/05 at 12:10 PM. ( Bob39 )

Good to hear that some people still want to try and do some things on thier own.I hear a lots of coments on this fofum referring send it or let the professionals do it.I thought some of us were professionals and that makes me wonder who does their work.I myself don't have that kind of money to send things out.I do have more time than money and i don't mine hard work.IF every time i was told your crazy for doing or trying that i guess i would not be making this post.I say give one a try and you be the judge.

Thanks Bob

This response submitted by Shelby Hendershot on 4/20/05 at 1:28 PM. ( )

Thanks for the support Bob. Most everything I've done I get the argument that "someone else does that already... you cant do that and make money...." If that was the case there would only be ONE taxidermist in the world, ONE cattle Rancher, ONE hairstylist etc. Its a matter of convience, price and quality. I do alot of other things(check out my website to see them) most are totally unique, but some are sold by other companies yet I can still sell them at a much higher price than other companies because they are "Handmade" and "Authentic". I do think I am starting out on the right foot at 19 years old with learning some of the dying trades that are being replaced by machines and taiwanese junk that doesnt last 10 minutes under normal conditions. All of my stuff is made and tested to last a long time. And stuff like this is getting harder and harder to find.




This response submitted by John M on 4/20/05 at 2:08 PM. ( )

Have fun! Please post your results.

Give it a shot

This response submitted by John on 4/20/05 at 8:23 PM. ( )

Go ahead and give it a shot. I tried it once! I said once. Once you start the process of pickling the hides they will soak up alot of liquid and will weigh maybe three times what they normally weigh. If you are going to try it I would suggest spending as much money as you can afford to buy a professional fleshing machine. We ended up spending close to $4000 for all the equipment just to soft tan deer properly. I wouldn't attempt another cow if my life depended on it. There are tanneries out there that will tan them for around $9.00 a square foot. Don't use Alum! If you are going to do all the hard work don't use a chemical that will deteriorate with time.


This response submitted by Shelby Hendershot on 4/20/05 at 9:21 PM. ( )

And what chemicals would you recommend? and in what quantity... also are there any special hand tools(not machines), Knives etc that i might want to have on hand?



Shelby, beware of strangers bearing gifts

This response submitted by George on 4/20/05 at 9:35 PM. ( )

Bob is simply blowing roses up your butt. I've been a taxidermist for nearly 50 years. I understand that Tanning and Taxidermy are two different careers. Just like building dioramas, I can do some carpentry work, but when I want to add an addition to my home, I contract a carpenter. That's exactly what Tom and I are trying to tell you.

Bob didn't bother to tell you that after you tan the hide, regardless of whether you want it "garment tanned" or not, it's still going to have to be broken. Otherwise, it will hang on your wall like a piece of distorted sheet metal. When you push down one wrinkle, the edges turn up. Breaking a hide at home requires dragging the hide repeatedly over a dulled edge, oiling it and re-breaking it. This is done by the square inch, NOT THE SQUARE FOOT and your hands will be sore and bleeding before you finish. Unless you have an 8 foot diameter tumbler, you're not breaking it any other way.

No one said anything about sending it to your local taxidermist. Send it to a TANNERY. They're listed above in the "Links" and talk with them. MANY tanneries do not do cattle hide because of the drudgery. Did Bob tell you that? Call them. They'll answer your questions.

Chrome Tan

This response submitted by Jeff on 4/20/05 at 10:34 PM. ( )

We chrome tan flat hides and hangers.

Thanks George

This response submitted by Tom B on 4/21/05 at 6:03 AM. ( )

I hope you cleared it up for her this time, your experience speeks for its self,thanks for backing me up on this one.
Tom B

Blowing Roses

This response submitted by Bob on 4/21/05 at 8:26 AM. ( Bob 39Trapper@aol.comIN my post )

MY post read oniy if you have a thought of trying to tan one of your cow hides,go for.I never said it was going to be easy.But i did say you be the judge in the end.Like george said their's not many tanneries that will tan cow hides so you might have to learn to tan them any way.

Send it out - H&H fur dressing - Mi

This response submitted by JackS on 4/21/05 at 10:40 AM. ( )

Hey Shelby...word of advise...send it out. Last fall I had two done by H&H...after attemping one myself. Great turnaround time & excellent quality. As george said, taxidermy and tanning are two diffent careers. Leave the work to the experts and save yourself ALOT of hassle!


This response submitted by - on 4/21/05 at 4:08 PM. ( )

If you want to do it the authentic, handmade, native way, stake it out in a pasture, slather cattle brains all over it for 2-3 days, then use an armstaking tool and break the skin a few times. This means get it soft. Then sew it in to a teepee, and smoke it to suit. Then break it again, then re-brain a few times, then re-smoke, then re-break a few more times. In a few months, your pelt will be soft.
Braintanned hides are the most valueable of all, and they use the least "chemicals".
It will still weigh close to 400 pounds when fully pickled, but you seem enterprising and undaunted - maybe you could hitch a puller to one of your oxen to drag it from the pickle bath out to the pasture, or maybe use an engine hoist.
The results will only be as good as the amount of effort you put in to the fleshing and breaking of the skin. Your buyers will let you know if the quality is present, because in the warped world of buying and selling, they always seem to "know it all".
Or send it out for tanning.

Thanks All

This response submitted by Shelby Hendershot on 4/21/05 at 11:51 PM. ( )

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions... I will give it a try after aquiring the tools and proper chemicals. I will post my results.



You gottta try it once

This response submitted by rowan on 4/30/05 at 8:39 AM. ( )

Hi from Aus,
I have home-tanned cattle hides 4 times and have sworn after each time that I will never do it again, I'm a sucker for punishment. Everyone has to do a large hide once before they fully understand the work involved.
You won't get the hides really soft, but for a rug, that doesn't matter so much but it has to be walked over for a year or two before all the wrinkles are worked out.

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