Tanning without salt

Submitted by James on 11/1/05 at 9:28 PM. ( )

I came across this website a week ago and have found the tanning section interesting. Having worked in a tannery for 2 years I would like to share some misconceptions about tanning and the use of salt. After using the search button I have come across the topic of using alum in a pickle to help set the hair yet not using salt. Now I am expecting back lash here. In the tannery I worked in and 7 other tanneries I visited NONE of them salted green hides! Hides shipped to the tannery frozen were never salted! They would go directly into the pickle after fleshing. The only use of salt before the pickle was when hides were shipped salted rock hard and the reason for salting them to this state was to protect bacteria from slipping the hide during shipment. For all of you who home tan, YOU DO NOT NEED TO SALT! This is a step not needed if you take a green hide and tan it yourself. The pickle and alum mix set the hair, removed the proteins, and killed the bacteria. This was how the tannery I worked at tanned hides as well as the 7 others mentioned. If anyone does not belive me I would invite you to visit a tannery that takes green hides. Take notice that there is no room with hides laying in salt. While there will be a few that may do, the vast majority do not. This is a little secret I am sharring with you to dispell an old myth and help your operation.

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This response submitted by Bill Haynes on 11/1/05 at 9:38 PM. ( )

Haven't salted a deer cape in years. Flesh, turn ears and lips, and
straight into pickle.
Capes going to tannery are salted and dried.

James, you're right. You're gonna take heat

This response submitted by George on 11/1/05 at 9:39 PM. ( georoof@aol.com )

Care to share the name of your "tannery" with us? The question I would ask you and anyone else making this statement is, "How does the pickle permeate the hide?"

The cells of a green hide are filled with water. Salt removes that water and allows the cells to better absorb other liquids. Did you know you can take a dry synthetic sponge right out of the package and dump it into water? When you do, however, that sponge will only absorb a finite amount of its capability. BUT if you take that same sponge, wet it, squeeze all the water out possible and then put it back into the water, it will absorb much more than it did when it was completely dry? In my estimation, same proposition.

I'm not arguing you CAN'T do that. Heck, I don't pickle my hides most of the time and simply go from salt to tan, HOWEVER, to get optimum performance of a tan, I'll never buy off on the elimination of salt.

And since your "tannery" didn't use salt, I'm supposing they went directly from the pickle into the neutralizer without adding any salt? How did they keep down the swell?

BTW, most of the tanneries I know of don't accept green hides anyway. I'm suspecting your tannery's workload was so low they never had to worry about longterm storage of hides awaiting tanning. The guys I use don't get to my capes for several months unless I request a rush order.

George George George........

This response submitted by James on 11/1/05 at 9:52 PM. ( )

Salt is used in the pickle, and in the tan. The "salting" that I and most tanneries do not use is to lay salt on the hide and let it sit for 24-48 hours. You need to do more searching for tanneries and you will find many do take green hides. BTW the tannery I at Lake Shore Tanning, Viden, Manitoba, Canada, if you with i will name you a dozen more that take green hides. The one I worked at was seasonal not a large operation. Alum will suck out water from the hide. A qestion i have for you George, why does the common method of tanning involve removing all water from the hide, only to rehydrate and relax it before the pickle? Your taking something out and putting something simillare back in. Why? I dont expect people to belive me thats why I sugjest you contact or visit your tanneries. and ask them how they tam greem hides. Then you will have your answer and hopefully eliminate a un-needed step.


This response submitted by paul k on 11/1/05 at 9:56 PM. ( )

Please elaborate more since you are an expert in the tanning field.
Give us the names of the tanneries, since this is an acceptable procedure by the experts they surely wont mind you sharing their names with us. And contrary to your statement about visiting a tannery that handles and preps green skins, the (only) two I did visit had large rooms used for salting along with large fans circulating air to speed up the drying process. Now I understand there are some paint on tans that claim salting is not necessary but they do recommend the salting pickling steps not be eliminated.
Well maybe a commercial tannery will step up to the plate and support your statement

George is just to fast

This response submitted by paul k on 11/1/05 at 9:59 PM. ( )

for me

Well I do agree with PART of your reply

This response submitted by George on 11/1/05 at 10:21 PM. ( )

The part about the alum. I'd have stopped the sentence before you did, however, and just say "Alum sucks." And I told you, I DON'T PICKLE. So the rehydration is out as well. I salt overnight, wash, and then tan. Been doing it for over 25 years and don't have a problem. When I salt for the tanneries I use, I salt and when they stop dripping water, I fold them in the shape of the box I'm using and either mail them or wait till I fill the box.

You'd do yourself a world of good if you'd go back through the archives and read the research done by a gentleman that Glen Conley knows. It would set everything you've written on your ear and this person ISN'T a taxidermist. He's a chemistry person.

Glen, help me out here. I've got CRAFT disease tonight.


This response submitted by Bill Haynes on 11/1/05 at 10:45 PM. ( )

There are several guys in my area that pickle their capes, and none pre-salt. I use a mild formic acid pickle. Two guys I know use a salt brine with a cap of Clorox in 5 gallons of pickle. After 24 to 36 hours,depending on temp, remove from pickle, flesh on fleshing machine, oil with EZ 100 and hang up to dry.When ready to mount, rehydrate for a couple hours, wash with shampoo a couple times,
spin dry in washing machine, and mount. There is virtually no shrinkage, and no pulling away for eyes or horn bases. It works for us.

Bill said the basic mouth full

This response submitted by Glen Conley on 11/1/05 at 11:52 PM. ( g.conley@verizon.net )

when he pointed out that he used formic acid.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, different acids have different chemical properties.

Regardless, from a cellular standpoint, once a green hide is put into a saline/acid solution, the cells will rupture due to the osmotic pressures.

The cellular layers are not very deep, or thick if you prefer the term, on the skin. The part we are turning into "leather" is "cross-hatched" and layered strands. Once the slimy membrane is fleshed off, hypodermis if you prefer the term, that part of the skin is quite permeable to liquids, that's what these strands will contain before anything else is done to the skin. Cur always used the word "interstaces" to describe this fluid filled section. It would fit if it helped to further one's understanding.

Formic acid is the backbone of most tanning operations, HOWEVER, I would not tell someone to eliminate salting for HOME tanning. In all probability, the home tanner will be using a milder acid. It's not that salting can't be eliminated, it's just that these acids are more expensive than formic and might get "trashed out" too quickly by eliminating the salt as a basic draw for the fluids. Salt is cheaper than the acids.

Muscle meat can be "tanned" with formic and the "tannins" developed to work with formic.

The post George is referencing is:
Salting and its effect on cellular material http://www.taxidermy.net/forums/IndustryArticles/03/e/03CECE023A.html

What is pointed out in that post is that dry salting dries quickly......but leaving behind the actual cellular content.

against my better judgement....

This response submitted by terryr on 11/2/05 at 12:50 AM. ( )

what kind of bush on tan are you using george


This response submitted by michael p on 11/2/05 at 2:56 AM. ( )

wow george, if you're using bush on your tan im coming to work for you!

whats the argument?

This response submitted by ej on 11/2/05 at 8:38 AM. ( ' )

of course you remove the water and put back in salt and a low ph. this step is what gets the grease out so you can put the oils in and soften. salt as a relaxing prestep is what your eliminating, but salt is still very much in the process. that is any tan worth a shoot it is. not much of an argument here. now add some enzyme to this pickel and really get the fat out. unless your like oldshaver and shave the hide so damm thin you don't need this step either. truth is some hides tan better than others no matter how much, or what kind of processing you use.

Well, Formic acid never was my friend

This response submitted by George on 11/2/05 at 12:58 PM. ( georoof@aol.com )

In fact, I uses sulfuric up until I stopped using a boat paddle in an old bathtub to tan hides. As the archives relate, I use John Rinehart and at least he was honest enough to admit when "we" went from that old "pickle tan" to the modern day versions, the "pickle" step was really unnecessary on fresh hides. I'm old and after 25 years of success doing it the way I do, WHEN I shop tan, I do it that way. When I want it tanned in a submersible, I SEND IT OUT. Tanneries need to make a living too, you know.

Salt is important it is used to set the hair on capes, hides

This response submitted by Matthew on 11/2/05 at 2:12 PM. ( )

I do not know why someone does not want salt their hide prior to tanning. Number one salt helps set the hair prior to tanning it is messy but it hepls remove the oils out of the skin and set the hair. All tanneries will tell you that its important to salt prior to tanning. If you let a skin arid dry with no salt. Then your asking for trouble with slippage.

I have to ask

This response submitted by Dal on 11/2/05 at 3:19 PM. ( dedunagan@earthlink.net )

if the salt is so important to the tanning process and the air dried hides are so prone to slippage; then why does the fur market insist on air dried furs for the garment industry? I hate to jump into this fray, but this has had me curious since I first read about putting up hides for fur garments, having come from a taxidermy/pro-salt background. What are your thoughts and where is Bruce?!?

I will stay out of this for the most part...

This response submitted by jrosbor on 11/2/05 at 5:59 PM. ( huntersdream3x@hotmail.com )

Dal, fur bearing animals have very thin skin! If you go back and read the link Glen posted, This would make more sence. I can flesh and stretch a raccoon and have it dry in less than 48hrs, at this point bacteria no longer has a medium to work in. Just like a salted cape. You also are stretching the fur to force the fluid out and make it even thinner.
I said I was going to stay out of this for the most part but, I have not salted capes in months! I don't just toss the cape or hide into the pickle, But I use a "pre pickle" A dilute acid (pH of 5.5-6) for about an hour. But you must use something to bind up the extra cellular fluid (STOP-ROT). When this is done corectly! You can see the bound up Mitochondrial and Nuclei DNA floating in the pre pickel vat, This is a dead give away that the extra cellular fluid has been purged from the "skin" and the end product is a stable structure, suitable for tanning. This technique works well on all types of "tans" and pickles I have tested it on. This method was inspired by Glen Conley of Whitetail Designer Systems, Inc.
Why do I choose this method? I can have a cape that is equal to or better than a salt dried hide in about an hour! I also don't have the stockpile of "useless" salt from salting capes and hides, Not bad for the driveway and walkway but even though last year was slow for me, I still have a stockpile from years gone past. Joseph R Osborn (Hunter's Dream Taxidermy)

As George said at first-

This response submitted by oldshaver on 11/2/05 at 7:08 PM. ( )

A REAL Tannery of any size can not take in frozen hides due to the need for freezer space. Backlog? We have got probablly over 1000 sq feet of freezer right now just for storing wet tan hides before shipping, and prep work. Can you emagine the frezer space required for storing a 2 month backlog at a major tannery.(thousands of skins) This is the stupidest crap I have seen in a while.Dozens of JACKLEGS is what he is refering to, cause it damn sure aint real ones.

alum in pickeling

This response submitted by Laurier on 11/3/05 at 9:00 AM. ( houlel@onlink.net )

James I've been a taxidermist for 33 years. I do not salt and dry my skins either.To each their own.
45 gals water

45 lbs. salt
1 liter formic acid 85%
8 lbs alum
I turn the lips,eyes,nose,ears.
Remove only the big parts of flesh and fat.

submerse in pickel,do not stur after skin is in pickel, 24 hours later,remove drain,flesh on fleshing machine, less then 1/2 the labour
I have taken many pics, of all the steps of a deer cape to shoe anyone interested in seeing. I've done this like this for years,and

then neutralize skin ,tan ez-100 and you never see me looking for a replacement skin.
crap luck ( I DON"T THINK SO )
but as they say , you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
( unless they want to learn something new.)
unless you try it don't knock it.
I would rather cut my labor in halve and increase my profit.
But this is only my opinion.

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