Thanks for the info everyone. I have decided to try and tan my own hides(which vary from Rabbit to Highland Steer) and plan to set up to do it small scale commercially for other people and for my retail business ( www.promiselandranch.net) because of two reasons.... 1. Time of Professional tanners(in my area wait time for a steer is 8-10 months, last year it was 6-8 weeks) and 2. Price( it went from $4.50 a Sq ft to $15.00 a square foot for steers) the main reason being the local Taxidermists wont do "Tanning" anymore.. they prefer to concentrate on "taxidermy" which pays much better I admit. I feel that a small scale tanner in my area that could tan hair on hides for a reasonable price could make a pretty penny. I am not afraid of alot of hard work(I have already Fleshed out my first 2 sheep and a Steer in less than 5 1/2 hours total for all three) They are currently in the freezer waiting for the temp to get above freezing so I can start tanning. I also plan to Clean and sell the skulls I can buy from my local butcher for little to nothing(hence the post on Dermisted Beetles). this first couple times I know I might screw up but I got about 10 rabbits to practice with and then step up to the Sheep after I've figured that out. The sheep are Katadins(hair sheep) which are not greasy like Wool sheep so they should be easier. Any one ever tanned Katadins? I already have plans for a large tumbler for breaking hides. My Market is Medieval reneactors that are in need of some products that currently arent avaliable in my area execpt by mail order and these people much prefer to choose their materials by hand. We are a choosy bunch and really strive for quality and authenticity. Not to mention a product i can make start to finish would save me some money(not paying the middlemen).
With that said... Any advise for the first timer? This is only an experiment but I want to do it right. My multiple crafts and chosen professions are my only income and currently this is my only gap in making all of my products from Scratch and start to finish.(I raise the critter from birth to butcher , We eat the meat and then make leather goods from the hides, Dice and Gaming tokens from the bones, Drinking Horns and glasses from the horns, Wall decorations from the skulls, boxes from the hooves. I am trying to reduce my materials cost and turnaround times.
Any advice is welcomed with open arms.
Feel free to email me with advice too.
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I have some Katadins right now that I am finishing for a customer. They happen to be fairly easy to tan if the hair is not too long.
Do you have any equipment for commercial tanning? You will need a few items for properly tanning steer hides and sheep hides. Fleshing machine, 12" Turner machine, 60" flesher for sheep, staker, buffer, comber, dry drums, cage drums, paddle vats, wet drums, etc.
Have you ever visited a large commercial tannery? That would help to give you an idea of the machinery involved.
The machinery involved is just a starting place to even begin a conversation about starting a commercial tannery. There are many other more complex topics that will need to be covered. Skill sets of the people working the hides, tanning processes, drying processes, marketing strategies, knowledge of the hides and the machinery involved. All these topics are just the beginning. Then you have the implementation. If you have ever started a major project, you know things will go wrong and you will have a variance from the original plan.
Recognizing a need in the market is one thing, putting together a working tannery is quite another.
If you are trying to reduce material costs, a commercial tanning operation is not going to accomplish that goal. It is a major investment of time and money. If you are successful, you can kiss all the animal husbandry goodbye! The commercial tanner has little time for anything else when the hides are rolling in.
Keep us posted on how you make out,