How do I get my skins softer?

Submitted by Nicke on 12/6/05 at 2:48 PM. ( )

I have been trying to tan hides for a couple of years now and just can't seem to get them soft. I have done fox, coyote, fisher, and am now trying a bear and deer skin. My skins come out hard like cardboard. I have a beaver skin that was professionally tanned that I made a hoop out of and that hide is very soft, stretchy, and smells like leather. What do they do different than what I am doing, or is there a certain chemical used to get it that soft. I am currently using Safetee Acid, EZ Tan, and was using Pro Plus but switched to Super Soft Oil. I am shaving them down far enough, almost too far on some because the hair is coming through, and I also use a tumbler. How can you get them soft to use as a blanket or to be able to sew through to make a garment out of? Or is there a difference between a normal tan and a garment tan?

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tumble longer

This response submitted by lance on 12/6/05 at 2:53 PM. ( )

you have to "break" the skin fibres. Tanneries tumble the skins for a longer time with baffles in the drums so as they are drying the fibres are being broke preventing 5the skin from being hard when dry


This response submitted by tomdes on 12/6/05 at 2:55 PM. ( )

You're not breaking them down enough. Big tanneries use big tumblers to break the hide down. You say you tumble them, but if your tumbler isn't at least 6' in diameter then you'll probably never get them soft. You could manually break them over a beam, but it's a lot of work...

has anyone tried this

This response submitted by Ryan Orr on 12/6/05 at 3:35 PM. ( )

With just the 55 gallon drum tumblers. Has anyone tried
putting wooden balls in with the hides. For a more agressive
tumble effect. I wonder if this would work? Make it like a
small ball mill. Like they use in mining.

you need to hand break

This response submitted by terryr on 12/7/05 at 1:06 AM. ( )

it is not as hard as everyone say - mammals up to coyote size will come out very soft and flexible without much work - i use lutanf and about any oil (McKenzie leather oil) - no problem - any other ?'s email me direct and i will help you - i think your process is just flawed not your determination

Try this to break the hide

This response submitted by mrcobaltblue79 on 12/7/05 at 1:00 PM. ( )


Here's is how I do it by hand - When the hides are starting to dry, take an dull (but make sure the blade is smooth)axe head and put in a vise with the sharp part of the blade pointing up. Work the skin/hide over the axe head by pulling it back and forth in different directions. Do this over the whole hide until it is dry. You will actually be able to see the fibers in the hide "break" when you do this. This will take a while but it will give you decent results. SECOND - after the hide is broken and fairly soft and pliable - take a piece of coarse sand paper and a block of wood and sand the leather side of the hide. This will take off all of the hanging fibers that are left from the breaking process and will make the skin even softer than before. HOpe this helps, Mark

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