Different Pickle Solutions For Different Uses

Submitted by John Bellucci on 10/30/1998. ( ArtistExpr@aol.com )

Ever thought of using different "strength" pickle solutions for different applications? That's something I started doing after a nasty incident. For quite some time now, I've been using oxalic acid crystals as the base ingredient for my pickle solutions. The oxalic acid crystals, is essentially a "dry" version of the popular formic acid, but in this dry or crystalized state, it is much safer to handle. It still mixes up a powerful pickle for sure! Plenty of strength to acidify ANY skin!! This proved VERY BAD however for an albino gray squirrel skin one time. After mixing up the pickle to the required ph level (2.5-3.0) the skin was allowed to soak for about ten hours. Upon removal from the pickle, I went to turn the feet right-side out. At this, the claw-sheaths slipped off their cores. No big deal, I thought I would re-attach them with super-glue after mounting. This claw loss was followed by the toes coming away from the feet! Right where the bones left in the toes, ended at the foot skins! Holy smoke!! :( After notifying the customer, I was able to replace his albino squirrel with one I had in stock. This one was cured in a citric acid pickle, with no ill effects. I could only surmise that the rather delicate makeup of the skin and hair of albino mammals, at least squirrels, was not strong enough to withstand a pickle as "strong" as an oxalic acid pickle. With this incident in mind, when it came time to pickle a still-born leopard cub, I immediately went with the citric acid pickle, again with success! Let's face it, you don't often get the chance to restore a specimen as precious as this, so I wasn't taking any chances! Citric acid has since become my pickle solution of choice for all my small mammals as well as for all young mammals I work on. The oxalic acid pickle however, remains as my top choice for all capes and large mammals that I may tan. There is a saying: "Different strokes for different folks". Well, my version of that is: "Different pickles for different skins". Hey, it may not be as catchy as the first one, but it works for me! :) Good luck to all of you... John B.

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Sometimes I do too!

This response submitted by Carmen Santiago on 10/30/1998. ( )

John - Oxalic acid has been my choice for a long time for my personal stuff! It is a very stable acid, no evaporation, plumps the skin fine for shaving, and at its low PH, I don't worry about bacterial growth. Like most guys, my stuff comes last, so it stays in the pickle for awhile. However, I must admit I'm now using the new Saftee acid for the same purpose. About Oxalic, I was surprised to find out its also used as a paste to bleach out wood, and its also the main ingredient in Rhubarb leaves. Those are the ones where the stalks are delicious, but the leaves can kill you. I liked Formic acid - a good plumper, but I don't like handling it pure. Citric is fine, it plumps well, but I have to use too much to get it below 2.5. It becomes expensive. Sulphuric acid I avoid altogether. It doesn't plump well, and again, I don't like handling it. Too dangerous. I guess I'm working my selection down to either Citric or Saftee Acid at this point. But Oxalic is still on my list - I still have some. By the way, what concentration of Oxalic do you use? I use it 1 Oz./gallon of water, and 1 Lb. of Salt? I start off at 1.5. I keep it below 2.0. I havent had an experience like you mentioned, but I have had claw sheaths slip off on bears. I'll keep in mind your advice on Albinos. Maybe a lower concentrated acid will be better for that type of job. Thanks.

Too Low A PH... Too High The Acid

This response submitted by John Bellucci on 10/30/1998. ( ArtistExpr@aol.com )

Yo Carmen, If your ph is lower than 2.0, that will over acidify the pickle and cause the acid to eat away at the real thin tissue holding the bears' claw-sheaths to the bone cores. Oxalic Acid only needs to be between 2.5 and 3.0. That is a good safe range, without any harsh aftereffects like "claw-slippage". I also use the same ratio as you mentioned. Works great. The reason it takes so much citric acid to achieve a lower ph is because it is a "slower" pickling method, and that is what makes it safer for the more delicate skins. continued good luck to you... John B.

Just For JOhn

This response submitted by JOHN MELLIS on 11/5/1998.

( JMellis@aol.com )

John, In another forum you were very on edge at the mere mention of formaldehyde being used for taxidermy yet here I find it interesting that you use formic acid in one since or another.Food for thought! Guess what's in a number of hide pastes on the market today.Yep, formaldehyde.But seriously,I know the rate that we use formic is probably not a problem.I wanted to pass some info. onto you.Call Bob Turner at LoneStar supply and he'll give you a run down on formic.He can explain a lot better than me and when he's through you'll probably want to get on the safety acid bus right away.For me I decided on most items to send them out for wet tans and stay away from as much of this stuff as I can.

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