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softening salt cured hides, need help!!

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by little feather, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. little feather

    little feather New Member

    I am new at this and I need help. How do I soften stiff salt cured hides? What is the best yet easiest way from start to finish for a beginner, amature only, to produce soft hair on hide. I am doing these for Native American craft projects.
    Should I use something other than salt to save the hide with the hair? If so, what?
    Does anyone know the Native way to do this, and don't mention chewing, that aint happening. My ancestors did this with no chemicals, they didn't have them, and managed to produce beautiful and well preserved hides. There has got to be, in this day and time with all of the technology that we have, a simplified way to do this. Frankly, I don't want to use any dangerous chemicals and I'm not familiar with the terms pickle, etc., what does that mean? Please remember, I'm new, wet behind the ears, at this, so if you would, instead of saying pickle tell me what pickle is, or how to make the pickle solution. The same with brine, I don't know that either. I'm quiet a simple country girl, old country girl, and fairly small, but pretty much pure country, with this exception, my daughter says I'm like a mountain man, or at least my shed and barn make her think so, hey I scrap nothing, if it can be used I keep it, even the smallest of bones or a square inch of hair.
  2. Wayne R

    Wayne R NRA and B&C Life Member

    Re: softening salt cured hides

    There is no short cut or easy way to produce soft hide with the fur on. You can rehydrate a salt dried hide by soaking it in salt water. I would use at least a pound of salt or more per gallon of water, but it will dry to the state you have it in right now. It will not keep indefinitely just salted and dried. It will need as George said in your other post to be tanned and tumbled and few steps in between to produce a good leather to work on for arts and crafts. You may want to check out the (supplier) links at the top right of this page and see if they have any videos on tanning hides before you get started in trying to produce a product for use.
    When I tan a hide or cape here I use a softener instead of a salt solution to relax a hide. It is then rinsed, put in a pickle (Acid bath) shaved down, put back in the pickle, neutralizes, rinsed, put in tanning solution, drained and oiled. It is now ready to be used for mounting purposes, but if you want it soft you now will have to physically break the hide down by hand to soften it up. It's tumbling at the tannery that produces a soft hide.

  3. little feather

    little feather New Member

    Thank you for the info. I will remember this, or write it down since my memory isn't very good. Should I use something other than salt to keep the hide? Some days I may have to skin 2 or 3 and the only thing that I know to do at this time is salt them down to preserve them for later. I have probably taken on a much bigger task than what I am able to do but I absolutly love doing this and come spring and pow wow season I want to have a lot of hides ready to go. Any and all advice is appreciated and will be carefully considered until I have mastered this monster task, well it is for me you might say I'm a little old lady. Dumb it may have been, but I have purchased 3 buffalo hides that I am going to have to tan and soften and I already have cow, calf, deer, hog, bobcat, fox, raccoon, goat, foal, coyote. I think that is all, that I have to finish. I really need some advice and suggestions for some simple, fool proof, techniques.
  4. Wayne R

    Wayne R NRA and B&C Life Member

    To be honest you may want to freeze everything and start off with something small to see what you are getting into. I think once you see how much work is required on say something like a coyote, you will want to send them to a tannery. The buffalo and cow are just too much work even for someone who has tanned before. The skin is too thick and needs to be shaved down after it is pickled, before it is tanned. If you all ready have them salted send, them out. They should always be salted after removing all the heavy meat and fat from the hide. Set the hide up so that the fluids the salt pulls out of the skins will drain off the hide. If you want to save these hides you will need to send them out to the professionals they are just too much work. I'm sorry if it is discouraging since this is something that you wanted to do but it really is a big task at hand especially if you haven't done any tanning before.
  5. Mr.T

    Mr.T Active Member

    Someone has already beat their brains out before you trying to learn to tan something, they are called tanneries. Save your self the same learning curve, and send it out to be tanned.
  6. stitcherman

    stitcherman New Member

    This I find is a great site. I think you will like it ! :)
    Great price on drawing knives also.
    And a book by Matt Richards DEERSKINS INTO BUCKSKINS is really well done.
  7. buckstand

    buckstand New Member

    The Native Way was the use of animal brains to make the solution or "pickle" then scraping off the hair. Finally after fleshing then stretching/softening the hide was almost finished.

    If you wanted a snow white buckskin (like making a wedding dress) it was complete after the stretching, only downfall was a white buckskin was not weather resilient. In order to be weather resilient it had to be smoked, that's why buckskin is normally yellow.
  8. little feather

    little feather New Member

    MrT, there are no tanneries that I know of near me. Trying to google these I'm not finding much. I asked around for processing shops and haven't found that either. Is it expensive to have hides tanned?
  9. little feather

    little feather New Member

    WayneR, what basic tools would I need to get started. I have talked to someone about building a tumbler, what do I need to shave the hides?
  10. bill@hogheaven

    [email protected] New Member

    You will probably have to ship to a tannery. Average price for a deer skin is about $40. a bison $11. a square foot. Try one of your deer hides at home. I bet everything else will then go to a tannery or be tossed in the trash. There is nothing easy about getting the finished product you are looking. You will find tanneries in the quiock links at the top of the page. I believe they are listed in suppliers link.
  11. Wayne R

    Wayne R NRA and B&C Life Member

    Little Feather,

    We are all trying to help you here by telling you to send the hides to tannery. You can go to top of this page and click on (Suppliers) in there you will find all the taxidermy supply companies. Many of which sell supplies for tanning. I would buy one tanning kit to do a deer or something similar if you are still driven to tan these yourself, just to see what your getting yourself into. I would rather see you go "taxidermy Services" listed in the (suppilers) and click on Wholesale Tanning to find a tannery near you to have those hides tanned.
  12. Menace the Duck

    Menace the Duck New Member

    I’m in the same boat as Little Feather. I have two steer hides that have been salt cured. I am going to try the next step of removing the hair.
    What is the ratio of lime to water to make the “ pickle “ ?