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25 year old zebra hide

Discussion in 'Tanning' started by zebra tim, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. zebra tim

    zebra tim New Member

    - UPDATE - Thanks for the advice. I haven't had an opportunity to do anything yet, but when I do I'll post my results here... Thanks Again.

    I know absolutely nothing about tanning (thought we should start off with a clean slate). While living in Africa 25 years ago I was given a zebra hide. For the past 20 years it's been neatly folded in a trash bag in the garage. I recently liberated it from the garage and although it looks great and smells fine, it's a bit stiff. What can I do to make it more flexible so that it will lay flat? Thanks, Tim
  2. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    A hide this old would be hard to say. Any hide that old may not be able to get it to lay flat. You can try a small area first by wetting it with a damp sponge with salt added to it. ( a handful of salt to a gallon of water ) This will only hydrate that area. It may totally fall apart doing this. Time destroys skins. If this does work and your able to to this through out the whole hide I would then get some tanning oil (sold by many companies found on this site) I mix some oil up with warm water and then rub it on, fold it up and the next day lay it out and the next day lay it skin side to dry. For sure it won't be soft and subtel but it may lay flat for you.


  3. I work on a large volume of very old rug skins. Frank is correct that time plays havoc on skins. The oil dries out of the skin leaving it brittle, especially since it has been folded in a plastic bag and stored in a non climate controlled garage. I would recommend that you cut a small piece of the skin off (1"x2") in an area that it won't be missed. Get a little margarin sized tub and put a little cool to lukewarm water in it and place the leather scrap in to rehydrate. Check it after 10-15 minutes. Pull on that piece of leather every which way. The scrap will either turn to mush, rip in your hands or remain stable. If it remains stable I would be inclined to think the skin was chrome tanned, especially if it was tanned in Africa. Chrome tanned skins will have a bluish/gray color to the leather. I have successfully rehydrated very old chrome tanned zebras and re-stretched them to get them to lay flat.

    If you aren't so lucky with the outcome of this soaking test I would recommend purchasing some liquid latex. Paint that on the back of the zebra then lay a piece of cheesecloth over that, then another brushing of liquid latex to seal the cheesecloth. Let this dry 24+ hours and your skin will be much softer and supple. It will not have the appearance of a new stretched zebra but it will be able to lay out flat. The liquid latex will let off just enough moisture to slightly rehydrate the skin and when that along with the cheesecloth dries you will have a pseudo-skin protecting the old friable skin.

    Do not ever walk on this skin or try to hang it on the wall if this process is successful.

    Again, as Frank said, with a skin this age there are no guarantees but if you are able to salvage it you may have a piece adequate for display.

    Kind regards,
  4. Thank you Mary...very good information. When Ya gonna do a rugging seminar?
  5. Thank you, David. Throughout the 90's and early 2000 I had presented many seminars on rugmaking at the National's, Western Regional's and various State Shows. I know some who had sat in on those seminars run successful rugmaking business' today.
    I have also written articles on rugmaking for Breakthrough and Taxidermy Today which are still helping those new at rugmaking. Maybe it is time to do a few video's ;)