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fish leather

Discussion in 'Tanning' started by smungung, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. smungung

    smungung New Member

    Hey guys, I want to know how to make leather from fish skin. I want it to be soft and flexible as i want to make a wallet with it. I planning on using either carp, eel, catfish, or white perch skin. My plan is to skin the fish scrape the meat off and soak it in a salt and water solution (is that the process of pickling?) Then I want to degrease the skin buy washing it in soap ( should I rub the soap onto the skin like washing it or just let it soak in soapy water?) Then I plan on tanning with oak bark ( can fresh leaves be used too or would they need to be dried first?) how long would I need to have the skins tan for? Then I want to fatliquor it with olive oil (would i just apply and rub into the tanned skin? If olive oil wont work what are alternatives I should use? also how much do I need to use?) After the skin is fatliquored do I work it over a sharp surface till dry? should the skin remain wet through this whole process or is there times when the skin needs to dry a bit before the next process? WOuld this order of processes work if not what would? Thanks :)
  2. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    Pickling requires the use of an acid. There are many types on the market. What kind of soap do you plan to use? There are many commercial tanning degreasers on the market. I have no clue what tannage you should use on fish, however, I do know that there are several tanning agents available on the market. I have never heard of using olive oil as a fat liquor, but, there are a lot of oils made for the leather making business on the market. I would ask around the fish section and do research from established fish tanning professionals. There are fish tanning kits available from most taxidermy supply companies.

  3. Bruce_Rittel

    Bruce_Rittel Consultant Services

    Hi Sumgang!

    Here is all I can tell you about it!

    Tanning Fishskins can be frustrating! I learned it the hard way, when I worked with the Inuits (Eskimos) of Alaska, above Nome, and I was lucky enough to go with them on their August Fishing trips. We had a ball fishing, and I’d faithfully skin them out, save the meat and the skins, flesh, salt and dry them (the Skins). Obviously I wanted to tan them when I returned home, and I thought I was doing it the right way. These were trophy skins!

    However, it never happened the way I’d planned it. For one thing, I hadn’t realized the amount of Fat in a Northern fishskin (cold water). And, by fleshing and then salting and drying them, it seemed the cell structure of the skins slowly collapsed as they dried, simply oozed out the grease in the skins, glueing the whole skin together until rehydrating (relaxing them so they would later absorb the Pickle and Tan solutions) and pickling them later became impossible! To Tan any skin requires that they retain some moisture. Even a completely tanned skin retains at least 25% moisture after its tanned. And it aids keeping it soft and flexible. But after these Fishskins were salted and dried, they simply wouldn’t become pliable and receptive to any type of rehydration method!

    I could never recover those Salted and Dried Fishskins! But I tried “freshly” caught skins – and I was able to tan them. They still retained their water content or absorbed some of the solutions they were soaked in, and they were never dried. I also Limed them to remove their scales, acidify them, and then I Pickled them, Shaved them if necessary, returned them to the Pickle, and then I degreased them, using my Super Solvent Degreasing agent solution for a 30 minute soak, and again returning them to the Pickle. At this point, they could stay there 24 hours before I tanned them – or even longer.

    One thing I did notice however, after they were degreased, they all seemed to want to slightly “rope”. I can only contribute it to the grease now being gone, and the skins simply roping because of it. It made me realize that when I decided to finally Tan them, I would have to use a Tanning Agent also capable of have a “filling” effect on the skins. Besides tanning them, it must also help to trap some moisture in the cell structure, and in doing so, also return the skins to somewhat their original “flat” shape.

    I used EZ-100 to tan them finally. Obviously, after the Tan I basified them to around a 4.8 pH, rinsed them good, let them drain and then oiled them. I let them set 4 hours with the “warm” Oil on, and then I hung them to dry and later worked them soft.

    I didn’t ever run across the “Urine” method up there – but then these were Alaskan Eskimos that I had worked with. I take for granted they both had their different ways of dealing with the skins, but I can’t offer any feedback on using that method!
  4. freeze_1

    freeze_1 Booboo, my business manager

    Interesting read Bruce, thanks for sharing .
  5. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    There is a famous "self bow" maker by the last name of Strunk that backed his bows with sturgeon skin complete with the little diamond protrusions. Those things are full of oil.

    I wish I would have asked him how he treated them, however, I was more interested in the making of bows than the tanning of fish skins.

    He may make reference to how he did it in one of the volumes of the Bower's Bible books.
  6. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    Tanglewood. Here you go:

    I’m trying to learn how to tan fish skin to wrap on a bowfishing kit limbs. Any advice?
    Tanglewood Taxidermy likes this.