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Sheep Skin Tanning

Discussion in 'Tanning' started by mystang89, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. mystang89

    mystang89 New Member

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    I used to raise rabbits and tanned plenty of their hides. I would put them in a large tote and have plenty of room.

    I started raising sheep and figured I'd not have any problem but I do. I only tanned one at a time. They are full grown sheep. When I started the pickling process I made sure the pH was just right, placed the pelt in the tote with 6 gal of water, enough to cover it and try to expose as much of the flesh to the acid as possible.

    The next day i checked the pH and it of but when I went to add more acid I found I didn't have the room to add acid and stir it in because the pelt was so large.

    I took the pelt out, put the acid in and got the right pH then put the pelt back in. Next day the pH was off again. I tried this for 5 days and the pickling never did the job because I could never keep the pH where it was supposed to be.

    I think the problem is because of the container. What do you all use when you are taking large pelts? Have you run into this problem before? How'd you handle it?

    Edit: I used Rittles tanning solution btw.
     
  2. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    Indeed your container is contaminated or there’s something in your sheep’s hair causing the problem.
    I’ve done plenty of sheep and never had this issue.
    I use a 55 gallon tote with 35 gallons of pickle . It’s the same tote I’ve used for over 18 yrs and my pH never had an issue as long as my skins were handled properly before I put them in.
    I like salt dry hides, hydrate, rinse well and put them in. The pH will drop cause of added skins and it’s normal. So I’ll take out 4 gallons add acid to it and gently pour back in and mix, and check pH then and a few hours later.
    Somewhere in your travels you have contamination. I would take the skins out, rinse well, wash my container, and restart. That’s the surest way of being clean of contaminants
     
    mystang89 likes this.

  3. Bruce_Rittel

    Bruce_Rittel Consultant Services

    I have personally never encountered such a problem - altho when I worked as a Tannery Consultant for the Government in Northern AK years ago with the Eskimos, we did receive a shipment of well fleshed, and dried Sheepskins in from an up North neighboring Eskimo Village wanting them to be tanned. I assumed they had fleshed, and then Salted them prior to the nice drying job. BUT - they had used Borax instead of Salt. It sent our Pickle way up overnight in the solution. We always checked all the pHs of our solutions first thing in arriving at our Tannery. We had to change the Pickle the very next day and keep checking the pH level. It too went up - so we simply resoaked the skins in another new Pickle and kept adjusting it back with more Acid to what its normal pH level should be. A costly lesson to us - keep Borax out of your fleshing and drying areas. That and Soda Ash are Neutralizing Chemicals - NOT SALT!
     
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  4. mystang89

    mystang89 New Member

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    I just wanted to say thank you to both of you for responding. I never saw any response via notification all I figured it had been passed over. I have another 2 sheep I'm going to be skinning here soon so I'll try again, this time using a 55 gal barrel. @Frank E. Kotula in your tote how many pelts did you do at one time?

    Thanks again.
     
    Frank E. Kotula likes this.
  5. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    It’s not how many I get in for that varies from what’s in the pickle. I go by the weight of the skins and that tells me what I can put in a 55 gallon container.
    To best suit you I would do nor more than 40lbs in a 55 gallon do I mix ad not really make a mess of water going everywhere.
    Hopefully that gives you some insight on this.
     
    mystang89 likes this.
  6. mystang89

    mystang89 New Member

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    Yes, thank you. From your posts I have been given a good template for taking my sheep hides.
    Another question.
    With rabbit skins I would simply flesh them during the pickle. Do you flesh your sheep skins before you salt them or do you flesh them before and during the pickle process?
     
  7. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    I always flesh before I salt. I’m anal and I hate any meat or fats left on my skins ..
    This way my skins hydrate better, pickle better etc.
    my steps
    Flesh, salt, hydrate, rinse, pickle, shave pickle neutralize, tan oil then mount dry for flats or freeze
     
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  8. mystang89

    mystang89 New Member

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    When you say "shave" I'm going to assume to are taking about what the pickle loosens up and not shave the wool off.
     
  9. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    Yes even though you fleshed the animal and once it goes into the pickle which then swells the skin, you now take a thin layer of skin off to aid in making it thinner and softer and for taxidermists aids in keeping details
     
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  10. mystang89

    mystang89 New Member

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    Wonderful, thank you!
     
    Frank E. Kotula likes this.