How do I tan hides without brains or chemicals? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I heard that a chemical tan is really bad for the environment and taking brains out of the head of a deer just doesn't sound like fun. I heard there is a way of tanning hides with Alum but, I don't know what the mixture is that I need to mix up. or Is there any other process that maybe would be better? Please give me some advice....

-- Michelle (, April 09, 2001


Try the book "Home tanning and leather craft simplified" by Kathy Kellogg. Try an inter-library loan if yours doesn't have it. Covers various ways to tan.

-- Marie (, April 09, 2001.

isnt Alum a chemical??? what are you going to do with it?? you can smoke it,, after you scrape it,, can oak tan it,, useing the tanic acid,, and there are other things,, just depends on what y9ur going to use it for and for how long

-- stan (, April 09, 2001.

I forgot to say I have some information for you if you are interested. It is on alternative tanning. My husband just did a deer hide with ivory soap and neatsfoot oil. You smoke it to finish the process. This is right up his alley. Marie

-- Marie (, April 09, 2001.


-- Tony Hobert (, April 09, 2001.

Michelle, look in back issue of countryside Nov./Dec. 1999. It has some good articles about tanning.

-- Tony Hobert (, April 09, 2001.

If you raise chickens and don't know what to do with all the extra eggs, this could be one answer.

This recipe is from Beginning Shepherd's Manual.

Tanning mixture for 220 pounds of wet pelts.     5.5 pounds of alum    

2 pounds of salt

    11 pounds of flour

    4 ounces of olive oil    

50 egg yolks    

First, carefully scrape the pelt free of any remnants of meat or fat. Next, wash and rinse it in detergent and water. Use a washing machine if you wish.

Make a paste of the flour and water; set aside. Mix the egg yolks with a little water and add the olive oil. Blend this mixture into the flour and water paste. Mix salt and alum, and add this mixture into the flour and water paste. Spread the paste liberally over the pelt; fold it over, skin sides together, and let it dry for 4-5 days.

Wash off the hardened paste with warm water and let the skin absorb the water. As it dries again, pull it and work it to make it soft. This is the difficult part of the process, but the results are well worth the effort.

This recipe avoids caustic chemicals so it is very safe to use. Adjust the recipe to the weight of the hides.

-- ~Rogo (, April 10, 2001.

Do you know of a good source for bulk alum? I've never been able to find it in anything bigger than a few ounces.

-- Hoosiermom (, April 10, 2001.

Michelle -

First, it ain't all that bad, but I don't enjoy brain-tanning either. There are millions of ways to tan a hide. For a sample - check "Tan Your Hide" at the library. Its put out by Storey Books. There must be about 20 different methods. I have it, but its not real handy at the moment, or I would post some recipes. If I find it, I will do that.

Powdered alum can be bought in bulk at any health food store, from McCormick directly, and most mail-order herb dealers. I know there is a co-op out there, but for the life of me I can't think of the name right now. If I think of it, I'll send a note.

-- Sue Diederich (, April 11, 2001.

Thanks Sue, I'll check the local health food store and look around online. I don't know why I didn't think to do an online search. Sometimes I forget what resources I have right at my fingertips!

-- Hoosiermom (, April 16, 2001.

Yes, Alum is a chemical, and it leeches out of the skin if it ever gets wet again.

Another thing you can do is an oak or hemlock bark solution tan. You soak some bark splinters for a long time in enough clean water to soak a skin in. When the water is a dark rust color, you filter it and begin soaking the skin in it until the skin turns a similar color all the way through. Best to stretch, dry and thin down the skin first with sandpaper or a sharp, rounded scraper.

I soaked a couple elk skins in such a solution once for almost 6 months (way too long) and when I took them out they fell apart.

You can smoke the skins after you've softened them, too, but I don't think you have to.

I've heard of the high protien methods (egg yolk tanning). Great for inviting bugs and bacteria later on. They do work though, if you don't let anything spoil in the tanning process.

-- radiationman (, December 29, 2001.

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