fishskin (how to tan?) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Does anyone know how to tan fishskin without using crom.I would like to make a belt out of it.

-- kistian nielsen (, May 29, 2001


Don't know specifically, but the old tanning methods used tannin (DUH!). Used salt to dehydrate hide, then soaked it for weeks in a tannin solution. Used to use oak galls (the oak secreted LOTS of tannin into the gall to kill the parasitising wasp). However, you could get the same with a REALLY strong tea from some cheap and nasty tea leaves.

-- Don Armstrong (, May 31, 2001.

I checked my book on tanning,, fish skin is not recommended by home tanners. Its a long a nasty process. Any home tanning results arent supposed to last very long and you end up smelling like dead fish. The only exception is shark skin wich is more like leather than fish skin which is tanned useing a HEAVY tanic acid solution. You could always tan dolphion or whale,, if you can catch themm,, since they do have skin

-- stan (, June 01, 2001.

Stan, you might want to rethink your dolphin/whale tannery idea. Since they are federally protected species, you could end up serving in a facility where you could pick up another line of work, say, pressing license plates. Also, their skin is very different from noncetacean species - it can be sliced by a sharp fingernail and the outermost layer sloughs off freguently (about every 4 or 5 hours or so). It would be extremely difficult to separate the fatty blubber layers from the outermost layer and impossible to do without destroying the skin. Now manatees..., that's another story! The skins of "sea cows" were mentioned in the Bible as a covering for the precious items of the tabernacle. However, due to their federally protected and endangered status, I'd advise against that one also:). And then there's the problem of facing a large, strong, intelligent wild animal that is perfectly at home in an environment where you can't breathe, run, or even get up much momentum. And I won't even get into the ethics of this one.

(I always knew my work as a marine biologist would come in handy some day!)

-- Lori in SE Ohio (, June 04, 2001.

Hi, iīve been making necklesses, earings, bracelets for some years using salmon, trout and most smaller fishskins that I tanned with urin (my own) not so ucky as you might think. This was the way the Inuit did it. Does not smell after preparing.

What you do is this. Pee a couple of times in a bucket, let it sit with a lid on for a day or so, brings the ammonia out wich draws the fat out of the skin. Then pour in the same amount of water as you have pee, half water half pee that is. Put your skins in it after taking all the flesh of with a spoon or a dull knife. Let it sit in the fluid while stirring once in a while for about 12 - 20 hours depending on how thick the skins are.

Then wash them out in lukewarm water with schampo or a mild soap. When washed the (donīt know the english word for tis)scales, well the silvery things on the suface of the skins, are easely rubbed of. After they are washed the skins need to be flattened out on a piece of board, stroking down towards the tail.

Let them dry completely, then comes the "labour" part of the job. Now you must crunch the skins in every direction possible to break the fibers as much as possible to make them soft enough for sewing. Also you can draw the fleshside over a not to sharp edge to get them smoother. Hope you make it they really do turn out great and not smelly. One thing to think about is not to get the skins wet again, you can use textile waterproofing on them. Good luck from north of Sweden !

-- Maria Ostlund (, January 29, 2002.

Maria, interesting and informative post. Thank you for contributing the information. Hope you will continue to monitor, contribute, and ask questions.

-- Don Armstrong (from Australia) (, January 30, 2002.

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