Tanning hides turns them into various useful materials, and it is a great method for preserving animal skins in a hygienic, clean and aesthetically pleasing manner. There are a few methods for tanning hides in the comfort of your own home.
Salt and Alum Tanning
This method gives the hide flexibility and stretch. The process involves dissolving a pound of ammonia alum in a gallon of water, then dissolving 8 ounces of salt and 4 ounces of washing soda in half a gallon of water in another container. Mix the two solutions together, thoroughly stir it, then submerge the hide into the solution and allow it to stay there for two to five days. After that time, remove the skin and dry it thoroughly. Finish with a standard oil and finishing process.
Alcohol and Turpentine Tanning
This process is mainly for preserving smaller hides, such as rabbits. First, mix the salt and alum tanning solution. Then add a half pint of wood alcohol and a half pint of turpentine into the mix. Wood alcohol and turpentine are available at hardware stores. Place the solution into a jar with a lid, then place the skin into the solution and close the lid. Leave it in for seven to 10 days, shaking the solution each day. After the appropriate amount of time, remove the hide. Use dishwashing soap to wash away the turpentine, alcohol and grease. Rinse the skin in clean water to remove the soap and dry it. Proceed with a standard oil and finishing process.
Create a tanning solution by combining a pound of pig or horse brains with two gallons of warm, bottled spring water. Place the hide in the solution and allow it to stay in it overnight. Remove the hide and ring it out until it dries. A clothes wringer can help with this drying process. Stretch the hide over a canvas or nail it to a wood board. Then stretch and pull it with a dull surface. Move the hide into a smoke house and smoke the wood for several hours with the use of dry wood.
Standard Oil and Finishing Process
Anytime you complete a hide tanning process, it is a good idea to finish it with a standard oil and finishing process to preserve the hide and keep it nice. This can be done by mixing 3 1/2 ounces of sulfated neatsfoot oil with 1 ounce of household ammonia and three and a half ounces of warm water. This is for a larger hide--smaller hides will not require as much solution. Laying the hide on a flat surface with the skin side up, spread half of the solution over the entire hide, let it sit for 30 minutes, then apply the rest of the solution. With a piece of plastic, cover the hide and let it sit overnight. Fold the hide over a pole with the skin facing inward. Place a fan beneath it to speed the drying process. Stretch the skin across a flat wooden surface with the skin facing up. Nail it down. Dry it by working it with a dull surface. Do so until it dries.
- cowhide image by Jim Parkin from Fotolia.com