How to tan animal hides the safe, sanitary and satisfactory way.
This is meant to be a quick and easy guide for those that want to
permanently tan animal hides for use in making clothing such as
viking age kit.  I am a viking re-enactor and have been tanning
hides for over 35 years.  The first hide I ever tanned was a
squirrel and it is still soft supple leather that bugs do not eat, it
does not have an odor, and the hair does not fall out.

This guide is not going to include instructions for skinning and
fleshing an animal skin.

What you need;

A four, five, or six gallon bucket.
Five pounds of salt.
Five pounds of alum.
Something in the way of a stirring stick or rod.
Somewhere to hang a wet skin to let it drain and dry where the
salt dripping on the ground will not kill the petunias.
A skinned and fleshed hide of a mammal.  I have never tried this
with a fish, reptile, amphibian or bird.  It might work, it might
not.

Depending on the size of the animal or the number of skins you
are tanning at once, decide how much water will be needed to
cover the skins.  A small squirrel need only have a gallon of
water.  A large coyote will take about three gallons.  The reason
we want a larger bucket is to make room for the salt and alum
and the skin itself.  Let's assume you are tanning a coyote hide.

Step 1:  Fill the bucket with three gallons of water.  Add a pound
of salt per gallon of water;  that's three pounds.  Stir with the
stick until it is completely dissolved.  Add the coyote skin to the
solution inside out or hair side in, whichever you prefer.  Stir
until the skin has been completely soaked and has no air pockets
to make it float.

Go back and stir the skin and solution a couple of times a day to
make sure the salt doesn't settle and the hide is getting evenly
treated.  If you forget it for a day no biggie.  Do this for a week.

Take the hide out and hang it where it can drain.  Not on your
wifes flowers.  The salt will kill grass too.

Depending on the cleanliness or filthiness of the hides you just
pickled, you can either dump the saltwater out somewhere
where you don't want any vegetation to grow (like the Greeks
did to Troy), or if it is still clean and you have bought two
buckets you can reuse the salt water for your next batch of
hides.  You can safely dump this down the toilet unless you have
a septic tank.  Then it can kill your good crap eating bacteria and
cause all kinds of issues.

Step 2:  Fill the bucket with three gallons of water again.  This
time you will add a half a pound of salt and a half a pound of
alum per gallon of water.  For three gallons that is a pound and a
half of salt and a pound and a half of alum.  Stir with the stick
until it is completely dissolved.  Add the coyote skin to the
solution inside out or hair side in, whichever you prefer.  Stir
until the skin has been completely soaked and has no air pockets
to make it float.

Go back and stir the skin and solution a couple of times a day to
make sure the salt and alum doesn't settle and the hide is getting
evenly treated.  If you forget it for a day no biggie.  Do this for a
week.

Take the hide out and hang it where it can drain.  Not on your
wifes flowers.  The salt and alum will kill grass too.  You can
safely dump this down the toilet unless you have a septic tank.  
Then it can kill your good crap eating bacteria and cause all
kinds of issues.

Again, if the liquid is still clean you can save it to reuse if you
like.  If it is dirty you can dump it.

Now if you have gone this far you have a tanned coyote skin
hanging outside and your neighbors are looking at you funny and
wondering about you.  Let them wonder and let it hang.  If you
are going to display the coyote hide intact with face and all don't
hang it by the face as it dries or it will stretch into an distorted
monster instead of a beautiful animal.

You want the hide to dry, but you have to keep checking it so
you know when it is getting just dry enough for the next step.  
You need to stretch it to break the tissue in the skin and make it
stay soft.  If it dries too much it will start getting stiff.  As the
hide dries, keep checking it and pulling it to stretch it.  You will
learn to see and feel when it gets the right dryness.  You will be
stretching it and it will suddenly turn white.  This is exactly what
you want.  Keep checking and stretching it as it dries and you
will eventually get the whole hide to turn white and soft.  The
more you stretch it the softer it will get.  You can even hang the
nearly done hide over the back of a chair, hair side in mind you,
and pull it back and forth over the chair back.  You can do this
with large hides over a barn rafter or out in the Longhall.  The
more you work it now the softer the hide will get.

That's it.  I used to recommend oiling the hide.  Now I think it
ruins them as they swell up with oil and aren't that nice soft cloth
like leather I like.  If they get wet they will need to be stretched
again as they dry or they will get stiff.

FAQ;

Q:  Can't I brain tan or egg tan hides easier and cheaper?
A:  I have friends that do that.  I have found that bugs and
rodents will feed on them as brains and eggs are edible.

Q:  Where can I find alum?
A:  Type "alum powder bulk" in google and it will give you places to buy alum.  Here's one;  
<http://nuts.com/cookingbaking/leavenerthickener/alum-powder.html?gclid=CLi0h6v__68CFQoDQAodBnBw6Q>

Q:  It worked!  But why do I have left over alum?
A:  So you can use it next time.

Have a nice day!

Sam

p.s.  Don't complain about the doggies and kitties on the top of a
page about tanning skins.  Doggies and kitties make nice leather
furs too.  Live with it.
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