Instructions are based on our experience using several different ways to tan, these are what we believe to be the easiest.
If you use these instructions and we did not make something clear enough let us know so we can clarify and update.
Read through all the instructions and view the pictures before starting.
Step 1 - Skinning
Skin the entire carcass using a sharp knife. Use care to avoid piercing the skin.
Step 2 - Fleshing
Use a fleshing knife to scrape the hide, get a 6-7 foot piece of PVC pipe that is 6-7 inches in diameter to use as the fleshing beam, remove all flesh, fat and connective tissue. Take your time while doing this. This will also be done at various stages throughout the process. Get Your Fleshing Knife Here
Step 3 - Salting
Pour a liberal coating of NON IODIZED salt over the hide. Leave the salt on the hide until the fluids seeping from the tissues saturate the salt, which should take a few days. I spread the hide on a table and slant the table. Dump off and discard the salt and rinse the hide thoroughly.
Step 3A - Removing Hair
If you are leaving the hair on the skin - move to step 4. If removing the hair, soak the hide in water (5 gallons) and calcium hydroxide - a hydrated lime (1/2 a pound-hardwood ashes can work in place of the lime). After soaking for a couple days start pulling the hair from the hide (this may take several days of back and forth). Once the hair is removed, soak in fresh water (5 gallons) and ammonium sulfate (4 ounces) to neutralize the lime, rinse thoroughly. Use rubber gloves as the lime is very hard on your hands.
Step 4 - Pickling
Pour 2 gallons of water, 2 gallons of white vinegar and 4 pounds of NON IODIZED salt into a large plastic tub and stir well. Add the hide to the solution, pushing it down until it submerges completely. Allow the hide to soak in the solution for two or three days. Stirring occasionally and re-fleshing randomly throughout the 2-3 days. Remove as much flesh and stringy substance as possible each time you flesh the hide. Re-fleshing will help the hide look better in the end. I use boards and bricks to hold the hide totally submerged in the solution.
Step 5 - DePickling
Pour out the solution, remove the hide and rinse it with fresh water. Place the hide back in the bucket and add 4 more gallons of water and 2 cups of baking soda. Let the hide soak in this solution for about one-half hour and then remove it. Rinse it off and dry it with a towel. Discard the baking soda and water mixture.
Step 6 - Tanning
Before coating the skin, flesh the hide one more time removing all excess water. The fleshing process works great to remove the water. Once as much water is removed as possible coat the hair-free side of the hide in a thin coating of McKenzie Tan. Any excess water on the skin will slow the tanning process down.
The McKenzie Tan instructions say to let the solution penetrate for 4-5 hours then to rinse in water and wrap in a towel. This is for if you are mounting the hide onto a plastic head for a wall mount. In order for the whole hide to turn to leather, it is my experience with the tanning solution that it sits on the hide for several days before the whole hide will turn to leather. Sometimes I will add another coat of the tanning solution if it appears to be slow in turning to leather. The latest hide has sat for 30 some hours and has not yet starting turning to leather. One of the pictures below show a hide that is partially turned to leather. The tanning solution sat for 5 days on the hide before the whole thing was turned to leather. I had the hide on the floor when applying the solution and it sat there for 3 days and I noticed it was staying moist, I then placed in on top of the dog cage and the metamorphosis was much quicker. Patience is important.
Step 7 - Breaking the Fiber
Bend the tanned hide with your fingers back and forth to break the fibers of the skin. The more you do this the softer the skin will be. You can a sander to help soften the skin.
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