Converting a Hide Into Leather or Fur
By Red Dwarf (Tony Wernette)
To make fleshing easier, first soak the unfleshed skin in a solution of either salt or borax to loosen the clinging bits of flesh. To make the salt solution, dissolve 1 pound of ordinary table salt per 2 gallons of soft water. For a borax solution dissolve 1 ounce of borax per gallon of water. Use hot water when dissolving the borax, but let it cool off before immersing the skin. An agitator-type washing machine will speed the soaking process and also help reduce hair loss from the pelt by avoiding oversoaking.
Tanning procedures are the same whether you are processing leather or a fur. However, if the hair is to be removed,it must be removed from the hide before tanning takes place. The easiest way to get the hair off is to start by soaking the hide in a dehairing solution. Use 1 pound of hydrated lime per 8 gallons of soft water and soak for about five days (longer in cool weather) in a wooden container. Move the hide around occasionally with a wooden paddle. (Lime is caustic, so avoid contact with it.) When the hair is loose, rinse the hide, then place it fur side up on a smooth surface, and scrape off the hair and loose surface skin with the dull edge of a knife.
When tanning use a large plastic or wooden container or nonmetallic washbasin for mixing and tanning. To make the tanning solution, add 10 lbs. of salt to 10 gallons of warm water. The water should be soft -- rainwater will do. Next, mix 2 pounds of alum in enough hot water to dissolve it, then combine both solutions, stirring with a wooden paddle until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. The solution can be used cold or warm but not hot.
Immerse the hide into the tanning solution and gently about twice a day stir with a wooden paddle. for a perfectly tanned piece of fur or leather make certain the tanning solution reaches every nook and cranny in the hide. The larger the hide, the longer it takes to tan it. A rabbit skin will take about two days, a raccoon about three days. A deer may take from eight to ten days, while a sheepskin may take a little less.
The easiest way to make the leather soft is to let it dry overnight, but not too dry. Put it in the dryer with a shoe for about 45 mins with no heat.Then let it dry the rest of the way by hanging it up somewhere inside to get your finished product.