CURING SKINS AT HOME - A SUMMARY OF THE MAIN POINTS


1. The process described is tawing, not tanning.  It does not render the leather waterproof or water-washable, as
does chrome tannage.

2. This technique has been successfully used on lamb, kid, fox, rabbit etc.

3.           Mix the following solution:             ½lb alum
                                                                ½lb salt (rock salt or cooking salt)
                                                                ½oz saltpetre
                                                                 per gallon water.
For lamb etc you will need at least 5 galls depending on size. Mixed solution seems to keep OK for about 6
months if roughly filtered before storage.

4. Remove the skin from the carcass while fresh, starting with a cut along the belly.  Scrape off fat or remaining
flesh with a sharp knife, used flat (vertical). If the skin has been professionally removed, very little scraping
should be needed - be careful not to remove a layer of the actual skin.

5. Rinse skin in several changes of clean water, then immerse in the solution for 2-3 days, weighting down if
necessary.

6. Hang up to drain over the bath for several hours until it ceases to drip.

7. Pin to a soft board, e.g. insulation board or a softwood door, fur against the surface, stretching slightly.

8. Rub in about one eggcupful of Lankrolin* evenly all over the back of the skin. This product is only available
mail-order (although I could probably spare a little) or you can make something very similar as follows:

Shave up ½cake of plain white laundry soap into ½ gallon warm water. When fully dissolved, add
½pint neatsfoot oil (from SCATS or equine supplies shop) or caster oil while stirring vigorously.
Shake well before use.

9. When the skin has been drying in a cool, airy place (not in the sun unless this is weak) for about five days and
is almost dry, remove from the board.  Dan 't be alarmed at its stiff feel - this is where the real work comes in, to
make it supple. Begin by rubbing it backwards and forwards over the back or a chair, then go over it inch by
inch, rubbing one part against the next in a vigorous circular motion.  Concentrate on one small portion first
and you'll see the skin taking on the colour and feel of chamois leather as if by magic after a while.

10. If you have a skin but can't cure it at once, it can be deep-frozen, salted or even dried and later re-soaked.
Freezing works fine but I can't vouch for the others.  Don't be tempted to try the formaldehyde method
suggested in some books - apart from the fumes it tends to give a very hard, brittle skin if you aren't careful,
particularly with thinner skins. Avoid animals which are moulting (e.g; rabbits in spring). Test for a good cure
by trying to pull some of the fur -it should be really firm. Remove any oily patches with a paste of talc in
white spirit - let it dry, then brush off.

 NOTE: The instructions which come with Lankrolin suggest fixing the skin in 5% formalin solution. This
isnít pleasant stuff to use and has a reputation for making skin hard and brittle (including your own); its
advantage is that it is a very effective preservative, but I have found the alum/salt mix very satisfactory.

 *Lankrolin used to be available from Watkins & Doncaster, Four Throws, Hawkhurst, Kent but I  bought
mine nearly 25 years ago!

Alec Fry

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