The tanning project continues. One hide has been tanned with the hair on and the other will be tanned with the hair removed. These require different processes and a different investment of time. In both cases, I am following the steps laid out in a previous blog post.
This is fairly straightforward. I mix up the salt-and-alum mixture with five gallons of water and immerse the hide. I had to use two wooden boards, bricks, and a 5-gal bucket full of water to weight down the hide. Otherwise it floats above the level of the fluid and would not tan evenly. Each day I pulled the hide out, dunked it a few times, rotated it, and then resubmerged it. I kept it in the pickling solution for six days. At this point, the skin is stark white.
None of the instructions I read said how much time it would take to get the hair off this thing. After soaking the hide in the caustic solution of lime and ashes for three days, I rinsed it well in clean water. I had checked to make sure the hair pulled out easily. I did notice that a few holes had appeared in the leather and the underside seemed a bit chewed up from the process.
I found the easiest process to pull the hair out was to put it over a bucket and pluck away the hair while the hide was draped in this way. The weight of the hide keeps it stationary as I pluck away. I’ve gotten about three gallons worth of hair already and I am only half way through getting all the hair off. It has taken me three hours so far.
As I couldn’t get it all done in one sitting, I have to immerse the hide in the pickling solution between sessions, so it is on its way to being preserved as I continue to work on it but it doesn’t seem to make the hairs harder to pull out.