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Suggested Alum mix?

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Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby TeaTimeBunnies » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:46 am


So today I was finally able to find some alum, and I know there are posts that have mixing measurements for late batches of pelts, but what about a small amount? I have two kit pelts that I'd like to put in the tanning pickle, but what amount would I need for two hand sized pelts? I (hopefully) won't have any more pelts for a few months, and having them in the freezer is freaking out my fiance a bit so I would like to know what I need to do since this is my first tanning experience, and I have so little pelt to work on. Also though it isn't needed right this moment I wouldn't mind if someone puts the mix measurements for large batches on here too for ease of access when the time comes. Thank you all in advance!!!
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby shazza » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:13 pm


found these instructions on van dyke's site - they can be fairly easily adjusted for smaller batches:

a. for every 1 gallon of water add:
b. 1 lb. Salt
c. 1/2 ounce Safe-tee Acid, or 1 ounce of Oxalic Acid, or 3 ounces of Pickling Crystals, or the acid of your choice, the pH should read at 1.5-2.0.


make sure once they're 'done' they are kept somewhere they won't get wet :) i know it's probably not likely but i figured i'd give you a fair warning. alum isn't a true tan so it won't be waterproof and if it gets wet it can start rotting again. again, not usually an issue for wallhangers or display, but y'know!
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby TeaTimeBunnies » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:16 pm


Thanks shazza!! I know it's not a real tan, but I don't plan on them going outside for really any reason, but thanks for the warning anyway!!
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby shazza » Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:32 pm


oh! i also found this video from a homesteader i follow and this guy tawns his sheepskins with a paste version of the alum method. it seems work pretty well. i would worry about them getting messed up used as rugs (maybe not everyone is as clumsy as i am or has pets that like to make messes on rugs) but they looks nice and soft! it might be easier to use the paste than liquid soak. it might not smell as bad either - i've never used this method as i prefer a true tan, but i hear it's less than pleasant

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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby Ferra » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:21 pm


I did not personally have good results with the Van Dyke salt/acid method and its pH at 1.5-2 - I ended up with "digested" fryer skins. I am wondering if thicker deer hides can tolerate those conditions better than my thin rabbit skins...

These days, I don't have much faith in recipes that drop the pH below 4 for any significant length of time, but that is a personal bias based in some if my experience with acid dyes on wool/silk, etc.

I did do an alum tan that turned out fairly well a while ago, but would have to go find my notes.
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby shazza » Fri Dec 22, 2017 2:38 pm


interesting, the pickle i use for my tanning is usually around a 1 or 2 and i've never had issues. in fact, the one time my pickle came up in pH, i had a lot of slip issues. i wonder if it was more something in your water. i've heard of higher mineral contents changing the way the chemicals work. my water has a lot of calcium (i think? i get the white lines on everything) but it hasn't made much of a difference, but iron or lime may be more of an issue.
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Ferra » Sat Dec 23, 2017 1:09 am


I think that's part of the issue with tanning: It's more of an art than a science, to quote a boss of mine.

And as such, it could be the water. But it could also be the time we let our hides soak, respectively. Or the ambient temperatures at the time. Etc... Etc...

I will admit to being absolutely annoyed about my "digested" hides, but if I recall right, that was my first test-batch, I was trying a new recipe and thankfully, I didn't have any particularly valuable or sentimental hides in there.

I will admit to having a bit of a bias though - I have previous experience with "buckskin" and bark tanning methods on deer, and while they're both methods that are harder to do right with the fur on, I'm still a bit of a sucker for a good oil tan (but can't get behind the idea of furry veg-tanned wallet, though. :shock: ).

I'll see what I can do to go through my records this weekend, and see what my alum tan recipe was. I'm planning on getting myself a nice 5lb+ bag of alum online soon anyways - I have way too many hides in our freezer, and I'm starting to feel guilty about taking up "food-space", so I need to get started on my 50 hide backlog in 2018, anyhow.
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Truckinguy » Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:49 pm


I've had good luck with the following: for a half dozen or so hides (NZ size) I use a cup of salt and a cup of alum to about 2/3 of a five gallon bucket of water. Leave in for two days, pull, rinse and flesh then return to bucket with same water, add an additional cup of salt and alum each then leave in for seven days. The initial two days seems to make it a bit easier to scrape. After the final seven days, remove from water, rinse and hang to dry until damp, maybe a day or two then start breaking the hide by hand. Lots of work but I love seeing the hide turn white as it stretches. The main issue I have had is not getting a complete fleshing which can leave stiff areas on the finished hide. I have a few that I did probably five or six years ago and they are still soft and the fur is still on like they were when they were fresh.

I don't make anything out of them, they're pretty much just decoration or conversation pieces so I can't speak to how strong they are regarding stitching.

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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby TeaTimeBunnies » Mon Jan 01, 2018 3:45 pm


Thank you all who commented. I'm kinda bitter sweetly up to 4 (maybe 5 I lost count) pelts now so I figure it's about time to try them since I don't plan on having any others added any time soon. 2 are full body pelts with ears, faces, and tails still attached so we will see how those two go. I think if I did anything with my pelts I'd probably put them in dreamcatchers.....hmmm.
Anyway, my next question, would kosher salt work?
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Re: Suggested Alum mix?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby shazza » Mon Jan 01, 2018 3:53 pm


i think the only rule of salt is that is needs to be quite fine, and non-iodized. most kosher salt is coarse so it may not work as well but i haven't tried. i buy stock salt in 50lb bags at tractor supply, but i use a TON of it.
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