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Why Tan Skins?

We have all seen rugs and furs made from animals, trophy bucks mounted by a taxidermist, and maybe even own a sheepskin rug. Producers may own goats having skins that would make an attractive rug or cover. Possibly, there is even a market for colorful goatskins or crafts made from them. To preserve a goatskin requires knowledge of the art of tanning. When speaking of tanning hides one naturally thinks of large tanneries producing leather and furs; however, it is possible to tan skins at home. In the distant past, tanning meant taking the bark of certain trees, oak for example, and pounding the bark into a mush, mixing it with water, and soaking the unhaired hide of an animal in the mixture for several weeks or even months. Deer buckskin was made by Native Americans using animal brains. Later, chemical methods of chrome tanning were developed, which are still in use. Today, in addition to the above methods, there are synthetic tanning agents that are relatively inexpensive and easy to use at home. Tanning kits can be purchased for $25 to $40 that containing all the chemicals needed to tan between two and three goatskins.  The equipment needed to tan hides can be purchased or much of it can be fashioned from items found around most households or farms. Although home tanning may not match the quality of a professional tannery, good quality, long-lasting products can be made. In addition to home use, some of these products could be sold, or someone who earns a good reputation as a home tanner could receive hides to tan.

Tanning Goatskins Workshop

On Saturday, April 1, 2017, a tanning goatskins workshop will be held at Langston University from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The focus of the workshop will be tanning hair-on goatskins but the process of unhairing skins and making leather will also be discussed. After discussing the stages of tanning from how to handle and store a raw hide to softening and finishing a tanned skin, participants will have hands-on practice with goatskins in several of the different tanning steps. Participants can practice fleshing, will apply tanning chemicals in two different methods, and soften a goatskin prepared for the workshop. Various tanning methods will be discussed and examples of tanning kits and chemicals displayed. All of the tanning procedures presented and chemicals used are appropriate for home tanning with all of the work done by hand. The tanning processes learned can be used on goat, sheep, deer, coyote, and other skins. Registration is limited to 10 participants. A registration fee of $20 is charged. Refreshments will be provided.

For more information regarding the tanning hides workshop, contact Dr. Roger Merkel at (405) 466-6134 or rmerkel@langston.edu.

Click here for the registration form


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