Shrinkage and re-stretch of bear hide
I have several interrelated questions. First of all, how much does a fresh bear hide shrink from when it is first skinned until it is salt cured/dried and stable for storage? Does it then shrink even more in the tanning process or is all the shrinkage in the salting and drying? Last question, how much of this shrinkage can be reclaimed through stretching by a good taxidermist (without over stretching and opening up the follicles and causing guard hair slippage?)
Over the years I have had various taxidermists tell me wildly different numbers on shrinkage. I have heard as low as 5 percent and as high as 20 percent. I expect the real number lies somewhere in between but I just don't know. I do know that hides are very stretchy when fresh/wet and I do not pull them tight when measuring as I know that gives a false measurement. Typically I measure a hide size not by measuring the hide at all, but rather by measuring the skinned carcass over the curves, nose to tail and claw to claw on the front legs. Anyone have real world data on this?
I can't tell you how much a hide shrinks from salting and drying, That is something that is just not important to a taxidermist. We just want the hide dried and ready to send to the tannery. Now after the hide is tanned the amount of shrinkage can very from the type of tan used, the tannery itself and even the type of skin or the time of year it was taken. Most taxidermist like to use the same tannery or tan it themselves so they know what to expect when they rehydrate the skin. The tannery I used for years I could expect a skin shrink 20 percent after tanned. and would rehydrate to 110 percent of origanal size if over strected. I have also had skins from differnt tanneries that would rehydrate to way over 125 percent of oringal and other tanneries hides I would have to fight to get back to 95 percent of orignal size. I just varyies. When you over stretch a skin in one area another area will shrink and your hide will start to look unnatural.