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Thread: Tanning resulting in damage!?

  1. #1
    Member .338WM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Eagle River

    Default Tanning resulting in damage!?

    I just received my skins from a well known tannery in Heyburn Idaho and I was excited about opening the box and seeing the results, it turned in to a major disappointment.

    The otter is severly damaged, torn in MANY places-nearly in half, both cross foxes are damaged-one has a hole in the head where the skin from the lower jaw was protruding and was difficult to extract, the red fox has a large tear as does the lynx. Every skin damaged after the process which began with perfect skins. Other tears are evident.

    I have had other animal skins tanned and all came back perfect, though they were all done by different tanneries.

    I sent my skins off to the tannery in Idaho due to all of the good things I heard about them from others I know and from things I have read here on AOD. Is this typical of this tannery, is this typical tannery production, was I "just lucky" in the past?

    I wanted taxidermy quality processing when I inquired over the phone and was told I would be better of with the other option (type name escapes me ATM), would that have reduced the chances of damage occuring?

    What say you "in the know"?
    The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.

    Albert Einstein

  2. #2
    New member
    Join Date
    Apr 2012


    To answer your question from my experience: I have used they vary same tannery for years with my wallhanger skins and had very good luck with them up until about 1 1/2-2 years ago. Somewhere along the way they have gotten careless or are very busy and rushing things through, or have inexperienced help. Something has definetly changed. I have been getting alot of damage as well so i only send them skins that are already damaged to tan now.

    I got to looking at the damaged skins and almost inveribally the damage was torn out at hole punched areas. When you send a shipment to them and they check it in they take a awl and punch small holes in you leather side of the hide. Sometimes depending on your punch code it could have 30-40 small holes punched in it. But that was not good enough for them. They stamped my skins 5&6 places. For example once in the base of the tail, once on each hip, once or twice in the head. So we are talking 150-200- small holes punched in these areas. During the tanning process when they shave and pull and stretch the hide and pull and stretch the hide in the finishing process to make them soft they rip and tear out at these weakend areas. They ripped out the whole lower back on one of my wolves and almost ripped the face clean off of one. You can see it from the leather side of the hide. A wolf hide is pretty tuff and durable too by the way. Like you i did all the skinning, fleshing and even salted mine.

    They are adiment that it is not their fault or anything they are doing. So i have moved on. If you send out enough stuff to tanneries sooner or later something WILL get damaged or lost because of the human factor. You just have to work with a tannery that can prove itself through track record. In the mean time any one you send your stuff to once it gets out of your hands you are taking the risk. Even when that tannery in Idaho was doing a decent job, i would NEVER send them anything that would be mounted.

    I know this answer doesn't make you feel any better with your results as it is alot of hard work, expense, and dedication on your part to prepare the skins properly. I have been doing this for 30 years. Its not the first tannery i have had problems with, nor will it be the last.

  3. #3
    Member PacWestFishTaxidermy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2012


    In short, yes, you were lucky all those times you got back perfect skins. There is no possible way to guarantee a good tan. Every single tanning job in the history of the world had chance involved. Some taxidermists that do their own tanning will tell you tales of them "never" having a bad tan, but that nugget of info is worthless. It is just a matter of time.

    I have had hundreds of skins professionally tanned at over 2 dozen tanneries in the last 20 years as a taxidermist. Bad tanning is like cancer; there is no possible way to tell you how it happened or what caused it. They can only speculate. You may THINK you prepared your skins properly, but you don't know what freak bacteria was on your skinning knife that day or what might have touched your skin to spread bacteria. You might not have even been aware that some form of heat washed over your skins temporarily on accident which could have sped up bacteria growth. You just can't ever know what caused a bad tan. There might have been something that brushed up against your hands or knife blade of some weird bacteria that your animal was hosting. It could have been from animal riding in the bed of a truck and the wind blew the exhaust upward and heated the bed for a moment. The wind could have blown some bacteria into the area, or on the animal. There are endless freak things that could have happened.

    However, here is what I learned over the years. Even if a tannery has a great reputation, it is only as good as the person working the round knife. Tanneries have high turn-over because tanning is hard work and migrant workers move on. The nasty truth of the tanning industry is that right when a tanner employee gets good with a fleshing machine, they have had enough of tanning and move on. Most reputable tanneries, like the one you used, have set formulas for their acids, neutralizers and tanning oils. So, the X factor is the people. Before you send any skins anywhere, insist on talking to the owner of the tannery and ask them if they have a new guy on the knife or a long-time, efficient employee. Express your worries. It is only good business and common sense.


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