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Pickling Process

When it comes to pickling, there are many different theories and ideas that people have. Some people believe that pickling is not necessary in the tanning process, but we are here today to tell you that it is a very essential part. Numerous methods are used to pickle, and deciding which one to use will have to be done by testing different ones. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of pickling, what pickling does to a hide, and a solution for pickling.

Let’s first look at the benefits of pickling. All skins have proteins. There are structural proteins (skeleton of the cape, if you will) and non-structural proteins (fatty tissue etc., which would not enable holding shape or structure of cape). The pickle helps dissolve the non-structural which is soluble in salt water and acid pickles. Basically, you don’t NEED or want the non-structural. By removing them, the tannins will adhere to the structural proteins much more successfully.

What a pickle will do to a hide is break down a hide and plump it up to make it easier to shave. Also, a pickle is a safe place to store a hide as long as the pH is below 2.0, if you cannot get it right way.

Pickling Crystals (Citric Acid) are good to use. Prior to pickling, it is highly advisable to flesh and salt flesh side of hair on skins for 24 to 48 hours. Salting removes skin moisture and sets the hair. Wash skins thoroughly after salting period prior to placing in pickling solution.

Pickle Bath:

Dissolve 3 ounces Pickling Crystal and 1 pound salt for every gallon of hot water. Always remember to let the pickle solution cool to room temperature before placing skin into it! Use a minimum of 5 gallons of pickle solution to pickle an average full shoulder deer cape. Use a minimum of 2 gallons pickle solution for a fox skin. Minimum pickle time for a deer cape is 72 hours, however pickling for 24 hours and then re-fleshing skin and returning it to pickle for an additional 48 hours would assure a thoroughly pickled cape! Deer back hides may require 6 to 8 gallons of pickle solution depending upon size. A good test to assure your skin is pickled is as follows: squeeze hide between thumbnail and fore finger. The indention you make should remain in the skin. Continue pickling skin if indention disappears. Do this indention test on several areas of the skin to assure the entire skin area is pickled!

Neutralizing Pickled Skins:

Low pH of acid pickle in most cases assures the killing of bacteria that causes hair slippage! However, if the pH is too low prior to tanning, most tanning chemicals will rapidly fix to the skins surface with little or no penetration. Interior of skin will become stiff on drying as result of grain collapse. Neutralize skin pickles prior to tanning by using 1 ounce of Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) per gallon of water. Use a minimum of 1 gallon water for a fox skin, 2 to 4 gallons for deer cape and back hides. The crucial part of neutralizing is the amount of time the skin is in the neutralizing solution. A good starting point would be to neutralize a fox skin for 10 minutes, a deer cape for 20 minutes; agitate the skin during neutralizing, then remove and rinse.

Over neutralizing pickled skins can result in slow and unfixing penetration of tannins. Neutralizing time again can and will vary depending upon amount of time pickling, kind of acid used, and thickness of skin. It is still always best to neutralize for a short interval! After neutralizing, rinse skin thoroughly and place in tanning solution.

At this point you have several options for oil choice. After tumbling or towel drying to remove as much moisture from the skin, you can apply several different oils. Some to try are Pro Plus oil, Syn-Oil Tan, Liqua Tan, Protal, North Country Tanning Oil, or Lutan® FN, which can all be found on Van Dyke’s Taxidermy website or print catalog.

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