Best way to salt skins and hides
Proper salting sets the table for a great tan
For nearly 30 years, we have tried several methods of salting and drying skins. Some worked okay, but others - not so much. We have heard from people that do not salt at all, split and turn, and straight into the pickle. It may work on occasion, but from my experience, salting is the best way remove unwanted waste from the skin. Read on to learn the best way to salt skins and hides.
Practices of the Past
Way back in the beginning, we would salt overnight then go into a pickle. While the results were okay, they lacked consistency. Over time, we developed our own system that consistently dries the skins quickly and as safely as possible.
The Secret to the Best Tan
Most of the skins that we receive – about 85% - are raw frozen. The remaining customers send skins in salted. The rest our customers send them in salted. Throughout the years, we have seen salted skins sent to us that turn out beautifully, but there were others that nearly did not make it through the process. We quickly understood what made the difference - the best tan comes from skins that were scraped clean and dried completely hard.
Why We Always Use Clean Salt
After we split and turn the capes, they immediately go the salt table for a thorough salting. We always use clean salt. Reusing old salt is harmful to the process. We are fighting bacteria here, and used salt contains a load of it!
The Benefits of a Salt Rack
After the first salting the skins go on to our salt rack to drain overnight. Our salt rack is a simple contraption. It has a wooden frame that stands about 4’ high. On top of the frame is a couple layers of PVC lattice, the kind you can get at the hardware store. The skins dry on the lattice overnight draining on to the floor, the discarded fluids running to a trench drain. The next morning, the old salt is shaken and beaten off the skins. At that point, we apply another dose of salt to the skins. Once they are completely drained, they go to the drying room.
A Drying Room is Necessary
We have found that a drying room is essential. Before we built one at our shop, we were challenged by fluctuating humidity levels because having multiple pickles and tans in the same room increases moisture in the air. To combat this, we built a drying room and lined it entirely with heavy plastic to keep outside moisture from entering. Installed two marine-type stainless steel dehumidifiers, along with two powerful fans. Once the skins enter the room, drying is complete and quick.
The Ultimate Goal
The end goal in salt drying is to reduce the moisture content of the skin below 15% - that is the level where bacteria action is stopped. After that, they can be stored safely in a dry or cold storage. If you fail to do so, and let them remain in a damp room, the skins will absorb moisture and bacteria will become an issue.
Connect with Us