Tawed but not tanned

I dug around in my stack of 2018-2019 sheepskins today with the intention of choosing which one to start with. I honestly can’t remember where I left off in the tanning process with any of them, only that I’m sure I hadn’t gotten as far as smoking.

Based on the condition they’re in, I at least acidified them. Mercifully there is no rot or hair slip.

That means that I salted them all really well, and I think I actually tawed most of them. Tawing is similar to tanning, and is something I always do before I soap and smoke pelts.

When I taw pelts I use salt and a generous amount of alum dissolved in water. I soak the skins until they’re pickled, white, and swollen. If the weather is warm, I apply the salt and alum directly to the skin without water; I’ve found that when it’s much above 70 degrees things are happening faster and skins are more likely to be ruined.

To be honest I’m chuffed that all these skins lasted in my garage, near an open window, subject to all weather, for almost 3 years. Salt is powerful stuff.

You can see from the photos I took of 3 of the skins that the wool is still dirty. I remember being hesitant to wash them because I couldn’t imagine how to get them dry; it was so humid and then it was so cold.

I’m tempted to start with one of the shearlings because the wool is so short. But that seems like trying to take the easy way out, so I’ll start with one of the long wooled tawed hides instead.

Also, I did this today.

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