Hi, I've got a squirrel hide that I'm having a problem tanning. I've tried tanning it in the washing machine with biological washing powder, but it has now gone quite hard. Also, I don't think I scraped the head enough as it's starting to smell a bit. Any suggestions on how to sort it out?
The washing machine is not the place for any animal skin. You could soak it in a mulch of bark bits - I think veg tanning is basically that. Probably too late to rescue the squirrel skin now though, there are no oils left in the skin and warm water will have hardened the leather.. I wonder if tea leaves would work, followed by a deep leather conditioner and beeswax?
Soak it in some water until it's a bit soft then sstart stretching it as you do so you'll notice the hide looking kind of "White" in the stretched places. Once it feels supple again let it dry until it's like a well srung out sponge or chamois ie; quite dry. Then take some warm water and scrape some soap bits into it to amake a "dressing," natural soap is the best or "sunlight" bar soap-not sure if that's available here. Add a table spoon of neats foot oil to the water and soap, if you don't have neats use something else. Neats is nice because it doesn't get rancid. Now once you have the warm soapy/oily water put the skin in and work it with your hands, gently pulling and stretching it to allow it to absorb the water solution. Once it has absorbed it squeeze it out well then roll it in an old towel to remove the excess water. Once it's like the well wrung chamois again then you can dry it fully. You MUST work it as it dries, so keep pulling it and working it. Don't wring it because it's too small and fragile a skin. Once it's totally dry it should remain supple. If not then you need to resoak and dress it again. A small skin like a squirrel shouldn't take that long to complete.