Hide Tanning Recipes

    by Sandra Webster

    About the Author

    Sandra Webster is the circulation manager at a small library. She has been a part-time freelance writer since 2002 working for several different websites. She writes keyword articles and Web content focused on family activities, crafts and wedding planning, as well as poetry and mystery/thriller short stories and an occasional book review and blog entry.


    There are many hide tanning recipes that will produce supple, strong material for your leather working needs. Each recipe produces a different result and some work better on different hides than others. Experimenting will help determine your favorite look and feel. Wear rubber gloves and safety goggles when working with caustic agents, and work slowly.

    Bark Tanning

    Prepare the solution for bark tanning hides two to three weeks before you begin the process. Grind 30 to 40 pounds of oak or hemlock bark in a grist or hammer mill with a fine screen. Pour the ground bark into a wooden barrel or plastic container that is big enough to hold 60 gallons. Add 20 gallons of hot water to the bark, and stir thoroughly. Let the mixture stand for two to three weeks, stirring occasionally. This makes enough for one large hide, or several small hides.

    Chrome Tanning

    Make the solution for chrome tanning hides at least 48 hours before you begin the tanning process. Dissolve 1¾ pounds of sodium carbonate crystals in 1½ gallons of warm, soft water along with 3 pounds of salt in a wooden barrel or plastic container. Dissolve 6 pounds of chromium potassium sulfate crystals in a second wooden barrel or a plastic container with 4½ gallons of cold water. Combine the two solutions by slowly pouring the first solution into the second solution, stirring constantly.

    Salt-Alum Tanning

    Dissolve 1 pound of alum in a wooden or plastic container that is holding 1 gallon of warm, soft water. Dissolve 2½ pounds of salt in a second similar container that is holding 4 gallons of water. Pour the salt solution slowly into the alum solution, stirring constantly. Let cool. Make this solution the same day you begin the tanning process.

    Alum-Carbolic Acid Tanning

    Prepare a solution of 1½ tablespoons of carbonic acid crystals for every gallon of water needed to cover the hide. Immerse the hide and soak overnight. The next day, prepare a solution by dissolving ½ pound of salt, ¼ pound of alum and ½ ounce of carbolic acid crystals for every gallon of warm, soft water needed to cover the hide. Let it cool, then remove the hide from the first solution and soak it in the second until it is done. Determine this by cutting a small piece of hide from the edge to see if the color is the same all the way through. Make the first solution on the day you begin the tanning process and the second solution the next day when you continue the tanning process.

    Sulphuric Acid Tanning

    Fill a wooden barrel or plastic container with enough water to cover the hide. Dissolve ½ pound of salt for each gallon of water, then carefully stir in ½ ounce of sulfuric acid per gallon of water used. Cool the solution before adding the hide. Make this solution on the same day you begin the tanning process.

    Acid Oil Tanning

    Dissolve ¼ pound of salt in a wooden or plastic container containing ½ gallon of warm, soft water. Let it cool, then very carefully pour in ¼ ounce of sulfuric acid, stirring constantly. Apply the solution to the flesh side of the hide with a paintbrush, then sprinkle a layer of sawdust over it. Cover with plastic and let sit for 8 to 12 hours. Scrape off the sawdust and apply a coating of neat’s foot oil mixed with an equal part of lukewarm water. Stretch the skin until it is dry, then dampen with a mixture of 1½ tablespoons carbolic acid crystals that have been in dissolved in 1 gallon warm, soft water. Roll tightly and let sit 24 hours before resuming the tanning process.


    • Tan Your Hide! By Phyllis Hobson: Storey Books 1977