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Tan Your (goat) Hide
Bird McIver

My name is Bird McIver, and I was brought up in Hawaii. I am a saddlemaker, as a way to feed my horse addiction. When I lived on Molokai, the tanning recipe for hides with the hair on was given to me by an old cowboy who used it to tan the Axis deer, which were introduced for hunting, and to make cow hides into rugs. The rawhide recipe came from another old cowboy who does a lot of braiding and lacing. I live on the Big island of Hawaii and raise the big oldtimey Nubian goats, dual purpose, for meat and milk. My herdname is CB Farm. I have a CL and CAE free herd and am waiting for the State of Hawaii to get its scrapie program off the ground.
Happy tanning!

    Goat Rawhide Goat makes the most beautiful rawhide! It is lily-white, and does not stretch as much as cow.
  • Wash off the hide, removing fat and bits of meat. Do not salt: start while it is still fresh.
  • Take 1 part quicklime and 15 parts water. Slake the lime in a couple of gallons of water: stand back. Add the rest of the water.
  • Soak the hide in the solution in a nonmetal container until the hair slips off. About three days.
  • Scrape the hair and the cheesy layer of dermis off. The rough edge of a piece of lumber works great, and the pressure nozzle of the hose, and a putty knife.
  • Rinse well, soak in clear water for one day.
  • The next day, empty the water out, put in fresh water and about 1/4 to 1/2 gal. of vinegar. Soak for 24 hours.
  • The next day, soak for another 24 hours in plain water again.
  • Stretch the hide, hairside in, or nail it to a shady wall.
    A Good Way to Tan Goat Hides
  • Scrape all fat and meat off the hide while it is still fresh.
  • Wash thoroughly in warm water with laundry soap flakes and a little Clorox.
  • Rinse the hide thoroughly in clear, cold water.
  • Make pickling solution: Boil 5 gal. water and add 2 1/2 pounds of Alum (drugstore) while the water is boiling. Then add 15 lbs. of rock salt and stir a few minutes to dissolve. Put the solution in a nonmetal container to cool. (Pickling solution may be used 4-5 times over.)
  • Dunk the hide in the Pickling Solution so that it is covered and does not have any air pockets under it. Let the hide soak in the solution for about three weeks. (Two weeks for young goats.) Stir it once or twice a day.
  • After three weeks of soaking, take the hide out and rinse it thoroughly in soap flakes and Clorox as above to remove all salt.
  • Stretch the hide out carefully on a frame with the edges tacked down and dry in the shade vetically. Or nail it to the wall, hairside in.
  • After 4 or 5 days of drying, rub the under side with coarse sandpaper.
  • Fold the hide up and beat it with a bat or heavy stick, changing the folds often until the hide is soft all over.
    Note: The following points are important.
  1. Do not salt the hide down after skinning. Start on it while it is still fresh.
  2. Be sure to rinse out all salt thoroughly after removing the hide from the Pickling Solution, otherwise, the hide will sweat after it is finished.
  3. Use a nonmetal container. An old clawfoot bathtub works just great!
Bird McIver, Hawaii


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