10 Days of Tanning Hides in Sweden
We have much to thank animals for. They provide us with food for nourishment, bones to make tools with and sinew for thread. But uniquely, animals give us their hides. Animal skins have been used since the beginning of time for clothing, shoes, shelter, cordage, containers, boats, backpacks and more. It is hard to imagine how we could have survived without the gift of animal skins. Everywhere in the world our ancestors developed the skills to turn hides into dresses, trousers, boots, bags, and other essential items. Transforming a hide into strong leather, or durable supple buckskin, or essentially warm fur, has given humans the opportunity to migrate and settle in the most remote places in the world. Being able to make and construct good quality well fitted clothing is an ancestral revolution much overlooked. And although we have maintained the skills of tailoring and sewing, we have lost the art of tanning; of preparing and preserving the strongest ‘cloth’ of all.
Preserving and tanning hides is often perceived as a mysterious, difficult and dirty chemical process. Although there are undeniable stages of hard work and real smells, we will show you that the tanning process itself is done with 100% natural ingredients. You’ll be offered a variety of animal hides to scrape, clean and tan. You’ll be shown various tanning methods to work with, so that you can be confident that you can easily continue to tan hides at home.
In this course you will learn 2 types of tanning in 4 different ways. This includes:
- Buckskin tanning
- Fur on tanning
- Fish hide tanning
- Bark/vegetable tanning
you will make supple buckskin from deer or doe. The buckskin tanning process includes wet scraping, rinsing, membraning, dressing, wringing, softening and finishing with a smoke tan.
Fur on Tanning;
you will learn the more delicate process of fur tanning process in which you preserve the warm winter pelt.
Fish skin Tanning;
you will learn how to tan Salmon fish skins! This is a niche and specialist tanning method. Fish leather can be used for both clothing and bags. Fish skins produce extremely strong leather!
you will learn the patient process of bark tanning a hide. Bark tanned hides are infused with wonderful deep earthy colours and make an extremely durable product suitable for belts, shoes and hard-wearing items.
With every method you will work through the full process of transforming fresh skins into beautiful supple and wearable end products. After this course you will be able to work on any skin by yourself. And who knows? Soon you’ll be able to make your own Hunter/Gatherer outfit!
You will create, learn and make
- The principles and in-depth theory of preserving hides
- Careful removal of skins from animals
- Several methods for storing fresh skins for later use
- Suitable, easy and difficult animal hides for tanning
- Health, safety and hygiene
- Make buckskin for clothing
- ‘Reading’ a hide’s inherent structure and strength
- Tanning Tools and Equipment
- Scraping and Fleshing
- Bucking and Rinsing
- Natural Tanning Recipes
- Smoking hides for colour and preservation
- Building a ‘smoke tent’
- How to select, collect and make ‘bark tannins’
- Tan a hide in bark solution
- Fish skin tanning; oil and tannin method
- Fur tanning for warm winter clothing
- Suitability of various skins, furs and methods
- Different softening options
- Maintaining and looking after furs and leather
- Reference books you want on your shelves
- Examples of finished products for inspiration
- Advice on what to make with your finished skins!
- You go home with several finished skins.
Processing fresh skins into buckskin is an intensive job. We go through the whole process, from scraping the skins to the final step of smoking the softened skins. You certainly will do a lot of tanning!!
The course consists of 10 days. The first 8 days are of an intensive mix of in-depth information, theory, and many hours of sustained physical work of preparation, scraping, wringing, and softening of hides. As the course progresses you will be able to work at your own tempo. The final days are reserved for ‘catching up’, relaxing, exploring and doing the projects you like to do.
The course will be led by Thijmen Apswoude and Steven LeSay. Both Steven and Thijmen are living experts on Primitive crafts and resourceful teachers of ancient skills and bushcraft. Steven is based in Sussex, England and founded Axe and Paddle Bushcraft in 2012. He teaches a vast range of primitive and frontier skills crafts, such as paddle carving, moccasin making, fur tanning and much more.
We will be camping in one of the most beautiful and wild locations LivingbyNature has access to. There are pine and spruce forests as far as the eye can see and if you’re up early you might be lucky and see beavers that leave their tracks all along the banks of the meandering river. The river is abundant with fish. There are also moose roaming around and you can often hear them pushing through the brush at night. You’ll be sure to see their tracks and sign in the mornings around our camp. It is a wonderful location to be and learn the art of tanning.
Tanning is a messy job. You are strongly advised to bring several outfits of old clothes and boots/wellies. In addition, do bring several pairs of comfortable, strong but waterproof gloves, as you will spend many days scraping fresh and wet skins. It is also essential that you bring a long, waterproof apron to keep your clothes dry whilst scraping skins. We also recommend that you bring a bucket with closing lid, so that you can take easily transport any unfinished skins home.