Year-Course Tanning 2022
Have you ever wanted to learn the nuances of turning a raw skin into beautiful, durable, and useable leather? This set of courses offers an in-depth study of four different variations of tanning including wet scrape and dry scrape fat tan (buckskin), bark tanning and a special course specific to fur or hair-on tanning. You will benefit from the combined experience of two highly qualified instructors and be given the opportunity to work with skins from a variety of different species. This set of courses will cover beginner to advanced techniques and theory and will progress you as a student from species which are easily tanned through to much more challenging and unusual animals. Skins which you may never have the opportunity to work with outside these courses, such as birds, reptiles and unusual fur bearers. After completing courses like these we can guarantee you will never look at leather the same way again!
The courses will consist of 12 weekends with tanning specialists Dr Theresa Emmerich & Thijmen Apswoude. We will delve into different techniques to deal with variety of fibre structures inherent to a range of species, how to deal with BIG skins, as well as cover many of the myriad possibilities which exist for fur-on, fat-tanning and bark-tanning! Then, of course there are the skins themselves…. a selection of what we have to offer will be: Roe deer, Fallow deer, Red deer, Reindeer, Moose, Fox, Racoon, Raccoon dog, Beaver, Seal, a variety of fish, internal organs, birds and reptiles (snake). We have had a wonderful response since sharing the idea for this course and we are excited to offer it!
Below is the breakdown of the four sets of three weekends, each covering a different variation of tanning methods.
3 Weekends of Wet Scrape Technique Fat Tanning:
This set of three weekends will cover the basic method of wet scrape fat tanning beginning with a roe deer. You will take the skin through the full process from raw skin to the beautiful, soft, and durable finished product. After just one weekend you will have the knowledge and skills to produce a wonderful type of leather suitable for clothing, soft shoes, bags, blankets, and an infinite variety of utilitarian items.
The following 2 weekends will cover in-depth theory and chemistry of fat tanning. We will go through variations of ground substance removal including alkalizing vs aging vs sweating (a controlled rotting process), as well as species specific techniques such as pre-smoking and discuss the seasonal variation seen in mammal skins. This course provides students with a unique opportunity to work with a variety of species and animal products including fish, internal organs, birds, reptiles, and mammal skin.
You will come away with an understanding of the variations possible in the process of Wet Scraping which will allow you to modify the steps of the process to suit multiple environments and time frames. You will have the opportunity to use different tool types specific to the Wet Scraping method and you will leave well equipped to tan almost anything you come across over the course of your future tanning.
- Weekend 1—Grain-off Fat Tanning. Roe Deer, Entire process– Push and Pull beam techniques and tools, Alkalizing, Dressing solution options, Multiple softening techniques and In-depth Theory and Chemistry of Fat Tanning.
- Weekend 2—Fat tanning fish skins, Colons and Bladders. Dermo-morphology and the differences between fish and mammal skin, organ tissue and skin (dermal tissue). Colouring using tannins and pigments. Talk about seasonal, age and sex-based differences in both mammal and fish skin.
- Weekend 3—Tan Female Red deer. Cover Big Hide Theory (Pre-smoke, smoke/re-soften, the importance of good pre-processing). Detail how to hand soften big skins including the use of staking posts, fixed edge ‘cables and Scandinavian Clamp frames. Trouble shooting (scar tissue, discolouration, insect damage, dermal degradation from mould, or bacteria and thick vs thin areas of skin). The importance of working clean. Fat Tanning Bird and Reptile skins and smoking all skins tanned in the previous weekends.
Weekends of Dry Scrape Fat Tanning for Big Skins:
This course offers an alternate method to Wet Scraping to produce a Fat Tanned skin, colloquially referred to as Buckskin. It is especially useful for processing large skins such as Red Deer and Moose. This set of four weekends will cover the basic method of Dry Scrape Fat Tanning. You will take a Fallow Deer and Red Deer through the full process from raw skin to the beautiful, soft, and durable finished product and work as a group to process a Moose hide (Bison?). These larger thicker skins are suitable for shoes, heavier weight jackets, backpacks, straps, and thong and have even been used for tent coverings by many cultures around the world.
The weekends will build on theory and chemistry of fat tanning covered during Wet Scraping. We will go through species specific techniques such as thinning and pre-smoking and discuss variations of ground substance removal including alkalizing vs aging vs sweating (a controlled rotting process), and review the seasonal variation seen in mammal skins. This course provides students with a unique opportunity to work with a variety of large mammal skins.
You will have the opportunity to use different tool types specific to the Dry Scrape method and you will feel well equipped to tackle any large skins such as Red Deer, Moose or Bison which you may encounter in your future tanning.
- Weekend 1—Wash, Frame, De-flesh and let dry individual Fallow and Red Deer skins and the group Moose hide. In-depth Theory and Chemistry Fat Tanning. Toothed tools vs Flat edged tools.
- Weekend 2— De-grain, Thin and Dress all skins. In-depth explanation of Dry Scraping tools and techniques. (Take skins out of frames and students take home)
- Weekend 3— Re-hydrate and Dress Dried Skins. Pre-smoke and Pre-soften. Final Dressing of Skins. Re-frame and final softening of the skins. Final smoking
3 Weekends of Fat Tanning Furs:
This set of three weekends will cover Fat Tanning skins with the hair or fur on beginning with a fox and rabbit pelt. You will take each fur through the full process from raw skin to the beautiful, soft finished product. After just the first weekend you will have the knowledge and skills to produce beautiful Fat Tanned furs which rival every modern material for warmth and durability. They can be used to make incredibly warm clothing, boots, mittens, hats, and blankets.
The following weekends will cover in-depth theory and chemistry pertinent to fur skins. We will go through species specific techniques such as de-greasing, thinning, and pre-smoking and review the seasonal and regional variation seen in mammal furs. You will have the opportunity to use different tool types specific to processing fur skins. And we will cover many of the variations inherent between the pelts of different species, what they are best suited for and the variations in the process needed to make tanning some of the more difficult species go smoothly.
This course provides students with a unique opportunity to work with a large variety of furs such as fox, rabbit, beaver, badger, raccoon, muskrat, deer, and seal.
Dependent on availability we may be able to offer additional species for an extra cost.
- Weekend 1— Basic Dermo-morphology and In-depth theory specific to fur or hair-on tanning. Take a Fox and Rabbit pelt through the entire Fat tanning process. Example species will be provided to talk though differences in fur skins. Trouble shooting (bacterial damage (slipping), grease burning, and hair pull through).
- Weekend 2—Dealing with greasy skins. Theory and Dressing solutions specific to greasy species, How-to thin fur skins. Take a Beaver, Raccoon, and Muskrat through the full process from raw to finished fur.
- Weekend 3—Dressing and Softening in a frame. Rack, Dress and Soften a female Red Deer/ fallow (in a frame). Wet scrape (toothed tools) vs. Dry scrape (sharp tools). Thinning in a frame. Smoking all skins tanned during the course. In-depth Theory and Chemistry of smoking (cold vs warm, different woods or plant matter). Pigments and Over tannage. The basics of Sewing and Trouble Shooting problems encountered when crafting with fur.
3 Weekends of Bark Tanning:
This set of three weekends will cover the basic method of Vegetable Tanning for both hair off leather and hair on fur skins. Vegetable tanning is separate technology from Fat Tanning and though it requires a greater time commitment that Fat Tanning, Vegetable Tanned leather has less stretch and can be made more water resistant than Fat Tanned leather, making it worth the extra work for some applications.
Over the three weekends you will take multiple skins through the full process from raw skin to the beautiful, robust, and durable finished product. We will cover in-depth theory and the chemistry of Vegetable Tanning, the variations of ground substance removal including alkalizing vs aging vs sweating (a controlled rotting process) and how this process differs from the same processes used for Fat Tanning and will review species specific techniques pertinent for Vegetable Tanning. Some of the products we will include a variety of fish, internal organs, reptile skin (snake), Roe Deer, Fallow Deer, Fox, Muskrat, Beaver and Raccoon Dog.
These three weekends will provide you with the knowledge and skills to produce a wonderful type of robust, water-resistant leather suitable for outer clothing, robust shoes and boots, tents, bags, straps, and a large variety of items designed for heavy use.
- Weekend 1— Preservation of hides, De-fleshing, and Alkalising skins. Basic Dermo-morphology and Prepare Basic Bark solutions. Place Fallow deer skin, Roe deer skin, stomach, and bladder in tanning solutions.
- Weekend 2— In-depth Theory and Chemistry of Vegetable tanning and discussion of different tannins. Review Case Hardening and Raw Striping as an unintentional problem or, as an intentional choice. Produce different tannin solutions and place fish skins into a variety of solutions. Review the use of tannin-based solutions as pigments and dyes. Dress and soften stomach and bladder from weekend 1.
- Weekend 3— Fur-on Vegetable Tanning. In-depth Theory specific to Fur-on Vegetable tanning. Discuss pickling. Introduce Short Soak and Rub-On techniques of Vegetable tannage. Process a fur skin using the Rub-On and Short Soak techniques.Dress and soften fish hides from weekend 2. Soften hair-off Fallow and Roe skins from weekend 1 and the short soak furs from weekend 3. Cover theory on Dressing solutions and Finishing techniques. Plant walks through the landscape to identify locally available tannin rich plants useful for Vegetable Tanning.
Comfortable tools will be provided for the course, however, the option to buy your own set will be available!
Dr. Theresa Emmerich Kamper