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Stretching & Breaking a Skin

What is the Difference Between Stretching a Skin and Breaking a Skin.

Yes, there is a difference!

The two processes "Stretching" and "Breaking" require the tanner to work on the flesh side of the skin. It can be said that it is hard work and requires strength and patience. However, if done properly, the result is a beautifully soft, pliable/supple skin.

Stretching (for Flat Skin/s and Preparation of Skin/s for Taxidermy)
Stretching is a manual pulling motion to the hide. The point of stretching a hide is to retain the shape and to soften the fibres allowing the oil to penetrate the hide. When the skin is drying it will shrink and stretching it will loosen up the fibres. We recommend stretching the hide/s length x width.

Breaking (Only for Flat Skin/s)
Breaking a hide is a mechanical process which achieves a soft and very pliable skin at the end of the tanning process. Breaking is, as it says, breaking up the pelts fibres (ie: the hides fibres are interlocked/woven. Once you break those fibres, the pelt becomes very soft). The more breaking the softer and looser the skin becomes.

How Do I Stretch and Break A Skin?

Stretching (for Flat Skin/s and Preparation of Skin/s for Taxidermy)
We recommend you stretch a hide length ways by width. Below is a video demonstration of a pelt being stretched. Note that while you are stretching a hide, you may come across dry patches. Just moisten those patches with some water and stretch once the skin has absorb the water. You may notice that the pelt has a blue tinge prior to stretching. Once you stretch it, you'll notice the hide will go white/flesh coloured.

Breaking (Only for Flat Skin/s)

Breaking is a mechanical process. This part of the process requires a tool. If you have a fleshing knife, the easiest way to break a hide is to place the hide over your beam, a log or post and rub the skin in a downward motion using the convex (dull side) of you knife. Alternatively, you may wish to use a wooden edge such as a table edge, the back of a chair, side of a desk or similar, to break the hide. In order to get the results, the hide needs to be rubbed hard up against the edge of the table to break the fibres. Do not use a sharp knife as this would certainly cut a hole in the hide.

(Video Demo - Coming Soon)!

When do I stretch the hide and when do I break?

Stretching (for Flat Skin/s and Preparation of Skin/s for Taxidermy)

You need to stretch a hide before oiling and during the oiling process - this is so the pelt absorbs the oil whilst it is drying.

Working the pelt by stretching ensures that the fibres don't shrink and become hard woven.

Breaking (Only for Flat Skin/s)

Breaking can only be started when the hide is 90 - 95% dry. The leather will naturally dry out while you are working with it. You’ll know it’s getting dry, because it will start to crack. It is the end of the tanning process. Breaking can be done until the tanner is happy with the result. The more work put into the breaking process the softer the result. We recommend that breaking be done width and then by length as this will achieve a natural line. A successful skin is quite soft and pliable when completely dry.

The beginner should be well aware that it is often difficult to achieve professional quality in the first few attempts especially with heavy hides such as those from mature cows and big game.

Welcome any comments or questions at any time.

TIP: The perfect dried pelt will look blueish or silver in colour. If the pelt is white, then it's too wet and if the pelt looks brownish in colour then it's too dry.



Fleshing - What, Why and How?


The underside of the animal skin is known as the flesh side - or more commonly, the pelt or leather side. It's this side of the pelt that needs to be fleshed during the tanning process. The Pizzari's Home Tanning Kits Instruction Leaflets will inform the user of when fleshing needs to occur during the tanning process.

It has been said that fleshing a hide is the most difficult part of the tanning process. It requires care and attention to detail as it is very easy for a a blade to cut through the hide or hair roots.
TIP: If the pelt is still white when fleshing, then you need to flesh more. If the pelt changes to a blueish or silver grey colour then you have fleshed the perfect amount off the pelt. However, if you notice dots, you have cut through to the hair roots which will result in the hair falling out - you have fleshed too far.
At Pizzari's Home Tanning Kits, we sell 8" Single Blade Fleshing Knives. You'll note that the knives are not sharpened when sent out to our customers. We do not sharpen our fleshing knives for the simple fact that every hunter or taxidermist flesh a range of different hides that are of different thicknesses. For example, the sharpness of a blade needs to be considerably dull to flesh a rabbit hide compared to the sharpness of a blade when fleshing a Sambar hide.
Do I need to Flesh the Skin?
The simple answer is yes. The skin needs to be fleshed and the reason for this is that the finer the pelt the better the result. Once a hunter or taxidermist has fleshed a hide, the hide goes back in to the tan bath. This is where the most important process takes place. The tanning agents now penetrate the skin in the preservation process. If the hide has not been fleshed, the tanning agent will not penetrate and you may as well have soaked the skin in a bucket of water.

However, with the above said, be aware that shaving too deep can damage the hide as you can easily cut through the hair roots. See the below example of a hide that has been cut too close.

Tools For Fleshing

For ease during the fleshing process, you should use a fleshing beam/board. The beam has rounded corners and edges and is typically about 6 inches in diameter and about 6 feet long. If you prefer not to go out and spend money purchasing one, you can make your own. I've seen some done with plywood, PVC pipe etc. There are plenty of internet sites that can give you some good tips and advice on DIY fleshing beams.

Note: which ever material you use to make your own beam, you need to make certain that the surface of the beam is very smooth. Any hint of a ridge, wood knot or raised edge runs the risk of you slicing/cutting your hide with your fleshing knife.

Secondly, a good fleshing knife is an important part of the process. The fleshing knife is used to cut away all the flesh (fat and mussel).

At Pizzari's Home Tanning Kits, you can purchase your very own fleshing knife. These knives have been imported from the US. They are a single edged, single blade, double handled knife and the blade is 8 inches long.

The fleshing knife blade must be sharp enough to suit the type of skin you doing. Sharpness can range from - dull enough to run your fingers over with some pressure and not getting cut to extremly sharp. If anything, err on the side of too dull with your fleshing knife which will work just fine but will require a bit more energy.

Other than the above, you need some good elbow grease, time, patience and attention to detail to get the best results from fleshing.
It's Time to Flesh, What Do I Do Now?

Below is a short demonstration on good fleshing technique. Take a look and have a read of the details below. This video is a good example of the technique you should use when fleshing a hide.

Set one end of the log on the ground, the other end on a cross-brace about waist high. Lay the hide on the beam (hair side down) with the head hanging down one side, the tail down the other so that as you shave down the beam, your shaving the hide from one side to the other side, not head to tail. If you have a beam similar to the one shown in the video, you can lean against the beam and it will hold the hide in place. Run the concave edge of the knife down the skin shaving off the excess flesh, fat and mussel. Keep in mind that the purpose is to eventually thin it down using even and slow cuts. Don't cut too deep or you'll cut the hair roots. It's better to take your time and leave just a little too much on rather than going too deep and cutting the hair roots.

Be very careful around the eyes, lips, ears and nose of a hide. You may want to use a scalpel around these areas of the skin.

Let me know if you have any questions regarding the fleshing process. Or if you have any tips for others on making their own beams.


What You Get In Your Kit

Both the 25 Litre and the 55 Litre Kits come with the following products:
  • 1 Bag (25 Litre) or 2 Bags (55 Litre) of Tanning Agent.
  • 2 Bags of Tanning Chemical.
  • 1 Bottle of Lube.
  • 1 Set of Instructions on how to tan hides caped for mounting (eg: taxidermy).
  • 1 Set of Instructions on how to tan hides for flat skins (eg: rugs).

The instructions will guide you through, step-by-step, the whole tanning process. Details include: preparation and salting, how to prepare your tanning bath, fleshing, softening and breaking.

The tanning agents in the kits are fur garment quality tanning agents. It is a white tan and will not stain your pelt or hair/fur unlike some of the tanning kits that are on the market.

The products used in our tanning kits have been used by one of Australia's top professional tanners for over 35 years.

The Small Kits (25 Litre) will tan approximately: 1-2 Fallow Deer Skin/s or 2-3 Goat Capes or 4-6 Fox Skins.

The Large Kits (55 Litre) will tan approximately: 1 Sambar Deer Skin or 4-5 Fallow Deer Skins.

If you have any questions regarding our Kits, don't hesitate to contact me at any time.



Preperation Of Skins

Skin/Hide Preparation for Tanning
Some questions I get asked on the the preparation process:

Once I cut the hide from the animal, what do I do next?
Fresh skins deteriorate very quickly, so it should be said that any hunter who has just taken a hide from an animal should treat it as if it were a piece of meat. An animal hide can go off just as quickly if it is not given the TLC it needs in preparation for the tanning and taxidermy processes. If not treated with the care it requires, a skin will go rotten anywhere between taking the hide from the animal right up until the tanning process.
With the above said, the hide needs to be salted as soon as possible and therefore I advise, for anyone that asks, that salt should be taken with them on their hunting trips. The sooner the hide is salted the better.

Aside from salting a hide, the next most important step in the process is to get the hide cooled down as quickly as possible.

Why Salt?
The reason salting a fresh hide is important, at this early stage, is to extract the moisture from within the hide. The salt draws the moisture out. If the moisture remains, and the hide is at or above room temperature for a period of time, bacteria will grow . This bacteria affects the hair follicle resulting in hair slip. That is, the hair begins to fall out in clumps.
Salt is also an anti-bacterial agent that helps to preserve the skin.

The best salt to use for preparing the skin is fine salt (not rock salt). This is easy to obtain as you can generally get it from your local supermarket.
What sort of steps should I take if I'm not going to tan immediately?
Step 1: Lay the skin flat and cover the hide in approximately 1-2cms of salt on the pelt/leather side in a cool and dry place. Try and have the skin sloping downward if possible. This helps drain away the moisture being extracted from the skin by the salt. Don't hang the skin as you may find that the salt falls off. Step 2: After about 12 hours or less, the salt will have drawn out as much moisture as it possibly can and the hide should be shaken and more salt reapplied. Lay the hide out flat again in a cool dry place for about 2 days.

If you have caped an animal to be mounted, ensure you salt around the eyes, nose, mouth and pack the ears with salt. Remember, it's better to have too much salt than not enough. It is important to keep reapplying exhausted salt if you are not able to get it to a freezer in the next 24 hours.

Step 3: Roll up the hide and put into a bag in the freezer until it is ready to be tanned. A hide can last a few years in the freezer as long as it is frozen solid.

Some hunters choose to leave the skin lying out flat to dry in the salt completely. I do not advise this as the hides are harder to tan when prepared this way.
What sort of steps should I take if I want to tan immediately?
If you are going to tan the hide immediately, you should do the following:
  • Once you have the skin home, put it into a brine bath of salt and water (20grams of salt per litre of water). Wash the pelt and let it then re-hydrate back to it's normal and original feel. It is only necessary to put a skin into a brine to re-hydrate the skin. It should not be left any longer as there is a risk that the skin can rot in the water. Once re-hydration is achieved, you are ready to tan using the Pizzari's Home Tanning Kit.
If you have any further questions regarding the above or want any information about tanning using the Pizzari's Home Tanning Kit please do not hesitate to contact me.

Pizzari's Home Tanning Kits

Pizzari's Home Tanning Kits

The most comprehensive, easy to follow, DIY Home Tanning Kit for Hunters and Taxidermists.

We also sell quality fleshing knives - The one piece blade design is tough and can be sharpened to your liking. The handle will not break off. Good beginner knives.

Visit us at: for any oders or questions.

or contact

Leah Pizzari - or on 0402 323 963