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How to Taw Skins

    • 1). Acquire fresh sheep skin. If you will not be working the skin immediately, then cover it with table salt, roll it up and store it in a cool place for one or two days. If you wait longer, the maggots will get to the skin.

    • 2). Turn the skin wool side down and place it on an outdoor workbench that is not in the direct sunlight (you should do this in the cooler seasons when possible). Use a serrated knife to trim around the edges of the skin to remove manky parts. Scrape off remaining fats and tissues by holding your blade at approximately 90 degrees. Be careful not to cut or nick the skin.

    • 3). Clean off the skin as much as possible, including any maggots. With two people working on the skin, it should take three to four hours to get it clean. If you leave it dirty, it will smell. Place the skin in your washing machine on gentle wool cycle, maximum 30 degrees with a capful of wool liquid detergent.

    • 4). Mix 1.1 pounds of alum, 1.1 pounds of washing soda crystals and 2.2 pounds of table salt in a large plastic tub. Dissolve the minerals in the tub with warm water. There should be 6 inches of water in the bottom of your tub. Immerse your skin in the water and swish the skin around until it is well saturated. Place the lid on the tub and put the tub in the cool garage out of the sunlight.

    • 5). Mix the liquid daily with a stick. Wear rubber gloves to avoid touching the mixture with your hands. Continue this for three weeks. Lay the wet skin out on the grass and hose it off thoroughly. Then wash it in the washing machine on gentle wool cycle with a capful of liquid wool detergent. Dispose of the remaining liquid in the tub.

    • 6). Dry the skin when you remove it from the washing machine by placing it on a drying rack in the garage or a covered area. Allow it to dry for two days. Lay the skin wool side down on a clean, dry work surface that you will use for several weeks. When the edges start to harden and the slimy surface goes away, apply a coat of neatsfoot oil to the skin side. Work it in well, allow it to dry for 24 hours and then add a second coat.

    • 7). Stretch the wool several times each day by gently pulling away from the center. Each time you pull, the skin will lighten slightly. Be careful, as it will be easy to rip the skin at this stage. Once or twice a week work the skin with another person pulling opposite you. By the time all of the neatsfoot oil is absorbed, the skin should be tawed.

    • 8). Turn the skin over and lightly brush the remaining wool using a dog brush. Go slowly and try not to pull out any wool.

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