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How to tan a snake skin


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#1 Johanna

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 10:53 AM

Some of this advice conflicts with the Keltons' advice in the other thread, so take it for what it is worth. This was written by a fellow in Georgia who made beautiful skins, and sold them to leatherworkers, who preferred them to commercially tanned ones. He gave me permission to post his info, but asked that I not publish his name.



(If you have no reason to eat and/or skin the snake, leave it be.)

So You Killed a Snake...

Now that your nerves are settled down, why not make something with his skin? Be careful if you killed a poisonous snake. The venom sacs will still be active, so do not allow the fangs to touch your skin, or try to squirt the glands clean. Cut off the head and discard it.



Tanning the Skin

First, skin the snake. Start by cutting off the head. Use sharp scissors to cut up the center of the snake’s belly. Then turn him inside out (think peeling a banana!) Unless you plan to eat the meat, dispose of the head and body flesh. Salt the skin with non iodized salt only. Store the skin in a plastic container for no more than 24 hours. Rinse the skin in warm water. Check carefully for remaining flesh, and remove any with a table knife. Notice, at no point is this skin in the freezer. Don’t put snakes or their skins in the freezer. It upsets spouses, and it ruins the hide.



You need RepTan or some other commercially available snakeskin tanning solution. Contrary to popular myth, anti-freeze is not going to work. Use gloves and appropriate protection, because the chemicals are harsh. Hang skin with clothespin to dry after following the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the skin, this could be two days or two weeks. Scale the dry snakeskin under warm running water. Expect a rough texture at first, until the scales come off. This job is completed when the skin is soft and supple. If you plan to dye or enhance the color of the skin, this is the time.



Using the Skin

Under good lighting, inspect your snake hide. Check for imperfections or problems with the fit of your project. Hold it up to a light to identify any flaws, weak spots or potential problems. Lay your project out to minimize waste. Be observant to the unique patterns and color variations of the skin to get the maximum effect on your project.



Inlay work is done by cutting the base (cow) leather with a sharp swivel knife. Bevel for a better depth effect. Affix snakeskin with a glue or cement that will not bleed through. Use a modeling tool or stone to work out any bubbles or crookedness. Whether stitched or appliquéd, the holes need punched together. Do not try to punch two pieces of leather and then “match them up”. Always drive the punch through both at the same time.



If making a belt, position the scales to “slide like the snake did” or eventually the friction of going through the loops of the pants will damage the snake hide.



To seal the snake skin, Leather Balm with Atom Wax or Carnuba Cream should be applied, allowed to dry and buffed. Then Neat Lac should then be applied, buffed, allowed to dry, and buffed again. Inspect the hide and decide whether conditioner should be applied (Dr. Jackson’s Hide Rejuvenator is an excellent choice), then buff again, wait a day, and guess what? Buff it some more. Buff with the grain (head to tail is the direction you should be going) using scrap sheepswool.



Snakeskin is very strong if the tension on it is even. It is important to glue it tight, allowing no air bubbles between it and the backing leather. Edges that are not flush or laced are vulnerable. Check the project for stress points and reduce unnecessary folds and bends that may weaken the snake hide. Over the life of the finished project, inspect and condition the skin as needed. Snakeskin can be quite striking (I know, bad pun!) and quite a conversation starter. Enjoy!

You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. - Mark Twain


#2 Romey

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 12:34 AM

I have always skinned it and tossed it in a jar of salt/lexol, left it for a couple weeks, stretched it, once dry more rub lexol to soften it back up and done deal. I have a belt made years ago like when i was 16 that still has the first skin done this way on it, no rot, no smell just a belt with rattler on it. Old cowhand taught me that, right wrong or otherwise.
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#3 wayner123

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 12:54 PM

I have always skinned it and tossed it in a jar of salt/lexol, left it for a couple weeks, stretched it, once dry more rub lexol to soften it back up and done deal. I have a belt made years ago like when i was 16 that still has the first skin done this way on it, no rot, no smell just a belt with rattler on it. Old cowhand taught me that, right wrong or otherwise.



What ratio of salt to Lexol?

And what Lexol product did you use?

#4 DCKNIVES

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 09:54 PM

The method I use came from a taxidermist my wife talked to.It is as follows, wash the skin in water and dishwashing liquid like Dawn, and hang to dry a bit. When thoroughly dry, stretch out and pin down on some cardboard. Apply the following mixture liberally, 1/3 Denatured Alcohol,1/3 Acetone, and 1/3 Glycerin. When dry repeat on the other side. Hang to dry , then apply baby powder and rollup and place in a ziplock bag for storage.So far this has worked for me, but I am open to better methods.Dave





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