Which is Best?
I’m often asked this question by taxidermists: should I wet tan or dry tan my skins? In some instances, the answers are quite obvious and self-explanatory. In other instances, they aren’t. For example, all flat hides and rugs should be dry tanned. However, when you’re referring to capes and lifesize skins, the answers differ with almost every taxidermist.
Over the years, I have decided not to try and convince a taxidermist which type is the best tan for them. Although if asked, I will advise them and give my honest opinion. I believe that small skins such as squirrel, weasel, rabbit, dik-dik, suni and grysbok along with many other small species are best suited for wet tanning. There are two reasons behind this logic. First of all the smaller skins don’t dry as stiff as larger skins do. Therefore, drumming and the pulling of stitches aren’t a problem. Secondly, during the tanning process, a smaller skin is less likely to get torn or lose parts such as tails, legs, and hooves. Another reason for choosing wet tans would be a 14-day wet tan service like the one available at Quality Fur Dressing. We offer quick service with no additional rush fees, which allows for a faster return on investment for the taxidermist.
With all wet tanning, it is very important for the taxidermist to properly prepare the form by thoroughly sanding and using a high-quality hide glue or paste.
Some taxidermists like the options of a 14-day wet tan. The fast return time allows them to accommodate their customer by expediting the mount if requested. Skins already wet tanned can be pulled from the freezer upon request and mounted the very next day. Having these items in your freezer and at your fingertips is a huge plus when it comes to customer service. If this is something you chose to do then remember, all wet tans must be kept in the freezer and frozen until use. By using wet tans, you can also eliminate the soak up procedure associated with dry tanning.
All Wet Tans are Not the Same
Wet tans vary considerably from tannery to tannery. Some tanneries just pull skins from the vats or drums, drain the skins, drop them in bags and ship. At Quality Fur Dressing we will sawdust, cage, brush, air off, neatly fold and freeze your skins before placing them in boxes for shipping. This removes some of the moisture, which decreases return shipping cost for the taxidermist. Bactericides and fungicides are very important to prevent mold and bacteria from growing on your skins which can cause hair slip during shipping. This is especially important during the hot summer months. Another important factor is the use of a swabbing oil or fatliquor to minimize shrinkage during the drying process once the animal has been mounted. Many tanneries will say their wet tanned skins do not shrink during the drying process due to the type of oil they use, but I have yet to see this be true. This is the only disadvantage to wet tanning and why many taxidermists don’t like it. The larger the skin, the more shrinkage you have and the smaller the skin, the less shrinkage. Once again this is why I recommend wet tanning on small items.
Dry Tan Process
There are some skins that should never be wet tanned in my opinion. A few of these species are larger animals like the ones imported into the United States from Africa by Well Worldwide Logistics. These include but are not limited to giraffe, hippo, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. The skin structure is tighter with these types of animals, which may cause drumming, the pulling of stitches and loss of muscle detail.
At Quality Fur Dressing a specially formulated non-water soluble grease is used on our dry tans, followed by a rigorous kicking action in our kicking machines. By implementing this process, we can completely coat each and every fiber throughout the entire thickness of the skin. As a taxidermist, you will find that our specialized procedure will decrease mounting time due to less carding and not require re-sculpting of muscle structure on the second day. You will notice that when the skin completely dries, it’s almost as soft as when it was freshly tanned. This is true for all types of skins, including African, and is why I recommend dry tanning for large skin and capes.
I hope that you have found suggestions in this article to be informative and helpful. After reading and if you’re still not sure which tanning method to choose, do your own comparison and mount a few pieces using each type of tanned skin. Then judge for yourself which tan service works the best for your business. Or maybe you will use both.