How to Prepare Hides for the Leather Program

Donated hides come from a variety of locations and individuals such as hunters, farmers, ranchers, slaughter houses, locker plants, taxidermists and highway departments to name just a few. The hides usually can be obtained for our Veteran Leather Program simply by asking, since many of these sources will just dispose of them.

Hides arrive at individual Lodges in various conditions including salted, unsalted, frozen, dry, dirty and in a variety of containers such as boxes or plastic bags. Sometimes they are simply rolled and tied. If hides have already begun to spoil, they cannot be used. Good hides need to be immediately thawed, spread, cleaned and salted in the following manner:

The equipment and material required to prepare hides for storage and shipment are relatively inexpensive and if not already available, may be obtained from local businesses as donations. Otherwise, they may be purchased for a nominal amount.

Hides can be salted on the ground, a clean surface or you may want to use a locally manufactured table. These can be made of barrels or saw horses and plywood.

A container of fine table salt or livestock salt (rock salt will not work) will be needed. You will also need a sharp knife for removing excess fat, flesh, tails and tags.

”Kitty litter” or sawdust under the loaded pallets will absorb much of the remaining juices and odor. Your thoughtfulness will also be appreciated by the truck driver.

Clean up around the salting area is fairly easy. Surgical rubber gloves and old clothing will keep this process safer and more sanitary.

If only a few hides are being prepared for shipment, plastic or cardboard barrels are acceptable. Palletizing of large quantities is preferred as it helps facilitate the quick loading of commercial trucks with the least amount of manpower. This also results in lower transportation costs.

Before being salted, the hide must be examined carefully to determine if it is still good. Spoiled hides can be identified by a peculiar odor, discoloration and if the hair begins to pull away from the hide easily. This means the hide is worthless and should be discarded.

Be very careful when processing hides. Avoid cutting even the smallest holes with a knife. All holes, bullets, arrows or just careless trimming will increase several times when the hides are processed at the tannery. Most tannery equipment stretches the hides and thereby increases the hole sizes. These holes can often change the quality hide into a barely useable one. A quality piece of leather will have very few holes, blemishes or scratches and can be used by the veterans for almost any type of project.

Before salting the hide, excess fat, flesh and the tail should be removed and discarded. Once this is done, fine table salt should be applied over all of the fleshy surface. A small animal will require four to five pounds of salt. A larger animal, such as a cow or an elk, might require as much as twelve pounds of salt.

After putting on rubber gloves, the salt should be thoroughly rubbed into all fleshy areas of the hide. Areas not salted will allow bacteria to develop and spread throughout the hide. The juices of the hide will mix with the salt and create a brine that will prevent bacteria growth.

When salting is completed, the edges of the hide should be folded in four to six inches to keep the moisture inside. This will keep the hides soft and pliable until they reach the tannery.
Processing hides that have been allowed to dry out is not cost-effective. They must be re-constituted in salt water, and then salted again before shipping. This is a labor-intensive time consuming process that should be avoided.
There are a couple of ways that the hides can be stacked on pallets after they have been salted and the edges rolled.
1. In colder climates, the hides, with the edges folded, can just be placed on the pallet, hair side down, one on top of the other.
2. In warmer climates, hides tend to spoil more rapidly. It is strongly recommended that these hides be again folded side to side and then placed on the pallet. This will help keep them in good condition until they reach the tannery.

Be sure to square up the pallet. This will facilitate the loading of the hides onto the commercial trucks with fork-lifts. In this regard, care should be taken to not overload the pallets to the point that the fork lift cannot get under the pallet to lift the hides.

Most commercial truck lines will require that the pallets be wrapped with shrink wrap.
When the hides are prepared, the containers of hides can be stored in a secure area, such as a CONEX container, discarded semi-truck trailer, shed, barn or just a fenced area, if inside storage is not available. Once the hides have been transported to the designated State collection point(s), the Director of the Elks National Veterans Service Commission, the Chairman of the Veterans Leather Program or one the assigned Vice-Chairmen should then be notified. They will arrange fro the most efficient transportation to the tannery. Their phone numbers are listed on the front of this manual, and on other Grand Lodge publications.

The Elks National Veterans Service Commission will pay the expenses for the transporting of salted hides from pre-designated State collection points to the tanneries. It will also cover the expense of tanning these hides.

• No hides should be individually sent to the tanneries.
• They should never be mailed “C.O.D” or by parcel post.
• Deposit hides at locally designated Lodge collection points as determined by your State Veterans Service Chairman or State Hides/Leather Chairman. The tanneries are not equipped to receive, sort, grade and account for small shipments from the Elks. Because tanneries are extending themselves above and beyond normal expectations to assist in our committee’s effort to serve our most deserving veterans, it is in our best interest to meet their requirements.
• The National Leather Program Chairman will coordinate tannery activities.



























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