Turn Your Hides Into Beautiful Leather
Whether you are a taxidermist, an outfitter, or an individual who has a hide you want turned into leather, you’ve come to the right place. In this section we’ll give you the information you need to start your hide’s journey into leather.
1. Prepare 2. Ship 3. Color 4. Process 5. Price
First Step: Preparing Your Hide

Quality leather starts with properly prepared hides. For most hides, follow these basic steps. For Alligator, Ostrich, and Beaver Tails see additional details at the bottom of this page or click these buttons:

Alligator Ostrich Beaver Tail
  1. Remove the hide from the animal ideally within 24 hours of harvesting.

  2. Remove the majority of the flesh and fat from the hide.

  3. Apply salt to the hide and allow to rest for an hour or so. This will significantly help in removing the final layer of flesh.

  4. Scrape away the remaining flesh to reveal the white membrane on the inner side of the hide. Take care not to make holes during fleshing. These damaged spots get larger during tanning.

  5. Apply salt a second time to the hide; place it flesh side up on a slope to facilitate draining and allow to dry.

The best salt to use is crystal table salt (ideally not iodized salt) as opposed to rock salt. Liberally salting the hide helps prevent bacterial deterioration of the skin and pulls liquid out of the skin, which helps the hide dry faster. Once the hide has dried, it can be rolled or folded for shipment to us.

Second Step: Shipping Your Hide
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Hides should be shipped to us fully fleshed, salted, and dry to the point they are no longer leaking. If the hide isn’t completely dry, it must be sealed to prevent any leaks during shipping – A garbage bag works nicely. Please tape all the seams on your box to prevent accidental leakage of fluids and/or salt. UPS, FedEx and USPS are all recommended shippers.

Inside the box: please include your signed, completed shipping form along with any additional instructions you may have. If the hide is still damp, it is a good idea to include this form in a sealed Ziploc bag to prevent loss of information. If you have a large number of hides or are forwarding a crate via LTL carrier, please contact us for assistance.

Shipping Form
Third Step: Selecting Your Color

At Specialty Leather, we offer 18 colors from which to choose. Your options are shown below, but bear in mind that not all computer monitors calibrate color equally. Individual hides and species can also contribute to slight variances in color. We make every effort to control the color tolerance of each dye batch to give you the most color consistency with your leather.

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Aster Blue
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Black
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Walnut
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Sand
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Saddle Tan
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Red
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Peanut Brittle
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Oxblood
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Navy
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Light Grey
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Dark Grey
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Cognac
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Chocolate
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Classic Cognac
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Buttercup
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Burgundy
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Buckskin
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Bone (Natural)


Fourth Step: Processing Your Hide
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Processing times vary depending on species and season, but generally we try to complete the tanning and dyeing of your hides within 10 weeks of receipt for domestic species and 14 weeks for African/Exotic species. For information on the various steps, see the page describing Our Process.

Fifth Step: Pricing
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Please give us a call - (515)433-0176 - for the most current pricing for tanning and dyeing of your hair-off leather and hair-on hides, as well as up-to-date information regarding our processing lead time.

The following are just some of the hides we have processed into beautiful leather for our customers: Alligator, Alpaca, Antelope, Badger, Beaver and Beaver Tails, Bison, Blesbok, Bobcat, Cape Buffalo, Caribou, Cattle, Chipmunk, Cougar, Coyote, Crocodile, Deer, Eland, Elephant, Elk, Emu, Fox, Gar, Gemsbok, Goat, Giraffe, Hartebeest, Hippo, Impala, Javalina, Kudu, Llama, Moose, Nilgai, Ostrich, Rabbit, Raccoon, Rhino, Salmon, Sheep, Skunk, Snake, Squirrel, Sturgeon, Trout, Turtle, Warthog, Water Buffalo, Wildebeest, Zebra, Zebu and more!

Alligator Hide Preparation:
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Alligators can be skinned from the back, making the smooth belly leather central, or from the belly, making the horns central. The smooth leather is more appropriate for handbags, wallets, and footwear, while some prefer the horns for boots and luggage. In general, smaller Alligators have fewer scars and result in a “cleaner” looking finished product. Follow these steps:

  1. Scrape the meat and fat from the skin with a scraper or fleshing knife or by use of a pressure washer. Take care that holes aren’t created between the gator “tiles” at the base of the legs where the hide is thinnest. Be sure to remove the bones from the tail and the feet (if still attached). Excessive meat and fat left on the hide can result in grain decay and grease burn or discoloration in the leather.

  2. Soak the skin in cold salted water overnight (approximately 1 pound of salt to 1 gallon of water). Use fine crystal salt, not rock salt.

  3. Drain the hide and apply salt liberally to the flesh side; roll up, and tie into a ball.
Ostrich Hide Preparation:

The quality of the grain and the characteristics of the vacant quill follicles (the characteristic ostrich “bumpy skin”) are what set the finest ostrich leathers apart from the rest. To achieve this quality, feathers must be pulled from the skin while the skin is still warm, usually within 20 minutes of slaughter. Further, the feathers must be pulled in the direction that they lay. Pulling them against the grain will tear open the quill follicles and leave a flat open bump as a result. If the feathers are pulled properly, the vacant follicles will swell shut, leaving a high, round bump that will take a shine. The result is a beautiful contrast between smooth and bumpy leather, the hallmark of ostrich leather quality.

Adequate fleshing is important before salting, as too much fat prevents the salt from reaching the skin. However, care must be taken not to flesh too cleanly, as it is easy to make holes behind the vacant quill follicles in the center of the skin. In fact, leaving about ¼ inch of fat on the skins is preferable to fleshing too cleanly. We will soak and flesh the ostrich skins, if needed, and all will be finish-fleshed during processing. After you have fleshed your ostrich hide, use salt to drive out the moisture in the skin. Use as fine a crystal salt as you can find, and preferably one free of minerals. Pickling salt from the grocery store is a good choice; rock salt will not give good results. Follow these steps:

  1. Use a slanted platform for salting so that liquid will drain away from the skins during the salting process. Spread salt on this platform, then lay the skin on the salt flesh side up.

  2. Salt the flesh side liberally: Rub the salt in and make sure that all areas are salted. Use at least 5 pounds of salt per hide.

  3. If more than one skin is being salted, skins can be placed on top of each other with a goodly layer of salt in between.

  4. After draining slows down in a few days, the skins can be taken off the stack and shaken. Apply new salt, roll or fold the skin, and store or ship it to our location.

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The quality of the grain and the characteristics of the vacant quill follicles (the characteristic ostrich “bumpy skin”) are what set the finest ostrich leathers apart from the rest. To achieve this quality, feathers must be pulled from the skin while the skin is still warm, usually within 20 minutes of slaughter. Further, the feathers must be pulled in the direction that they lay. Pulling them against the grain will tear open the quill follicles and leave a flat open bump as a result. If the feathers are pulled properly, the vacant follicles will swell shut, leaving a high, round bump that will take a shine. The result is a beautiful contrast between smooth and bumpy leather, the hallmark of ostrich leather quality. Adequate fleshing is important before salting, as too much fat prevents the salt from reaching the skin. However, care must be taken not to flesh too cleanly, as it is easy to make holes behind the vacant quill follicles in the center of the skin. In fact, leaving about ¼ inch of fat on the skins is preferable to fleshing too cleanly. We will soak and flesh the ostrich skins, if needed, and all will be finish-fleshed during processing. After you have fleshed your ostrich hide, use salt to drive out the moisture in the skin. Use as fine a crystal salt as you can find, and preferably one free of minerals. Pickling salt from the grocery store is a good choice; rock salt will not give good results. Follow these steps:
  1. Use a slanted platform for salting so that liquid will drain away from the skins during the salting process. Spread salt on this platform, then lay the skin on the salt flesh side up.

  2. Salt the flesh side liberally: Rub the salt in and make sure that all areas are salted. Use at least 5 pounds of salt per hide.

  3. If more than one skin is being salted, skins can be placed on top of each other with a goodly layer of salt in between.

  4. After draining slows down in a few days, the skins can be taken off the stack and shaken. Apply new salt, roll or fold the skin, and store or ship it to its destination.
Beaver Tail Preparation:

Beaver Tail leather has a load of character in a small amount of space. Follow these steps when splitting and prepping your tails to help us achieve the best results for you.

  1. Remove the tail from the pelt.

  2. Cut around the bone at the base of the tail 1-2 inches on each side.

  3. Cutting from the base of the tail (about ½” deep) approximately ¾ of the way to the tip, cut along the edge of the tail. You do not need to go all the way around to the tip. Be sure to keep the knife very flat and in the middle of tail edge.

  4. Place the bone of the tail in a bench vice with the tip of the tail pointing up. With a strong, steady tug, pull one side of the tail towards you until it separates from the bone. Repeat with the other side and discard the bone. The area at the tip of the tail that you did not score will pull apart evenly. If you need assistance pulling, a pair of pliers works great.

  5. With a sharp knife, fillet away as much of the fat as possible without making any holes.

  6. Freeze the tails until they are ready to be shipped.

When the time comes, please seal the tails in a leak-proof bag and send them our way. By freezing vs. salting and drying, we have much greater success rehydrating and degreasing the tails for leather. This eliminates some of the “grease burn” and allows for a wider array of color options without discoloration in the leather. We recommend darker colors such as chocolate or black for tails that have been salted and dried as this will mask some of the discoloration.

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Call us for more information
2135 Industrial Park Road Boone, IA 50036
info@specialtyleather.com
(515) 433-0176
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