Can you use tea to tan hides?

Last year we were left with two rabbits to feed and look after when my son was unable to sell them.  Apparently white, albino, rabbits are low on the list of desirable pets.  After attempting to sell them, dropping their price to a steal, and fielding so many stupid queries from people online who never turned up to buy them, I killed and butchered them for meat.  I also took their hides and spread them out to try to dry them.  I have almost no idea about curing hides, preferring to make it up as I go.  I have watched some videos on it, and read some information, so I have a basic level of understanding.

One of the things I have been trying is to dry the hides using salt.  I bought a large (10kg) bag of salt for bargain prices around 5 years ago, and it was stored in my garage (as we didn’t really need it).  This year the bag finally gave way and started to leak salt, so I collected it all into containers to use for whatever.  Some of this I spread onto the hides, which really helped with the drying.  I also, periodically rubbed the salt into the hide to act like a loose sandpaper to help remove the membranes and to soften up the leather.

Over all, I have been fairly happy with the results, although they are not cured.  The leather would not repel water and would instead soak it up like a sponge.  I have wanted to take these hides and use them to make an item I can utilise.  After considering this, and finding that my local leather store was out of curing liquids (again!  They seem to sell out very quickly.  I really should buy mine online), I decided to soak one of the hides in a tea solution.  I gathered several days of teabags (maybe 20 in total) and placed them into a large bucket with the hide.  I left it for 5 days before removing it to dry.  I noticed that the hide did have a slightly tanned colour to it, which I hoped was the tannin being taken into the skin.

After hanging the hide for an afternoon, I was pretty happy with the results, yet I decided to leave it for a night.  That night, sever winds blew the hide onto the garden, where my dogs found it the next day and decided it was both a chew toy and a meal.  When Kitty caught them, there was little more than a scrap of fur remaining.

What did I learn from this?  Well, I think the tea solution may have had its merits.  I will try it again with the remaining hide, possibly trying a stronger solution (less water perhaps).  I also learned not to leave things laying around for my dogs to find… although I am sure this is a lesson I will mess up again.

I will post my results here on the next hide.

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