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Tanning Bears

FLESHING: First off, do your best not to cut hair roots. ALWAYS flesh from the tail towards the head, when using a shaving machine. Flesh legs from the feet, towards the main part of the body. Go VERY light on the front legs, at the elbow. (Easy to false cut this area) The main part of the body is fleshed the easiest on a beam, and pretty easy to get good and clean. The sides of the mouth and around the eye is very thin, and easy to tear on a beam if you apply too much pressure. I would apply a light layer of salt to the head area, let stand for 20-30 min, THEN start turning the lips, ears, eyes, and nose.

ALWAYS remove the tail bone. If you don’t, it will slip EVERY TIME! Remove the knuckles. Flesh the paw pads the best you can when raw. The outer part of the pad will easily separate, and fall off, if not fleshed and salted. Cased legs on a small bear are very difficult to shave. Not for the novice shaver.

Bears need to be salted for at least 4 days on smaller bears, and 7 days on larger, before attempting to rehydrate, and begin the tanning process. Mountain lion, 7 days. Thin boar 4 days, thick boar, 7 days with scoring of the shield.

RE-HYDRATION BATH: ALL bears should be placed in a re-hydration bath! This serves as a washing step, along with beginning the degreasing process. Even a thin, small bear, like the one Justin fleshed in the picture!


A bear like this, won’t need more than 3-4hrs of re-hydration. A larger bear, with a thick neck and head, might have the head and neck placed in the re-hydration bath, 3-4 hours, before adding the rest of the skin. You don’t want ANY skin to spend time in the re-hydration bath that is not needed! Remember, the pickle is your SAFE PLACE, NOT the re-hydration bath!

FORMULA for a normal re-hydration: To every gallon of 90deg water, add 1oz Lipa-Solve 55, a 1/4 lb salt, and 1oz citric acid. In my opinion, citric acid should ALWAYS be kept on hand in EVERY Taxidermy shop that does its own tanning. Especially bears and small game. We will discuss why, later. There will ALWAYS be variables, throughout ALL tanning processes, that will have to be addressed on an individual basis. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all”, especially when it comes to re-hydration!

The KEY to consistent tanning results is consistency on YOUR part. Take notes in the beginning. Maintain a consistent water source, salt source, tanning products, etc. Once you have achieved consistency, and are pleased with your results, ALL this will become like riding a bike. My goal here, is to help you achieve that consistency, and actually enjoy tanning skins.


First off, I have to say this.

When tanning bears in-house, your best bet for a good acid, will ALWAYS be CITRIC acid. Others will work, but the natural degreasing effect of citric, Will ALWAYS yield a SUPERIOR finished product, when it comes to bears, and small game, like fox and yokes!

Per gallon of 90deg water, add the following. 3oz of citric acid, 1lb of salt, and 1oz of Lipa-Solve 77. LS77 is solvent based, and will have little effect on the pH of the pickle bath, which is what you need.

A good COMPLETE degreasing is the single most important step, when it comes to tanning bears. It IS THE FOUNDATION of a good tan, PERIOD!

First off, why do I push doing MOST of the degreasing during the pickle? (With Citric as the acid)

Because removing ALL THE GREASE is VERY important. Tanning at home, you don’t have the luxury of mechanical agitation, most of the time, so you HAVE to get some degreasing done, EVERY CHANCE YOU GET. A separate degreasing bath is fine, if you can complete the step in a few hours, but you CANT, without continuous agitation. There for, you try to accomplish most of the degreasing during the pickle, while your skin is in a safe pH, and it can stay in the bath for a long time.

If you ever feel a skin still needs to be degreased a little more, AFTER the pickle, fine, go for it.

To every gallon of 90deg water, add 1/2lb salt, and 1oz Lipa-solve 55. This formula is for using Trubond 1000B, as the tanning agent.

When you intend to use submersible tan, the skin NEEDS to remain acidic (paint-on tans work at a higher pH), before adding to a tan, or the tan won’t fix. Then the oil won’t fix to the skin! The skin will be stiff and hard when it’s finished! For this method, to every gallon of 90deg water, add 1/2lb salt, 1oz Lipa-solve 77, and 1oz of citric acid. Then to the tan, after the degreasing.

If you take a bear and don’t do any degreasing until after the pickle, you have lost 2 or 3 days of VALUABLE degreasing time. Tannery’s have paddle vats to run bears and small game in, but you don’t have that luxury!

Let’s say you have grease on your hands. You then put soap on them. Can you just rinse off the soap, and expect your hands to be clean, without rubbing them together? NO!

There isn’t a lot to say about pickling, except to maintain the pH, and make sure EVERY skin is thoroughly pickled!

Tanning Bears with TruBond 1000B, or

TruBond 1000

TruBond 1000B for RUG WORK- The tannage used in TruBond1000B and TruBond1000 is not merely a preservative. It is a TRUE liquid tannage, combined with high quality oil. When using this product, feel confident that you are TRULY tanning the skin!

Neutralizing after the pickle: Thin skins- to every gallon of water; add 1/4lb salt, and 1oz of baking soda. Place well drained skin in this solution for 30-45min. Stir often.  LARGER SKINS- 1.5 oz baking soda, 1/4 lb salt, per gallon, for 45min. Pull, quickly rinse, then drain well.(2 hrs)

Painting tan on skin: Apply a light coat to think areas of the slick, like the head and neck, wait 15 minutes, then apply tan to the ENTIRE skin(including the area you already did), and let skin lay flat for 2 hours. Next, hang the skin to dry overnight.

Next AM, pull on the skin, in ALL directions, and stretch it out.(head included) Let dry completely. Head can be re-hydrated for head shell. Skin will remain soft, IF De-greasing was done correctly

TruBond 1000 for bear capes, 1/2ls, or life size mounting: Same method as 1000B, but add a light washing of the skin at the end. Then mount or freeze. Use a 1/4 lb salt and 1/2oz Lipa-Solve 55 per gallon of slightly warm water for the wash.


Thanks, Aubrey