Well, I’ve been getting into leatherworking a bit here in Australia, and since they say kangaroo leather is some of the best – used for things like soccer shoes – I decided I would try to tan my own hide, if I could.
At DeHaviland, like most places in the Australian bush, there are hundreds of kangaroos. They are like deer in WIsconsin, only much more prolific. They are a pest for cattle farmers – they eat the same grass as the cows – so if you actually have a use for a kangaroo, bushies don’t tend to hesitate. “Roo season” is all year round.
I’m not a hunter, never have been hunting. I am not a good shot. And Keith is pretty careful with his bullets – I’ve only ever seen him use one at a time – so he did the shooting. We only had to take a short drive around the property at dusk, and we saw so many kangaroos, Keith didn’t even really have to aim.
I went ahead and let him do the gutting, as well.
Skinning was pretty gross and time consuming, scraping carefully with a knife, with the skin spread over the curved surface of an old oil drum.
Then came the tanning.
From “Bushcraft 3”: FAST METHOD OF TANNING ROO SKINS
- 6 quarts bran
- 12 quarts boiling water
- 6 pounds salt
- 1 oz pure sulfuric acid or 3 oz battery acid
Actually I think this recipe is technically “pickling” but it does preserve the skin and it is supposed to be fast – half an hour for a small roo skin! I only had a couple days, so the weeks or months it takes to do other tanning was not an option. Let’s just see how it goes!
I think it was the drying out process where I went wrong. Maybe the Queensland sun is just too intense?
I treated it as I broke it in, slathering the dressing on it and wrapping it around a post, working it back and forth to soften it up. But it didn’t really work; ended up cracked and hard in most places.
I’m not too worried, I’ve got some scraps as mementos that might be useful for something. And I’ve got some experience now, so who knows. Maybe I’ll make some Wisconsin rabbit fur mittens this winter!