Stretching and Breaking a Skin

What is the Difference Between Stretching a Skin and Breaking a Skin?

Yes, there is a difference!

The two processes "Stretching" and "Breaking" require the tanner to work on the flesh side of the skin. It can be said that it is hard work and requires strength and patience. However, if done properly, the result is a beautifully soft, pliable/supple skin.

Stretching (for Flat Skin/s and Preparation of Skin/s for Taxidermy)

Stretching is a manual pulling motion to the hide. The point of stretching a hide is to retain the shape and to soften the fibres allowing the oil to penetrate the hide. When the skin is drying it will shrink and stretching it will loosen up the fibres. We recommend stretching the hide/s length x width.

Breaking (only for Flat Skin/s)

Breaking a hide is a mechanical process which achieves a soft and very pliable skin at the end of the tanning process. Breaking is, as it says, breaking up the pelts fibres (ie: the hides fibres are interlocked/woven. Once you break those fibres, the pelt becomes very soft). The more breaking the softer and looser the skin becomes.

How Do I Stretch and Break A Skin?

Stretching (for Flat Skin/s and Preparation of Skin/s for Taxidermy)

We recommend you stretch a hide length ways by width. Below is a video demonstration of a pelt being stretched. Note that while you are stretching a hide, you may come across dry patches. Just moisten those patches with some water and stretch once the skin has absorb the water. You may notice that the pelt has a blue tinge prior to stretching. Once you stretch it, you'll notice the hide will go white/flesh coloured.

Breaking(only for Flat Skin/s)

Breaking is a mechanical process. This part of the process requires a tool. If you have a fleshing knife, the easiest way to break a hide is to place the hide over your beam, a log or post and rub the skin in a downward motion using the convex (dull side) of you knife. Alternatively, you may wish to use a wooden edge such as a table edge, the back of a chair, side of a desk or similar, to break the hide. In order to get the results, the hide needs to be rubbed hard up against the edge of the table to break the fibres. Do not use a sharp knife as this would certainly cut a hole in the hide.

When do I stretch the hide and when do I break?

Stretching (for Flat Skin/s and Preparation of Skin/s for Taxidermy)

You need to stretch a hide before oiling and during the oiling process - this is so the pelt absorbs the oil whilst it is drying.

Working the pelt by stretching ensures that the fibres don't shrink and become hard woven.

Breaking (only for Flat Skin/s)

Breaking can only be started when the hide is 90 - 95% dry. The leather will naturally dry out while you are working with it. You’ll know it’s getting dry, because it will start to crack. It is the end of the tanning process. Breaking can be done until the tanner is happy with the result. The more work put into the breaking process the softer the result. We recommend that breaking be done width and then by length as this will achieve a natural line. A successful skin is quite soft and pliable when completely dry.

The beginner should be well aware that it is often difficult to achieve professional quality in the first few attempts especially with heavy hides such as those from mature cows and big game.

TIP: The perfect dried pelt will look blueish or silver in colour. If the pelt is white, then it's too wet and if the pelt looks brownish in colour then it's too dry.