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vellum



I've made a few vellums from goats and lambkins using lime.Pete Porcelli,
my butcher on Elizabeth Street, would otherwise dispose of the skins at
Christmas and Easter. 

The preparation of the skins prior to liming is important, scraping all the
residual flesh so the lime can penetrate the skin. The lime is normally
used to dehair the skin anyway. You also will need a good strong stretching
rack to peg it out to dry. How long it's soaked, washed, etc. depends on
what kind of effect you're going for. It can be supple like writing
parchment (I think sheep is better for parchment than vellum) or horny
enough to be a sculptural medium. 

The vellums I got from England 25 years ago were wonderful, but by the late
70's most of the old guys who made it (at Band's) had retired, and the new
management had shortened the procesing time from three weeks to three days.
This I was told by the last old timer who was still there when I visited in
1978. So you might want to check out some of the formulas various people
have used over the last few hundred years (I believe LC conservation lab
has some good ones) or in any of the manuals on leather tanning. 

Perhaps the best authority for information in the English speaking world is
the National Leathersellers Center in Northampton, England. While there I
tanned goatskins in sumac and made alum tawed ratskins. They have
incredible expertise and a good library. If you are seriously interested in
developing this as a supplier for bookbinding and conservation I'd
recommend arranging to take a short course in vellum making. There's no
substitute for hands-on training. If you'd just like to experiment, try
taking some samples of your skins and soaking them in different saturations
of lime for different lengths of time, and see what you get. Meanwhile, do
you tan the skins, or do you salt them as a temporary preservation?  
-- 
Richard 
http://www.avsi.com/minsky/ 


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