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Re: [BKARTS] dying alum tawed goatskin



Don:

A tawed skin is not leather. The importance of this fact when dying
and working with alum-tawed is essential to working with it. A tawed
skin is created by working salts (aluminum sulfate in this instance)
into the dermal network of the skin. There is a weak chemical bond
holding the salts in place that can be broken with water, or
prolonged moisture. Alum salt whitens the skin, but if you introduce
water or moisture and let the skin sit, it will yellow.

Blotters aren't used much for blotting anymore but you may find
you're inviting trouble over a long period by using this material as
it will show dirt, and can dull with humidity. While it can be
"cleaned" with a slightly damp cloth, no real moisture should enter
the skin at any time. If you do introduce moisture, get some alum
from the drugstore, or use table salt in a pinch (bad pun) and use it
in conjunction with the damp cloth or after you wipe up that spilled
water as a way of replacing the salts washed out.

If you've got your heart set on using alum-tawed goat for a blotter,
and you want to color it, try an organic dye, like a very dilute
walnut dye. This is in the brown range, and it has the positive
effect of hiding the dirt that will accumulate on the blotter's
surface. If you want a "creamy" color, you'll have to read Mrs.
Merryfield to get that color. Somebody on the list may know, or check
with Kremer's in NYC or Sinopia in SF.

Take the dye, warm it up, dissolve a little alum salt into it, and
wipe the skin. You may have to do this a few times to get the dye to
penetrate and color the skin the way you want. Let it dry before
adding more dye as it will change color. Be careful to monitor the
stiffness or crustiness of the surface of the skin. If it becomes
hard, you can stake it the next time you wipe it down with your dye.

Staking the skin consists of stretching it out and breaking the
crust. You can achieve this on the edge of a table - if it's sharp or
hard edge, like formica. A more efficient way is to dull a vegetable
chopper and turn it over and clamp it in a vice. Then you've got a
staking iron at hand, and you can pull the skin back and forth across
this dull surface. Be careful you don't slice through the skin. Stake
the skin with the flesh side down. The flesh side is the "suede" side.

Once you've got the color consistent with what you're looking for,
stop there and pray that your customer is a clean freak.

Good luck - and let us know the results of your project.

Nicholas Yeager

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