Tanning Rattlesnake Hide




Sorry for the late tutorial, but hey most of you should have some hides all ready to treat!

for those who havent seen my work, im going to show you how to tan snake skin to use in craft projects, that can look amazing

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

most everything you need you should already have

1. scissors, or a knife (scissors are better for this trust me)

2. thumbtacks (plastic heads are nicer but the flat metal ones will work

3. Cork board a mildy large one, that your skin will fit on (or a large piece of plywood if thats easier, but cork is better)

4. small plywood sheets

5. dishrags, even ones, not torn up

6. heavy stuff, just used as weights, could be rocks for all i care

7. tanning solution, this is the hard one but here it is on amazon, its also sold in cabelas,
P.S. the one bottle is plenty for dozens of snakes

8. salt


Step 2: Cuitting

forst thing to do is cut the skin along the belly scales, boxcutters work nice but a decent pair of scissors will always work best! be sure to cut slowly and very straight!

Step 3: Prepping

See that yuk? pinch all of it off, or scrape it with a knife you want, but if you use a knife be very careful not to cut even a tiny hole, any holes in the hide will get bigger through the process

Step 4: Pinning

Pinning your hide is the most important step.

first you need a large flat board, cork boards are nice if you have one, but a sheet of plywood can work fine.

lay your hide out with the outside of the snake facing down, take some thumbtacks and line the sides of the hide with them, stretching the hide, and be sure to keep the scales straight, the way it dries is the way it stays.

be extra careful to put lots more tacks on the tail section!

lay out the basic shape with maybe 10-20 tack then when the shape is good, add more and more tacks, see pictures below for an easier description.

Step 5: Dryin Your Snake

throw some salt on the hide, and let it sit until there is no moisture in it, put extra on the tail

the time it takes will depend on ur climate im in the desert and can do this in an hour if i want, but overnight is usually best, you want it dry and crunchy but dont get it so brittle it will fall apart, and don't un-pin your hide, when the hide is dry brush the salt off into the dirt and take any chunks off

Step 6: Tanning Solution

spread your tanning formula onto your hide, be generous but don't drown it, just be sure all of it will get soaked up, the solution doesn't evaporate fast so dont worry about using too little, the whole hide should have an orange-ish tint.

let the hide soak it up over night, and if you like add some more and let it soak, but when you are satisfied get a wet rag and clean all of the extra solution off, its okay to get your hide wet, and it will get very flimsy and floppy.

Step 7: Pressing It

now that the hide is wet you need to dry it, lay some cloths over a large enough space for the hide to fit on, and lay it down on some flat clean rags, lays some more rags over the top (be sure your hide is straight and isnt wrinkled).

after the rags lay down some plywood sheets, and then weight it down as much as you can, the plywood distributes the weight so dont worry it you are using weird shaped weights like rocks or tools, just get it nice an heavy

*in case this isnt implied, leave the rattle outside of the plywood so it isnt crushed

*NOTE, when you take your hide out of this step the outside scales will fall off, dont worry about it, spend some time and peel them all off, snakes have different layers of them, it will not effect how it looks but if you leave them all on they will all fall off all over the place

Step 8: Caring for Your Hide

now your hide is complete these can be used in crafts by gluing them to whatever you want marine epoxy and super glue work best, the best way to store them is in the pressed condition under cloth etc from the previous step, if not you can hang them or roll them but you may need to repeat step 7 before using them

if they every start to dry up, using some regular lotion works great but the best moisturizer is glycerin, you can get it at most pharmacies for around 5 bucks



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    15 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Sweet bro i live around alot of trees so i vegetable tan my skins


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Great tutorial. I have some unskinned rattlesnakes that have been in the freezer for years (some 10 years!). Can the hides still be tanned? Thank you.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I have had them frozen for up to a year, they should still be fine to tan. you might have to spend some time scraping the inside of the hide if there is some tissue stuck on the inside


    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. Are the ones frozen ten years worth trying to tan or do you think I'd be wasting my time. I know ten years is a long time.


    3 years ago

    I have a skin its kinda brittle but its rolled out how can i make it easier to work with

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    buy some glycerin at a drug store or use some regular moisturizing lotion on it. you want to get it on and let it soak but wipe off any that stays on as residue. once i get it on my skins i like to lay a towel in the garage or on a work bench, fold it over so the skin is sandwiched , then lay down a piece of plywood or something stiff and flat large enough to cover the snake, then put on some weights. be sure to keep the skin from folding before pressing it


    4 years ago on Step 8

    I read somewhere that adding salt will destroy the skin, i tanned a saw scale viper skin with rubbing 2 part alcohol and 1 part glycerine ....it took a lot of time 3 weeks to dry because of the glyserine but the skin was okay .......i will implement your idea next time. :)

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    using the salt method will usually make a tougher but more brittle hide i use it if i will be making a hard object e.g. a pen or lighter. but when dealing with a flexible project like a wallet or hatband its best to not use salt


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Say I already used salt and have been storing it away in a closet for 5 years. now I wan't to make a wallet (it still has all the scales on it, it is tough and seems brittle but rolled decent) can I wet it, add the tanning solution, and get some flexibility that way? Is there any way to bring it back from its stiff brittle state of being?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    you might be able to bring it back, but using such a dried out hide might not work for a wallet, if you really want to hydrate it use glycerin, you can buy a bottle for 5 or ten bucks at most pharmacies. glycerin is what they use in lotions, however in lotions its only 5 to 10 percent glycerin buying it pure will really soak it up

    i never use the heads, dont like the idea of not cleaning all the venom out on accident, ive seen lots of people encase them in acrylic though


    Thanks for this!! It will come in handy! I've tried some tanning but haven't been too successful. I'll try this next time! Great Instructable!

    there are tanning solutions like trapper j's that are about 20 dollars a bottle, its usually a mixture of glycerin sugar and alcohol, but you can buy straight 99% glycerin at pharmacy's for much cheaper, either one works