2135 Industrial Park Road
Boone, IA 50036
(515) 433-0176

Whether you are a taxidermist, an outfitter, or an individual who has a hide you want turned into leather, you’ve come to the right place. In this section we’ll give you the information you need to start your hide’s journey into leather.

Prepare Your Hide

Quality leather starts with properly prepared hides. For most hides, follow these basic steps (for alligator and ostrich, see additional details at the bottom of this page):

1)     Remove the hide from the animal ideally within 24 hours of harvesting.

2)     Remove the majority of the flesh and fat from the hide.

3)     Apply salt to the hide and allow to rest for an hour or so. This will significantly help in removing the final layer of flesh.

4)     Scrape away the remaining flesh to reveal the white membrane on the inner side of the hide. Take care not to make holes during fleshing. These damaged spots get larger during tanning.

5)     Apply salt a second time to the hide; place it flesh side up on a slope to facilitate draining and allow to dry.

The best salt to use is crystal table salt (ideally not iodized salt) as opposed to rock salt. Liberally salting the hide helps prevent bacterial deterioration of the skin and pulls liquid out of the skin, which helps the hide dry faster. Once the hide has dried, it can be rolled or folded for shipment to us.

Hides can be frozen at any point in the process to further slow any deterioration. We reserve the right to charge up to an additional 20% if we are required to do additional fleshing and/or preservation.

Ship Your Hide

Hides should be shipped to us fully fleshed, salted, and dry (or frozen). If the hide isn’t completely dry, it must be wrapped in plastic to prevent any leaks during shipping. (A garbage bag works nicely.)

In the box enclose your name, contact information, and any instructions you have—for example, if you’ve decided upon color, whether you want the hide “hair on,” etc. It’s a good idea to put this sheet inside a plastic food storage bag in case your hide is still wet or begins to thaw.

Select Your Color

At Specialty Leather, we offer 18 colors from which to choose. Your options are shown below, but bear in mind that not all monitors calibrate color equally. We are happy to send you a printed color sheet showing our color options.

buttercup.jpg (7811 bytes)
sand.jpg (6787 bytes)
bone.jpg (7092 bytes)
congac.jpg (6917 bytes)
pbrittle.jpg (8092 bytes)
Peanut Brittle 

Classic Cognac 
asterblue.jpg (6930 bytes)
Aster Blue 
burgundy.jpg (6067 bytes)
buckskin.jpg (4076 bytes)
ltgrey.jpg (6980 bytes)
Light Grey 
sadtan.jpg (6906 bytes)
Saddle Tan 

chocolate.jpg (8606 bytes)
grey.jpg (8921 bytes)
walnut.jpg (7952 bytes)

black.jpg (8309 bytes)
oxblood.jpg (4076 bytes)

We Process Your Hide

Processing times vary depending on species and time of year, but generally we try to complete the tanning and dyeing of your hides within 10 weeks of receipt for domestic species and 16 weeks for safari hides. For information on the various steps, see the page describing Our Process.


Please give us a call - (515)433-0176 - for the most current pricing for tanning and dyeing of your hair-off leather and hair-on hides, as well as up-to-date information regarding our processing lead time. The following are just some of the hides we have processed into beautiful leather for our customers: Alligator, Alpaca, Antelope, Badger, Beaver and Beaver Tails, Bison, Blesbok, Bobcat, Cape Buffalo, Caribou, Cattle, Coyote, Crocodile, Deer, Eland, Elephant, Elk, Emu, Gar, Gemsbok, Goat, Giraffe, Hartebeest, Hippo, Impala, Javalina, Kudu, Llama, Moose, Nilgai, Ostrich, Rabbit, Raccoon, Rhino, Salmon, Sheep, Skunk, Snake, Squirrel, Turtle, Warthog, Water Buffalo, Wildebeest

Alligator Hide Preparation: Alligators can be skinned from the back, making the smooth belly leather central, or from the belly, making the horns central. The smooth leather is more appropriate for handbags, wallets, and footwear, while some prefer the horns for boots and luggage. Further, alligator hides can be processed with the heads on; these head-on hides can be tanned and dyed just like regular hides (though an additional charge is required for tanning the head). All material must be removed from the skull cavities, and the head should be fleshed and salted as liberally as the skin. Follow these steps:

1)     Scrape the meat and fat from the skin with a scraper or fleshing knife or by use of a pressure washer. Take care that holes aren’t created between the gator “tiles” where the hide is thinnest.

2)     Soak the skin in cold salted water overnight (approximately 1 pound of salt to 1 gallon of water). Use fine crystal salt, not rock salt.

3)     Drain the hide and apply salt liberally to the flesh side; roll up, and tie into a ball.

At this point, the skin can be refrigerated, stored in a cool place, or shipped to us.

Ostrich Hide Preparation: The quality of the grain and the characteristics of the vacant quill follicles (the characteristic ostrich “bumpy skin”) are what set the finest ostrich leathers apart from the rest. To achieve this quality, feathers must be pulled from the skin while the skin is still warm, usually within 20 minutes of slaughter. Further, the feathers must be pulled in the direction that they lay. Pulling them against the grain will tear open the quill follicles and leave a flat open bump as a result. If the feathers are pulled properly, the vacant follicles will swell shut, leaving a high, round bump that will take a shine. The result is a beautiful contrast between smooth and bumpy leather, the hallmark of ostrich leather quality.

Adequate fleshing is important before salting, as too much fat prevents the salt from reaching the skin. However, care must be taken not to flesh too cleanly, as it is easy to make holes behind the vacant quill follicles in the center of the skin. In fact, leaving about inch of fat on the skins is preferable to fleshing too cleanly. We will soak and flesh the ostrich skins, if needed, and all will be finish-fleshed during processing. After you have fleshed your ostrich hide, use salt to drive out the moisture in the skin. Use as fine a crystal salt as you can find, and preferably one free of minerals. Pickling salt from the grocery store is a good choice; rock salt will not give good results. Follow these steps:

1)     Use a slanted platform for salting so that liquid will drain away from the skins during the salting process. Spread salt on this platform, then lay the skin on the salt flesh side up.

2)     Salt the flesh side liberally: Rub the salt in and make sure that all areas are salted. Use at least 5 pounds of salt per hide.

3)     If more than one skin is being salted, skins can be placed on top of each other with a goodly layer of salt in between.

4)     After draining slows down in a few days, the skins can be taken off the stack and shaken. Apply new salt, roll or fold the skin, and store or ship it to its destination.


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