How To Make Your Own Leather Out of a Fish

Saturday November 18, 2017 Written by amy

Get off your perch and you cod have yourself the best fish leather belt in the tunaverse. Find out how to go from fillet to fashion in this two-minute video, or read our quick how-to, below.

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It turns out people have been tanning fish skin for centuries, especially in colder climes. From Norway to Alaska to China and a bunch of other places besides, fish leather was used for everything from boots (sometimes with fins still attached!) to whole leather outfits. To top it off, it’s eco-friendly. Fish skin is a food by-product, so more fish leather means less wastage. Even on a commercial scale (pun intended), it’s a less chemically-intensive process than cowhide tanning, and the leather is just as durable.

Josh Mclean from The Bush Tannery has shared with us the following steps for DIY fish leather. 

You need: a blunt scraper, a small bucket, a dead fish with its skin on, egg, dishwashing liquid, vegetable oil, natural leather balm and a sponge. 

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1. Skin the fish, scrape off all flesh and scales, then give it a rinse in cold, soapy water.

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2. Marinate in 100g of vegetable oil, one egg yolk and 1 tsp dishwashing liquid for 15 minutes. 

3. Hang up on the clothesline overnight to dry it out.

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4. Soften the skin with your hands (watch the video for a demo) and hang it undercover for another three days.

5. Take your dried-out skin and sandpaper it. (As in the fish skin, not your actual skin. That would hurt.) Remove excess fibres then give it a moisturise by sponging it with the leather balm. 

It’s so simple even a jellyfish could do it. Actually, you can turn them into leather too but that's another blog for another day.

Photography: Christopher G. Wong