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Dragonwriter
06-13-2016, 08:10 PM
Usually I'm not too shy about Googling research questions, but I don't want Big Brother to think I'm planning a serial murder spree or anything, so I figured this one might be better asked here. :) (I promise, no serial murders, except fictionally!)

If a killer were going to kill humans and skin them to make leather out of their skin, would pale white people's skin make lighter-colored leather than a darker-skinned person's would? It seems like it would, but I don't want to get it wrong.

Thanks in advance!

cornflake
06-13-2016, 08:21 PM
Yes, but there are a bunch of steps to turning hide into leather which have options (chemical, natural, etc.) which can affect the colour/shade of the finished product, and many of which need space and time and produce quite the stench. You might look into stuff like tanning your own leather/making your own leather...

Alessandra Kelley
06-13-2016, 08:35 PM
Chrome tanning is a common method, I gather, and it turns leather a bright blue-green that needs to be dyed over (which is why sometimes worn spots on black leather look greenish).

Dragonwriter
06-13-2016, 08:50 PM
Just to be clear, this is an urban fantasy book and the killer isn't exactly human (or at least has magical help) with the process, so he won't be using conventional tanning techniques. I suppose that means I can do it any way I want to, but I'd like to use it as a clue to what the murderer is using the victims' skin for - going after pale white people because their skin makes a lighter "product."

Alessandra Kelley
06-13-2016, 08:52 PM
I've never been too clear on the particulars, but there is a kind of deer hide tanning called brain tanning which sounds suitably disturbing (on top of the normal disturbing-ness of tanning). Deer tanned hide comes out soft and supple and pale cream to golden.

Maryn
06-13-2016, 09:34 PM
I've seen tanned human skin in a museum, although it's now so many museums ago I couldn't tell you which one. I saw a Caucasian Australian with tattoos whose will specified tanning and mounting the hide for display (at a favorite bar, maybe?) when it was not (yet?) illegal. There were also a few photographs of the guy. It appeared the tanning process used had made his skin slightly yellower, well short of a light tan from the sun. His freckles, moles, and ink were all fully visible.

I have seen pictures of items made from human skin--book bindings and a lamp shade. It was a golden brown, like a turkey skin when it's fully oven-roasted.

Deerskin is indeed a creamy beige-white. I had a Native American doll (a cheap piece of plastic junk) from the 1950s dressed in beaded deerskin that was soft and supple and pale. The native garb deserved a better doll.

Roxxsmom
06-13-2016, 10:13 PM
The part of the skin that's used normally for leather is the dermis--that's the deep layer with all the collagen fibers and no pigment cells (melanocytes) or pigment. The epidermal layers are scraped off, except in techniques where the pelt is left intact (then you have a hide or pelt, not leather). Since the melanin (pigment granules) is in the epidermal layer of the skin (in the basal layer, known as the stratum basale), I don't think you'd see a difference in fully scraped and tanned leather. When you get a piece of cow or pig leather for a sofa, you won't see the spots of color of the animal, or know if it was a white, brown, or black variety. The color of the leather comes from the way it's prepared and dyed.

Dragonwriter
06-13-2016, 10:37 PM
Great info! Thanks, all. :)

It sounds like I might need to find another clue - I suppose the magical process for preparing the skins could care about the epidermis, but it seems more likely that it would be a combination of magic and more traditional tanning techniques.

Katharine Tree
06-13-2016, 10:43 PM
The part of the skin that's used normally for leather is the dermis--that's the deep layer with all the collagen fibers and no pigment cells (melanocytes) or pigment. The epidermal layers are scraped off, except in techniques where the pelt is left intact (then you have a hide or pelt, not leather). Since the melanin (pigment granules) is in the epidermal layer of the skin (in the basal layer, known as the stratum basale), I don't think you'd see a difference in fully scraped and tanned leather. When you get a piece of cow or pig leather for a sofa, you won't see the spots of color of the animal, or know if it was a white, brown, or black variety. The color of the leather comes from the way it's prepared and dyed.

This is simultaneously the most satisfying and the most disturbing answer to a question I've seen on this forum.

Helix
06-14-2016, 04:21 PM
This just popped up in my Twitter feed. It might be useful. If not, it's still quite interesting.

The True Story of Medical Books Bound in Human Skin (http://nautil.us/blog/the-true-story-of-medical-books-bound-in-human-skin)

Dragonwriter
06-20-2016, 07:29 PM
This just popped up in my Twitter feed. It might be useful. If not, it's still quite interesting.

The True Story of Medical Books Bound in Human Skin (http://nautil.us/blog/the-true-story-of-medical-books-bound-in-human-skin)

Fascinating, thanks! :)

ElaineA
06-20-2016, 08:45 PM
Ack, this question reminded me...when I passed through Wyoming last year, there is a museum with artifacts made from the skin of a famous train robber. Big Nose George pissed some people off. The museum has the shoes made from his skin, pictured here (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/14910)

Bolero
06-22-2016, 12:27 AM
I've never been too clear on the particulars, but there is a kind of deer hide tanning called brain tanning which sounds suitably disturbing (on top of the normal disturbing-ness of tanning). Deer tanned hide comes out soft and supple and pale cream to golden.

You rub the skin with the brain, is my understanding from research a while back.

No idea why that would preserve the skin, which is the purpose of the chemicals used - including oak galls which have tannin in, hence tanning (I believe).

Eluveitie
08-05-2016, 02:10 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A1br%C3%B3k
At the bottom of that article, in the additional links section, you'll find a link to a Daily Mail article about "Necropants" with a photo of a pair. I don't want to post a link to the DM article because it's rather grotesque.

Sumac is used to tan leather.

mirandashell
08-05-2016, 02:54 PM
Do you ever wish you could unread something?

JimmyB27
08-05-2016, 03:46 PM
I don't want to post a link to the DM article because it's rather grotesque.
Well, it *is* a Daily Mail article...

Eluveitie
08-05-2016, 04:12 PM
Well, it *is* a Daily Mail article...

To be fair, WebMD is far more terrifying. :) Whenever I visit that site, I have to cover half the screen with my hand, just to avoid looking at the pictures of various skin diseases.

Eluveitie
08-05-2016, 04:14 PM
Do you ever wish you could unread something?

Happens to me all the time. Maybe I should edit my post with a disclaimer: Might scar you for life, give you nightmares, or induce sudden projectile vomiting.