How to Keep the Scales on a Tanned Snakeskin

Written by mercedes valladares
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How to Keep the Scales on a Tanned Snakeskin
Follow a few steps to keep and restore your snakeskin scales. (snakeskin image by Jeff Dalton from

Fashion items like hat bands, boots or belts can be made from snakeskin, such as rattlesnake. Though tanning the skins is a moderately simple process, damaged tanned snakeskin scales are challenging to restore. Over time the scales become brittle, curled or cracked. By cleaning and resetting the scales individually with glue or cement along the natural grain, the scales are kept on the snakeskin surface. Re-applying tanning oil and conditioner as well as adding matching cream polish for exotic skins, the life of the snakeskin scales is extended and restored.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Soft cloths (3)
  • Lukewarm water
  • Cotton swab applicator
  • Contact cement
  • Hide glue
  • Narrow width brush applicator
  • Tanning oil for exotic skins
  • Leather conditioner for exotic skins
  • Leather matching cream polish for exotic skins

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  1. 1

    Spot clean the scales gently with a damp soft cloth. Make sure you use lukewarm water to soften dry or brittle tanned scales. Run the cloth with the tip of your finger along the natural grain of the tanned scales. Do not rub against the grain to avoid breaking off brittle or curled scales.

  2. 2

    Remove any excess dirt or debris from underneath the scales by dipping a cotton swab applicator in lukewarm water and passing it gently underneath the tanned scales. Make sure that the scales are cleaned individually.

  3. 3

    Dab the tip of another cotton swab applicator with contact cement or hide glue and apply it gently underneath the brittle, cracked or curled scale. This process must be applied to each scale individually. Keep in mind that contact cement is permanent once dried and the scale can not be repositioned. Hide glue is reversible and the scales can be repositioned; it is also used by leather repair shops and craftsmen.

  4. 4

    Apply light pressure on top of the scale along the grain of the snakeskin with a clean swab, compressing the glue or cement in place. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all the scales are repositioned and adhered. Let the snakeskin dry for your brand's recommended time.

  5. 5

    Brush a light coating of tanning oil for exotic skins on any discoloured or faded scales with a narrow width brush applicator in the direction of the natural grain. Do not saturate the snakeskin with the tanning oil. Let dry overnight, or your brand's recommended time.

  6. 6

    Dab another clean soft cloth with leather conditioner for exotic skins. Gently run the tip of your finger with the cloth along the grain of the tanned scales. The conditioner extends the life of the snakeskin and protects it during everyday wear and tear. Do not saturate the cloth with the liquid to avoid any spots from forming on the snakeskin.

  7. 7

    Dab a small amount of leather matching cream polish for exotic skins onto another soft cloth. Dab an unexposed area of the tanned snakeskin with the polish along the grain and allow it to dry overnight to make sure the tanned skin does not discolour. If you are satisfied with the result, apply it gently along the grain of the tanned snakeskin surface.

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