Fish skins are very durable and lightweight. They are a waste product of the food industry and are reasonable environmentally friendly – neither limes nor acids are required in pre-tanning, since there is no hair to remove.
The skins carry the characteristics and the colorings of their species and have unique patterns caused by the removal of the scales. If the scales are large, this will be reflected on the leather. Fish that are commonly tanned include eel, wolffish, perch, cod, and salmon.
Eel skins are lightweight, supple, and incredibly strong; 2-3 times stronger than cowhide of the same thickness. The skin has a unique appearance and is instantly recognizable by the wrinkles that run down the center of the skin from top to the bottom. Eel skin is very narrow – a single skin measures 15 in. (37 cm) in length and 2.5 in. (6 cm.) in width – and is often sold stitched together in plates of 60 x 23 in. (1.5 x 0.6 m.). The eel skins are placed side by side and sewn together down the whole length.
Wolffish skin has a unique character thanks to the dark spots on the skin. Wolffish leather can be dyed any number of colors and tones, and the back dots will show through. Leather is smooth, as wolffish do not have scale. The skins are on average 1 sq. ft. (0.1. sq. m.).
Nile perch skin is characterized by a rough surface of scales, Perch leather is much thicker than other types of fish leather (such as salmon) and can be dyed easily to create a variety of tones. It is available in two finishes: open scaling, which gives a coarse finish, and closed scaling, which gives finer finish, Sizes vary: from 6-2o in (15-50 cm) in length. The average size is approximately 1 sq. ft. (0.1. sq. m.).
Cod gives a leather that is an unusual mix of coarse and fine textures. The scales are slightly finer than that of salmon, but texture is more varied – mostly smooth but with coarse patches. Likewise, the palette of cod leather is nuanced, with delicate gradations of hue. It can be dyed any color of tone. Like perch, cod is available in open scaling or closed scaling, the latter producing a finer finish.
The length of a cod skin is 15-20. (40-50 cm), and the shape is unique: the hides are triangular, 5-6 in. (12-15 cm) at the neck, which is the widest point, and tapering back toward the tail.
Salmon leather is pliable and quite strong compared to other skins of similar thickness, and can be dyed a variety of colors. The scales follow a delicate, repeated pattern, and it is available in open scaling (which creates a coarse finish) or closed scaling (which creates a smooth finish) finishes. The most noticeable feature is the narrow band that runs along the center of salmon skin. The skins are on average 24 in. (60 cm) long and 5 in (12 cm) at the widest point.
Stingray skin is unique – it is covered in thousands of tiny pearl-like scales that run through the grain of the skin. It is one of the toughest leathers – it is incredibly strong and does not bend easily. It is difficult to cut with knife and will not tear. It often has an eye-like white marking ‘star” located on the widest part of the skin that had a shell.like feel. Stingray is extremely difficult to stitch as the scales are very hard and can break the machine needle.