How and where do they get the Parchment for Sefer Torahs?

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    Can you tell me about the process and who does it? How long it takes? What it costs? what animal?

    Shticky Guy

    hi always it’s always great to see you.

    The parchment, or Klaf as it is called,

    used for the Sefer Torah, is made

    from the hides of an animal of the

    Kosher species. The most preferable

    quality parchment is Shlil, the hide of

    the embryo or a newborn calf. The

    surface of the Klaf should not be

    coated or glazed. Approximately sixty-

    two hides are needed for a complete

    Sefer Torah. The average size of a

    newly written Sefer Torah is between

    17 to 20 inches however, smaller sizes

    are available.

    Kosher Parchment called Klaf must

    be prepared specifically for that

    purpose (ie. the klaf for a Torah

    cannot be used for Tefillin, and vice

    versa). The parchment must derive

    from a kosher animal, usually a

    goat, bull /cow, or deer. The Klaf is

    meticulously prepared by the

    Sofer, who first soaks the skin in

    lime water for nine days to remove

    hairs, and then stretches the skin

    over a wooden frame to dry. The

    Sofer scrapes the skin while it is

    stretched over the wooden frame

    to remove more hair and smooths

    the surface of the skin in

    preparation for writing on it with

    the use of a sanding machine. When

    the skin is dry, the Sofer cuts it

    into a rectangle. The Sofer must

    prepare many such skins because a

    Sefer Torah usually contains 248

    columns, and one rectangle of

    parchment yields space for three or

    four columns. Thus a Sefer Torah

    may require up to 80 or more

    skins in all.

    Finally, When the parchment sheets

    are ready, the Sofer applies a

    straight edge to draw a writing

    pattern – usually forty two

    horizontal lines across the

    parchment and two vertical lines

    defining the boundaries for each

    column. He also leaves a blank

    space between the area designed

    for writing and the margin –

    (according to the tradition, it has to

    be five fingers wide). Thus, a Sofer

    will have at least three to four

    columns on each piece of

    parchment – called amudim (amud –

    a column). In general, there should

    be no less than three amudim on

    one yeriah (sheet or folio) and not more than eight. There must be a margin of three inches on the top, four

    inches at the bottom, and two

    inches between columns. Now the

    parchment is waiting for the writing

    process to start.


    most klaf nowadays is machine processed, not ‘stretched between a wooden frame etc.’ That’s why if you look at the klaf of new sifrei torah you will see a diamond pattern which is the pattern of the metal grid the klaf was dried on. Also I’m not sure it’s still done with lime (which is quite slow). The old style klaf is becoming difficult to get hold of and does provide a better writing surface.


    62 COWS!


    AFAIK you can’t get shlil today.

    pcoz: I just looked at a yeriah I have at home. I don’t see any such pattern. Are you sure everyone does that?


    ItcheSrulik – you can get shlil today, the industry term is slinks. These are normally from aborted foetuses taken from milk cows where the cow was brought to that state in order so that it would produce milk. Slinks are quite cheap becuase they don’t have many other uses.

    I have seen the diamond pattern, but I guess not all klaf is necesarily dried the same way. There were some yungerleit who started producing chemical tanned klaf in Israel a few years ago. Anyway I doubt if you are buying klaf today that this is hand tanned and frame dried unless you paid a premium for it.


    There is an old-fashioned parchment maker in upstate NY in the Hudson Valley who still makes it the old way – soaked in lime, hand stretched on metal framed, had scraped, and hand-prepared even before it goes into the lime bath. I have NEVER worked with such amazing quality parchment before. Since it is all hand done, they can often make it to-order, so I can choose the size, dimensions, and thickness of the piece, and can even get it surfaced for writing on both sides. They do cow, sheep, goat, and occasionally deer and buffalo skins. Unfortunately, they are not Jewish, so I only buy from them for when I’m writing non-kisvei kodesh (In addition to megilos, I write and illustrate kesubos, custom bentchers, haggados, and other art-pieces).

    The place is called Pergemena. Check them out online.


    pcoz: I did pay through the nose for it but I thought that was the premium for getting something me’ubad lishma.

    YW Moderator-42

    lol…and who, exactly, would want 8 wives…?


    I am so glad animal rights’ activists have no idea about that.


    Some gelatin which is used to make lollies and ice-cream is made from cow face pieces. That means you have a person standing in the tannery cutting the faces of the cows from the hides, they remove the ears becuase these are made into dog chew treats. I hope your animal rights activists don’t like ice-cream.


    pcoz, according the the Pergemena website, the term is slunk, not slinks. The name they list it under is uterine calf.


    In the tannery I used to work in they called them slinks

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