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Hides

 
pollinator
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I am inexperienced at dealing with hides. I got a great looking rabbit pelt the other day. I salted it and let it dry. Actually, I salted the everloving shit out of it. Its stiff as a board. Too much? Is there a better way to go about things. I have decided I am going to make it a priority to have a meat/comforter rotation year where-in I raise a few dozen rabbit and geese with the intent of them being my primary source for animal protein AND the source for a new down/fur comforter. Because I want to live hella decadent like that...

Anyhow. In slightly over my head and I'd like some sound advice as I begin my plotting.
 
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I have no experience either, just good at finding things and learning new things. Here are some things I pulled off the Internet for you that can be looked over while you wait for someone who has hands-on experience:




From the looks of it and what I had time to watch and read, salting it seems okay; I'm not sure how the pelt will be de-stiffed???

There is a guide by Mother Earth News about tanning rabbit hides; another one is by Instructables. Then, interestingly enough, there is a neat website called Rise and Shine Rabbitry which is about anything and everything rabbits.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Awesome!

Me and my knife have started chipping away at the salt and the hide is looking better by the /15 minute.

Thanks Dave!
 
Landon Sunrich
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I'm like 40 minutes into working my overly salted hide as per the above video and it is already coming along quite well. Not quite soft but begin to become almost supple. Not like cardboard. It's an improvement. Those reading a thread entitled 'Hides' take heed of the above posts.
 
Dave Burton
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Yeah, little Bunny Foo Foo looks good on furniture now.
 
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Landon, I have lots of hands on experience with hides. If you have any questions about the brain/smoke method let me know. I recommend brain tanning the lot of rabbit hides and then sewing them altogether in one piece to smoke.

The guy with the youtube above is using a hot smoke which is not recommended for smoking hides. The instructable instructions is not actually preserving the hide (the alcohol just de-greases and the neetsfoot oil just softens).

If you can't find brains (and threw out the rabbit brains) you can use soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin, egg yolks, or ask the butcher to order you some pig brains.



Any instructions with alcohol, alum, sulfuric acid, etc are newer styles that don't work very well. I would focus on the old braintan style as that style can get wet, be washed, and lasts much longer without all the toxic chemicals.
 
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Here is the basic steps I have used for tanning rabbit furs-

-use a fresh hide, not a dried hide. much easier and better end result.
-scrape the fat off the hide. no need to worry about the membrane just yet, only get the fat off. very minimal process in this step.
-salt the flesh side of the hide heavily. let rest overnight, but not dry out.
-scrape any remaining flesh off. the salt will contract this fleshy material and it will peel off quite easily. dont worry about the membrane yet.
-soak the hide in an alum (like you use for pickling) solution for a day or two. a few tablespoons of alum in a gallon of water, roughly. this locks in the hair so it doesnt slip and fall out later in the process.
-wash thoroughly with soapy water to get rid of all alum residue.
-let hide dry out just enough that the surface of the hide feels dry, but there is still moisture deep in the skin.
-scrape aggressively with a rough pumice stone to remove the membrane. *this is the critical step*. with a dry skin surface and a pumice stone, the membrane will flake off quite easily, like exfoliating dead skin on your feet.
-whip a few eggs, and apply generously to the skin side of the hide. fold hide in half, skin to skin. wrap hide in warm moist towels. let sit for a day. apply more eggs if they are totally absorbed into the skin. stretch the hide a bit to encourage the eggs to absorb.
-freeze hide with egg mixture in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight.
-remove from freezer, and 'work' hide to soften as it thaws and dries out. *now is the time to really pay attention to the hide* as it dries a little, stretch the hide to keep the skin supple. this step is ongoing, where you will work the hide, then let it dry, then work some more as soon as the surface starts to feel dry to the touch. be firm but gentle, you dont want to tear the hide, it isnt a deerskin. alternating stretching in different directions with your hands, and stretching the hide over a blunt piece of wood works well. if you have to take a break, put the hide in a plastic bag in the fridge so it doesnt dry out without you working it. the key is breaking up the connective tissues as the hide dries out, so that it remains soft and smooth.
-keep working it until the skin side of the hide feels warm to the touch. if it feels cool, it still has moisture, and will become stiff if it dries without working it. as it dries completely, give it a last buffing with a pumice stone, preferrably not too rough of a stone at this stage.

Hopefully that makes sense, the process has lots of little steps, but in total it isnt too much time or effort. The result is supple, warm, and beautiful. I think there would definitely be a market for value added mittens or slippers.

good luck,
Adam
 
Dennis Lanigan
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I would agree with Adam's approach, but I strongly recommend soy lecithin or brains over egg yolks. Gets things softer. Adam, do you ever smoke? Seems like that's the only step left out compared to what I do. (Smoke has aldehydes that preserve the hide).
 
Adam Klaus
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Dennis Lanigan wrote: I would agree with Adam's approach, but I strongly recommend soy lecithin or brains over egg yolks. Gets things softer.


After a lot of comparison, I have switched over to eggs entirely over brains. Brains are just too difficult to extract, and a bit gross compared to eggs. So long as the preparatory steps are done thoroughly, I have been very happy with the results.
Soy lecithin is an interesting idea, first I have heard of it. Where did you come up with that approach? Anything unique about it I should know? Quite curious...

Dennis Lanigan wrote: Adam, do you ever smoke? Seems like that's the only step left out compared to what I do. (Smoke has aldehydes that preserve the hide).


I smoke buckskin, but not furs. I gave little tanned rabit furs to my kids when they were babies, and I didnt want the smokey smell. No problems with preservation or durability.

cheers!
 
Landon Sunrich
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My hide is ever so slightly rough, but not bad I feel for a first attempt. Thanks for all the info thus far guys. I'll be back to pick your brains for more info soon.
 
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I have also used the alum method to good effect.
One thing I started doing was making a strong brine solution rather than rubbing with dry salt. It penetrates much better into the skin, especially from the fur side.
Since using the brine method on Chital deer skins, it has save me a LOT of time, and I have never had hair slip since.
Good luck with your further skins!
 
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I am just getting into breeding rabbits, well soon, and will be watching this thread. So glad this was started and I hope those who know how to treat the hides continue to post. Thanks Kim
 
Mat Smith
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Here's the last Chital deer skin that I tanned this year:




This is a handy system to keep a skin of any size taught and flat as it dries (at long as it fits within your frame).
I basically cut an old leather belt into strips, punched holes it it, added a hook to the end of each leather strip from an old coat hanger.
The hook goes into the edge of the edge of the skin, then there is is series of nails around the wooden frame than you can adjust the straps to via the holes:



 
Mat Smith
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Landon Sunrich wrote:My hide is ever so slightly rough, but not bad I feel for a first attempt. Thanks for all the info thus far guys. I'll be back to pick your brains for more info soon.



To give it a nice smooth finish simply sand it back with some sandpaper.
 
pollinator
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Adam Klaus wrote:
-soak the hide in an alum (like you use for pickling) solution for a day or two. a few tablespoons of alum in a gallon of water, roughly. this locks in the hair so it doesnt slip and fall out later in the process.



Where does one purchase alum? Can I soak 2 hides in the same tub? I'm hoping to do 2 sheep skins.
 
steward
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Cj Verde wrote:

Adam Klaus wrote:
-soak the hide in an alum (like you use for pickling) solution for a day or two. a few tablespoons of alum in a gallon of water, roughly. this locks in the hair so it doesnt slip and fall out later in the process.



Where does one purchase alum? Can I soak 2 hides in the same tub? I'm hoping to do 2 sheep skins.



I looked in the canning section of the hardware store... No luck. Apparently it can be found in the spice section of the grocery store. The national brands of dried spices (McCormick) seem to have it so it's worth looking for it there. Also you can get it by the one pound bag from amazon Here ALUM . I'm going to be trying to do some rabbit furs this fall. I've been saving them up until I have enough to do a large batch.
 
Cj Sloane
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Could anyone comment on using alum vs Oxalic acid? And what about tannin? Could you use tannin from oak/acorns for tanning a sheepskin rug?
 
Mat Smith
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Cj Verde wrote:
Where does one purchase alum?


The most convenient place I find is in hardware stores - a 1-2kg (2-4lb) tub of pool flocculant (Aluminium Sulphate).
You could also try produce stores for larger quantities.

Cj Verde wrote:
Can I soak 2 hides in the same tub? I'm hoping to do 2 sheep skins.


Yes, just make sure you give them a good mix a couple of times a day
 
Mat Smith
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Cj Verde wrote:Could anyone comment on using alum vs Oxalic acid? And what about tannin? Could you use tannin from oak/acorns for tanning a sheepskin rug?


No idea about Oxalic acid.

Tannins are a great way to make leather. Traditionally tannin tanning was done by extracting the tannin from tree bark, but I don't think the source would matter.
I'm hesitant to say tannin tanning would work for a skin as I think it might take too long for the tannin to work it's magic, by which time you may have 'hairslip' due to bacterial growth.
 
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Sorry for the brevity...too full a plate...

sheepskin with hair on = lots of work!!!


Yes there are several "tannn paste" recipes for hair on use...tricky to do and hair can slip...

Brain tan can also be very nice...again challenging to get hair to hold for some folks.

Check the net...lost of good (lots of bad) recipes for oxalates in "fixing" hair into a hide...

Hope that helps...

j
 
Cj Sloane
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Hides are salted and drying in the sun when possible. Picking off the fat now & again.


Using the techniques from this video:
 
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This is a great thread! I recently tried to brain tan a goat hide for the first time, from one of the goats we slaughtered. It didn't turn out exactly like I had hoped. I sanded it, so it's texture is super soft but it folds more like a tarp rather than leather. I am wondering if maybe I didn't work it long enough before it dried? I did leave the fur on it also so I don't know if that had something to do with it. It was a lot of fun though I was hoping to make something out of the leather. I haven't smoked it yet either, would that help soften I more?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Keira,

It sounds like a great first attempt and I am sure you have learn a lot from it that you aren't even aware of yet...

I sanded it, so it's texture is super soft but it folds more like a tarp rather than leather. I am wondering if maybe I didn't work it long enough before it dried? I did leave the fur on it also so I don't know if that had something to do with it.



"Brain Tan" is typically a method only for "skins" and not "furs." Fur on brain tan is much more of a process and does take a lot of "working" the warm and rather pungent brain into the skin and working the skin side to break up the tissue fiber connections, there by rendering it suppel.

It was a lot of fun though I was hoping to make something out of the leather. I haven't smoked it yet either, would that help soften I more?



Smoking add "water resistance and repellency" but does nothing for adding softness or suppleness, other that keeping the hid warm thereby assisting the working in of the "braining" and/or other tanning pastes. As can be told just from this post thread, there is much to be learned off the "net," on this subject, yet I would suggest that each time you try this (or other methods) you will learn more and more...

Regards,

j
 
Dennis Lanigan
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Keira, furs may take two, up to three, dressings of brains/fat emulsion to come soft. This is assuming you got the membrane layer completely off (which is what comes up when sanding/cabling/pumicing).

This article on braintanning furs worked for me. I've braintanned 25 sheep hides this way that come out really soft. Making a stake or dull blade to stretch the flesh sides of furs on really helps too as it is really hard to cable a sheep hide. Something like this
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Excellent post Dennis, and fuller explanation of "braining" furs...
 
Dennis Lanigan
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Thanks Jay.

Just a heads up CJ about the sheep hides being layed out in the sun: you can cook the skin in too hot of sun. Not that I would know anything about that....

And just to comment on Oxalic Acid, Citric Acid, Alum (which is available at Asian Food stores), Vinegar: these are all ways to PICKLE a hide. Taxidermists commonly use this for mounting furs. This is not a superior method to braintanning (to me) but is a legit preservation method if the hides are kept from water/the outdoors (deer hides will slip hair slowly with this method) like on a wall of a drafty cabin. A lot of tanneries will pickle hides to preserve them before the tanning process.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Dennis...more excellent facts that allow me to segue into more info...

On many of these subjects, I often feel like perhaps I may give "too much" info that may confuse a method or concept behind them. I may then perhaps fail to give enough...Thanks again to Dennis for that...

As someone that has been fooling around in the taxidermy, fur and traditional tanning arts for a long time, I have watch the internet do a wonderful job of offering instruction, but alas it has also spread a great deal of misinformation also. On this particular subject it has also mixed the two with bad and good info the same sites and/or forums...(none here that I have ever found thus far...)

Just a heads up CJ about the sheep hides being layed out in the sun: you can cook the skin in too hot of sun. Not that I would know anything about that....



Very important and could be a reason for failure of the braining to soak in. This, like in woodworking, is called "case hardening" and can take a pre-tanned hide and turn it into "rawhide" making much more difficult (if not impossible) to fully tan...

And just to comment on Oxalic Acid, Citric Acid, Alum (which is available at Asian Food stores), Vinegar: these are all ways to PICKLE a hide. Taxidermists commonly use this for mounting furs. This is not a superior method to brain tanning (to me) but is a legit preservation method if the hides are kept from water/the outdoors (deer hides will slip hair slowly with this method) like on a wall of a drafty cabin. A lot of tanneries will pickle hides to preserve them before the tanning process.



Excellent points again...!!

"Pickled" hides and furs are just that "PICKLED." They are not tanned, nor do these methods render a fur mount safe from hair loss. Some pickling methods are better than others, and "tannic acid" can be a "pickling agent" and also a "tanning agent" depending on the application of paste, bath, or other combination.

Keep up the great work Dennis...and thanks for adding to these posts!

Regards,

j
 
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I would also recommend the braintan method. The hide comes out really soft,and its not nearly as disgusting as it sounds. Not sure if it was mentioned above, but smoking the hide makes it "waterproof" as in you won't have to keep stretching as it dries after washing, it will dry soft. An unsmoked hide will need re-streching if you want it to be soft again after getting it wet.

I remember seeing online somewhere how tanned rabbit hides can be cut into 1 inch strips, just keep going around in a spiral until the hide is one long strip. The strips are then twisted to make a fuzzy string, and woven into a blanket that has soft fur on both sides. How's that for decadent?
 
Cj Sloane
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I've got a cow hide that I salted and was drying in the sun for the last two weeks tho as Jay knows the weather in Vermont hasn't been exactly great for "drying."

Anyway, it has shrunk quite a bit and I now finally have a piece of plywood to staple it to. Should I soak it and stretch it or skip soaking and stretch as best as I can?
 
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I'm glad this thread got bumped. I've got a pile of furs in my freezer that I've been holding onto til I have time and understanding of how to tan them. This will give me some motivation!
 
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