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Tanning Rabbit Hides...I need an Assist

 
Joe Camarena
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I have never tanned a hide. Can those that have please share their technique? Links, YouTube videos and/or detailed step by step instructions will all be greatly appreciated.

Joe
 
Juniper Zen
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I'm still a novice at it - I've only done 8 or so hides - but I was taught basically the same method as in this article:
http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/how-to-tan-a-rabbit-hide-zmaz83jfzraw.aspx
I use the salt and alum version of the tanning solution.
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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Before deciding you need to know what your end use will be, there are several processes and each may or may not be better suited for what you need and the volume of skins. Just google "home tanning" or search U-tube for the same, if your expecting a larger volume there are commercial tanneries that may suit your needs. There's just a lot of info out there and more needed, if you want a one and done deal look for home tanning kits from outdoor suppliers.
 
C. Letellier
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Your expected uses determines method. Rabbit I assume you are looking for hair on methods for example. Do you need soft leather when you finish or hard leather?

Be aware that tanning is a lot of work and stinky in most cases.
 
Juniper Zen
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Yes, SO stinky.
 
Joe Camarena
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I don't need to know how stinky the process is, I want to learn how to tan a hide. Hair on.

Final product will be to use for making warm hats. I've also identified a market that would purchase them if they are soft and subtle.

Joe
 
Joe Camarena
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supple...
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I have used the alum and salt recipe for sheepskin rugs and beaver pelts. The mixture was applied topically to the stretched sheepskin and the beaver skin was immersed in a pail. Both tanned well but were anything but supple when finished. I have it in mind that there must be another step to achieve suppleness.

I would suggest that after skinning and reversing the hide that it should be scraped to remove fat and residue before the tanning. A wide scraper that is pressed firmly into the skin while drawing down will do the trick. Basically the same as squeegeeing with a firm tool material. Old timers used bone, my mentor used a piece of thin steel plate with rounded corners and a work surface filed square. The fine burr side of the scraper was used against the hide. If you tear the hide you are being too rough or your scraper is inappropriate for that type of hide.

No particular smell to my method, I think the one that smells involves boiling hide and or tanning fluid??
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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To get soft garment quality leather is going to be very labor intensive for diy, get yourself a home tanning kit, try a few to see if it will be worth your effort.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I do remember someone saying that tumbling in a cool dryer with short pieces of wood to work the hide would make it pliable. Didn't get a chance to try it myself so I have no first hand experience with it.
 
David Miller
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Um, or build your own kit. I'm relatively certain that there is a reason that the 1983 Mother Earth News article entitle "How to tan a rabbit hide" is consistently referenced. I have a freezer full and 15 days until I move to my farm, I'll get back to you on my personal testing.
 
David Miller
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Wyatt Barnes wrote:I do remember someone saying that tumbling in a cool dryer with short pieces of wood to work the hide would make it pliable. Didn't get a chance to try it myself so I have no first hand experience with it.


Not sure but sounds like a good idea. I'm getting a separate washer and dryer just for pelts, if I can find them cheap enough. The problem is though, I feel like some sort of permie approach should get applied to this. To me it just feels like I'm about to recreate 1970's tech, on grid. What is there for a permie approach here??
 
Juniper Zen
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Joe Camarena wrote:I've also identified a market that would purchase them if they are soft and subtle.


I hope someone with more experience chimes in, but so far I have found it to be very time and labor intensive to make the hides soft. You work them over with your hands to rub the skin this way and that - carefully so that you don't tear or stretch the hide - over and over again as it dries. I did it for about an hour total on the last four skins I was tanning, then decided that it wasn't worth the effort. They're still stiff, but fortunately I don't need them to be soft for my purposes.

On the other hand, this post by Rise and Shine Rabbitry says that it's quicker. They used battery acid instead of alum - perhaps that breaks the hide down more??
http://riseandshinerabbitry.com/2012/01/22/tanning-rabbit-pelts/

I do remember someone saying that tumbling in a cool dryer with short pieces of wood to work the hide would make it pliable.


A few articles I read (including the one above) also mentioned placing them into a dryer with no heat. I would worry about damaging the fur/pelts by putting solid objects in with them, though...

Again, I'm still learning as I go, but since no "experts" have chimed in yet...
 
Hans Quistorff
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I think you are supposed to chew on them after they are dried to get them supple. I suppose that is too labor intensive for modern day. Maybe tumbling them in a front loading dryer with wooden balls might work.

My experience was in the 1950's with giant chinchilla furred rabbits. When I skinned them I basically had a slightly tapered tube with the fur on the inside. To stretch and dry them we used cable wire from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. To make the stretcher we would file a notch in the spring steel to snap off a pice a little longer than twice the length of the hides. Then with a length of pipe on each end two people could bend it into a "U" shape narrow enough to fit in the hide. Occasionally an old rabbit would have fat on the skin but the young ones needed no further treatment. Once dry the growth layer of the skin would be stiff like varnish.

We sold most of the hides but from what I remember, once the varnish layer was broken up they were quite supple. Perhaps if you sanded them and then moisten them and tumble them dry they would be usable.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Gosh Joe, I was hoping someone would take you through this start to finish...I am swamped right now with work but don't want to leave you hanging on your project.

I do not condone or support "Kits" as they typically are chuck full of nasty modern chemicals...

There is just gobs of info on line (good and bad) so if you look into "natural tanning" (aka brain, tannin, soap, oil, etc) I can help you with "fleshing out" (no pun intended) the details...

"Stiff skins" are what I sold from my trap line as a kid...They are "fleshed" and salted but still considered "green skins" and/or "hides" if fur is off...

Fully tanned and worked hides feel like velvet felt or shammy cloth...

Rabbit is actually one of the easier "fur pelts" to work with though can tear or "slip" if you are lackadaisical in attention.

Are we going to move into traditional sewing methods also? If so, get some sinew and/or learn where and how to harvest it...There is good stuff online for that also...

So, go look as some natural recipes, and I will help where I can...Feel free to email if you need to, it just may take a while to respond...I should get an update when you post here next...

Regards,

j
 
Joe Camarena
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Thank you. As will I. I am going to try a couple as soon as it cools down a couple more degrees.

David Miller wrote:Um, or build your own kit. I'm relatively certain that there is a reason that the 1983 Mother Earth News article entitle "How to tan a rabbit hide" is consistently referenced. I have a freezer full and 15 days until I move to my farm, I'll get back to you on my personal testing.
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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I suggested a kit for saving time, if you really want to go "whole hog", save the brain from each animal you skin, all animals have enough brain to tan their own skin. I'm still not gonna type out all the steps, there's plenty of brain tanning videos on YouTube. I will admit that a properly brain tanned pelt results in the most "velvety" garment leather I've found.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Tracy...

I apologize if it seemed like my post was aimed at you...That wasn't my intent...Many folks use "kits," I just don't believe folks understand often that these chemicals are (at minimum) harsh and at worst, very toxic. Both to user and the solution that inevitably gets dumped into the ground water...

As for brain training, I agree it (and relate forms of "fat/enzyme tanning) are excellent. I would offer that there is simply no reason to ever "save the brain from each animal." I have been tanning and treating furs for over 40 years (on and off) and don't think I have ever "brain tanned" a hid in the animal's own brain?? It was usually "hog or cow" that I saved, or bought...Much easier, and easier to process and keep than the individual "brain soup" (also called brain sauce) from the animal itself...

Again, my apologies if I seemed affronting...

Regards,

j
 
Adam Klaus
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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, preferably not too rough of a stone at this stage.

Hopefully that makes sense, the process has lots of little steps, but in total it isn't 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. My little one still snuggles with his 'fuzzy bunny' that I tanned him as a baby.

Good Luck!
 
Juniper Zen
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Adam, thanks for the details. What is the purpose of the egg soak?
 
Adam Klaus
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Juniper Zen wrote:Adam, thanks for the details. What is the purpose of the egg soak?


The egg step is analogous to braining. Eggs are a perfectly comparable replacement to using animal brains in the tanning process. And they are much, much easier to obtain and cleaner to use. The fats from the brains/eggs are a key part in the brain tan method, making the hide supple.

hope that helps!
 
Raine Hogan
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God Almighty Adam
Where were you with the eggs when I was brain tanning deer skin with pig brains, in the heat, in Florida? Talk about smell!!
But it was worth it when the bratty kid in the bunch wanted to know what kind of animal I was working on, and I told him that I had hit the neighbor's dog that wouldn't stay out of the road and I needed to get rid of the evidence before they got home from work. Oh and the meat went into the stew that was on the stove.
You should have seen his face!
All of the other kids had been there for a while for the demo and explanation so they knew it was a deer. That kids ran home, & told his mom. Ten minutes later his stepdad was in my yard to see what I was doing that had freaked his wife out. He saw the deer hide and knew it was all a joke (he was Native American from a northern rez, but wife and kids were white). He perked up when told that the hide had come with some meat as well, and that a pot of venison stew was ready if he wanted some. He ate 2 bowls and never told his family that the dog was fine, and that it had been a deer. After that William's wife drove to the other end of the road when going to town to avoid my house. She never saw that the dog was alive and well, and still getting into the middle of the road. : )

Thanks for the tip. Have several rabbits to cull and can tan the hides without chemicals (not a fan of the "Better living through chemicals" propaganda). My hens can supply the eggs for the project.
 
Burra Maluca
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Raine Hogan wrote:But it was worth it when the bratty kid in the bunch wanted to know what kind of animal I was working on, and I told him that I had hit the neighbor's dog that wouldn't stay out of the road and I needed to get rid of the evidence before they got home from work. Oh and the meat went into the stew that was on the stove.
You should have seen his face!


I'll just leave this here...

 
Frank fank
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Hello,

I once saw a video where a couple in Texas took the rabbit hides and simply let fire ants clean it for them. They seemed to be pleased with the end result and were doing follow up experimentation with it. Said the formic acid from the ants left the hide with a nice tan color and supple texture seems to be a much simpler way of dealing with it. I personally have no experience with it. Just thought I'd give my two cents in case it could be useful. Best of luck to you.

FL
 
Rhys Firth
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I've used the Mother Earth battery acid tan, and Neatsfoot oil to supple them up.

Flemish Giant hides come up a real treat, soft, supple and oh-so-smooth.

Did a goat hid too from an old billy I shot once, left it in the solution to soak one autumn day, by the time it warmed up enough to bother to stretch it out, it was spring again. Came up fine.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Is there any reason one can't just use a power drill to get into the skull for brain tanning?
 
Rhys Firth
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Is there any reason one can't just use a power drill to get into the skull for brain tanning?


You don't want bone chips in the brain mush you put on the skin. That's about all I can think of.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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