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Beginner using Alum method... Questions

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Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#1  Unread postby AlishaBee » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:30 am


Hi!

We began our Rabbiting life last year with four Harlies as a test run to see how much we enjoyed them (in every sense). We found we really took to them, as animals and as a clean meat source. We are able to feed with much of the green waste from our property with a combo of homegrown alfalfa and timothy hay.
We've since got a nice, albeit mysterious trio as breeding stock who've just recently given us beautiful, large litters. They are crosses of New Zealands (broken and black judging by the litters) and Chocolate Satin. I am brand new to the taxonomy so please forgive my ignorance in their specifics.

Long story short, I have begun tanning the Harlie hides to see what I can do and if we will keep the pelts going forward.

I guess I'll describe my actions so far and pose questions as I go?

-When the rabbits were skinned we left them cased and I rinsed them well in cool water and gently squeezed the excess water out. I folded in half (skin to skin) and put in freezer bags and into the freezer.
Q 1: is this correct?

-I decided to try the Alum Method and gathered supplies. The recipe is 3 gal. Water, 1 cup non-iodized salt and 1 cup of Aluminum Sulfate. I couldn't find mixing instructions so this is what I did: put the water in a large bucket and added the elements to the bucket. Stirred to dissolve.
Q 2: what temperature should the water have been? I used cold.

-I​ thawed them in a sink of cold water and uncased.
Q 3: At which point in the process are they generally uncased?

-They have been in the brine for two days, weighted with a large rock, stirring twice a day.
Q 4: will the rock damage the hides?

-I will be fleshing tomorrow.
Q 5: how much, if at all, are they dried before the fleshing process? Just a simple squeeze of the excess water or more dried?

-I have an old laundry drying rack that I will be using to dry the pelts.
Q 6: how long is the usual drying time before ready to break the skin? I'm sure this greatly varies depending on weather, etc so I'm just looking for a ballpark.

I think this is all for now but I am absolutely welcome to any tips or advice available.

Thank you so much for reading!
A

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#2  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Wed Mar 29, 2017 10:30 am


Alisha
I do the salt and Alumn method myself... I am very new to curing hides...
But I will try and find my post and link it for you.
Congrats!
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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#3  Unread postby AlishaBee » Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:37 am


SarniaTricia wrote:Alisha
I do the salt and Alumn method myself... I am very new to curing hides...
But I will try and find my post and link it for you.
Congrats!


Thank you very much.
I look forward to reading about your experience.

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Zass » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:32 pm


Q1: I prefer to keep my hides both clean and dry, let the body heat leave, and then freeze. I'm sure your method will work just fine, as the cold water will chill the skin before freezing.

Q2: Usually tanning advice suggests mixing salt into warm water, and then allowing it to cool before adding pelts. IMO, it's not that big of a deal.

Q3: Whenever you feel like working with uncased pelts instead of cased ones. It's 100% personal preference.

Q4: Absolutely not, unless it's something like pure limestone that might neutralize acids. Tip: Get some litmus strips or another PH testing tool, and track PH in your pickles.

Q5: Just drain them, you can squeeze a little, but do not wring. They are fleshed pretty moist.

Q6: In perfect conditions, rabbit pelts can dry enough to start breaking the same day. Skins break as they dry, and not after. When you pull the material and it turns white, that's when it's ready to start breaking. It's very rare for an entire pelt to be ready to break at once.

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#5  Unread postby AlishaBee » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:49 pm


Zass wrote:Q1: I prefer to keep my hides both clean and dry, let the body heat leave, and then freeze. I'm sure your method will work just fine, as the cold water will chill the skin before freezing.

Q2: Usually tanning advice suggests mixing salt into warm water, and then allowing it to cool before adding pelts. IMO, it's not that big of a deal.

Q3: Whenever you feel like working with uncased pelts instead of cased ones. It's 100% personal preference.

Q4: Absolutely not, unless it's something like pure limestone that might neutralize acids. Tip: Get some litmus strips or another PH testing tool, and track PH in your pickles.

Q5: Just drain them, you can squeeze a little, but do not wring. They are fleshed pretty moist.

Q6: In perfect conditions, rabbit pelts can dry enough to start breaking the same day. Skins break as they dry, and not after. When you pull the material and it turns white, that's when it's ready to start breaking. It's very rare for an entire pelt to be ready to break at once.


Thank you so much! I was hoping you would chime in as your posts are where I have gleaned most of my information.
Another question: what is the ideal PH for the pickle? 2.0-4.0? I have test strips on hand.

May I ask how your very first tanning experience went? I myself am not expecting success or perfection but am optimistically hoping for the best.

I will continue to post updates as I soldier on.
Fleshing tomorrow!

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Zass » Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:27 pm


My first "tanning" experience was actually just trying to make a hair-on rawhide.

Someone gave me a deer pelt to play with. I lashed it to a frame and did my best to flesh it while letting the very cold winter wind dry it out. I was silly and tried oiling and breaking it after it had dried. :lol: I didn't even have internet back then to help figure out what I was doing wrong. I was VERY lucky it didn't spoil. :P I still have it, actually, and I'm still terrified to wet it down and tan it properly. It's just always going to be a stiff old rawhide walhanger. My next chance at tanning involved the unfortunate caribou pelt. :cry: The weather wasn't quite as favorable for that one, it ended up too warm and drying to slowly, the fur was slipping all over the place, in despair, I gave up and buried it in my compost bin. :oops:

Later, My husband made friends with an avid hunter/ trapper that started to bring me out-of-season or otherwise unsellable pelts. (Like a raccoon that was unfortunate enough to be caught in a muskrat trap.) I had internet then! I ordered myself a Rittels ez 100 kit and proceeded to learn the in and outs of tanning. It took one bad pickle to teach me to track my PH, and a few slip spots to teach me to be careful with pelt handling starting with the skinning process, and to stir my pickles carefully! One time I ruined a gorgeous raccoon tail by not opening it up. Air trapped in the hollow tail skin prevented the acid from permeating and preventing bacterial growth.
I learned that it's not uncommon to have to re-wet and re-break pelts, so don't be too discouraged if they aren't as soft as you'd like after the first go.

I'm not 100% sure on alum, but most pickles are considered pretty safe around a ph of 2. (We had an attachment in a post with PH's for all sorts of acids, maybe it could be searched?)

Sulphonated neatsfoot oil is what I usually use for oiling hides, but I've recently started liking the feel of olive oil for hair-off leather. I'm hoping people who use alum chime in and tell what they use. :)

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#7  Unread postby SarniaTricia » Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:39 am


doing-my-first-tanning-t30636.html

My first attempt.... I'm still looking for my second... not sure if I documented it at all....it was much more successful... however, I didn't get all the salt and alum washed out, so they didn't break well and I was fairly new at it, so I didn't break them well....lol
I need to rewash them and break them better.....

(I will be taking the first attempt batch and soaking in Hydrated Lime to remove all the fur and creating leather from them ..... there was a lot of fur slip)
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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#8  Unread postby mfalconer » Tue Apr 04, 2017 10:03 am


Hi all,
I've been tanning/curing rabbit hides for a few years. But ive only been using a salt-acid pickle. Never tried alum.
Q1: I prefer dry hides too. I don't soak before freezing, but probably doesn't affect things. I like to pull the case skin of the rabbit until it is only barely attached at the neck. At this point I split the skin down the belly side, and voila, open skin. Then finish pulling it off the carcass, put it on the floor with a bit of salt on the flesh side (if the weather is warm). At the end of butchering I collect all the hides, flesh to flesh and bag em in the freezer. Too much salt on the hides will prevent freezing and you will have a bloody mess leaking from your bag in your freezer. so don't use lots of salt.

Q 2: as long as it dissolves I think you are good. Add hides went cool though.

Q 3: I like uncased/open skins. It's a matter of preference from experience. I find them easier to flesh and break when open.

Q 4: I don't usually use a rock but it shouldn't hurt. The hides will float for a day or so and should be stirred frequently to saturate them.

Q 5: Just try to squeeze out enough liquid so they aren't dripping all over the place. Fleshing can be challenging. I always have a hard time not ripping areas around the rump and thighs (very thin skin). Go slow and you eventually find a method to prevent ripping. I like to start fleshing at the armpit on side, work my way down to the centre of the back and back up to the armpit on the other side...

Q 6: In winter (low humidity) 1.5 - 2 days. Not sure about summer. I do all my tanning in the fall and winter months. You will probably want to rinse them really well and clean the hair with soap or shampoo before hanging up to dry. I check on them 24 hours later, and start breaking. Then check on them again in 4-6 hours, rebreak, and then check more frequently as they will dry faster and faster. Keep on breaking until they are completely dry.

Are you tanning junior skins? You will know if you are going to have major hair slipage by looking for blue areas on the flesh side of flesh hides. Blue areas = hair slipage. Junior rabbits almost always have some slipage, but I find right around 10 weeks is good for minimal slipage. After that they molt out of a juvenile coat into a sub-adult coat. The best furs come from prime winter adults, but I think the juv pelts are stilll worth doing something with. See rabbit skin blanket. rabbit-skin-blanket-t30024.html. I made this last winter. It's getting good use!

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#9  Unread postby AlishaBee » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:04 am


@zass Thank you for sharing your preliminary experiments! Learning by making mistakes is sometimes a blessing in disguise. Thank you for passing on your tips. Duly noted.

@sarniatricia Thank you, too! How did your pelts turn out? I can't seem to find if you posted your results.

@mfalconer Thank you, too! Your blanket it beautiful! The pelts are quite junior. Two are 10wks and the other two are 12 wks. Their skins seem quite thin. I did notice some blue spots where I have some slip but I will soldier on and see this process to the end. Great tips. Thank you!

UPDATE:
Last week I did my first fleshing! I'm actually shocked that I didn't tear the hides. I devised a system pretty quickly where I'd make a pouch and pull from underneath so as to get everything off in one go. I wore a rubber glove on my pulling hand so it helped gain traction on the slippery bits.

I added more elements to the bucket and put the pelts back in for seven more days. It was starting to get a bit smelly (my pH level raised up to a 4- why?) so I drained and washed in shampoo.

Now I'm drying them on an old laundry rack. They seem to be taking a long time to dry. We've been having very moist weather so I'm sure this is why.
I am hoping they will dry soon so I can start breaking.

A note on fleshing: up until last year, I wouldn't touch raw meat. My husband began hunting more and I began to steel my nerve in preparing our meals. I learned how to break down rabbit, duck, squirrel and goose.
When I sat down to flesh, I honestly didn't think I could do it. It took me a few minutes of staring down the pelts but I actually did it. I believe that when you badly want the end result (a good meal, a beautiful pelt) you'll do just about anything to achieve your dreams​!

Stay tuned for "The Breaking".

Thank you all again for your contributions. I truly appreciate the time you've taken to post. So. Much. Help!

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Zass » Fri Apr 07, 2017 3:49 pm


Putting a fan on those pelts can help them dry faster, just watch to make sure some spots don't get over dried.
Sometimes blue areas are just where new hair is growing in, and not always the start of slip. From my experiences, rabbit hides do not slip anywhere near as easily as most furbearer pelts. The raised PH and smell (bacteria growth) is more concerning however, but if the hair is still tight, you are good.
There are a lot of factors that can raise PH in a pickle. The pelts themselves, the stability of your acid, the salt you use. (For example, stock salt can have a de-caking agent that raises PH.)

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#11  Unread postby AlishaBee » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:04 pm


Zass wrote:Putting a fan on those pelts can help them dry faster, just watch to make sure some spots don't get over dried.
Sometimes blue areas are just where new hair is growing in, and not always the start of slip. From my experiences, rabbit hides do not slip anywhere near as easily as most furbearer pelts. The raised PH and smell (bacteria growth) is more concerning however, but if the hair is still tight, you are good.
There are a lot of factors that can raise PH in a pickle. The pelts themselves, the stability of your acid, the salt you use. (For example, stock salt can have a de-caking agent that raises PH.)


How do I further raise the acidity in this case? Can vinegar be added?

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#12  Unread postby Zass » Sat Apr 08, 2017 2:53 pm


Usually, you would add more of whatever acid you are using. In this case, alum.

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Preitler » Sat Apr 08, 2017 3:36 pm


Short description of how I do it:

I wash the pelts, put them into salt water (100g/l) with sulfuric or formic acid (ph3) overnight, flesh them (it's somewhat easier than fresh), add 100g alum per liter (heat the mixture somewhat to dissolve the alum and let it cool), put the pelts in the mixture for about 5days.

Then I pour off the solution, add cold water and neutralize the acid with soda or NaOH (dangerous stuff, but I happen to have lots of it) for a ph 5-7, check acidity a few hours later and neutrilize again, when the ph stays in that range the pelts stay in there overnight, next dy drying, oiling and breaking.

I'm not sure if the right way would be to neutralize the whole tanning solution, and rinse the salts off afterwards.
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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#14  Unread postby AlishaBee » Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:02 am


Zass wrote:Usually, you would add more of whatever acid you are using. In this case, alum.


Zass: at which point do you oil the hides? While still slightly damp or when completely dry?

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Re: Beginner using Alum method... Questions

Post Number:#15  Unread postby mfalconer » Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:34 am


I don't oil the hides, but I've heard some people do.

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