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New to processing pelts

Discussion of fur breeds, tanning pelts, using the furs, marketing.
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New to processing pelts

Post Number:#1  Unread postby swaggymama » Tue Oct 23, 2018 12:13 pm


I've been reading up a lot on processing pelts, and I think I want to stick with a more natural way of doing things, but I'm wondering if the steps are absolute, or if there is wiggle room.

The way I understand the process is:

-clean and cool down
-stretch / dry completely
-tan (will likely use black tea or egg white)
-dry
-tan again
-lotion
-dry

I've read about drying on racks.. and read about drying in dryers (air dry for hours with wooden blocks) but I'm confused in that can you do all drying except the first one in the dryer?

Do you HAVE to smoke the hides?

How will you know if it's dry enough?

Seriously - I've been googling / reading for like 3 hours today and I don't have a clear answer...

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#2  Unread postby shazza » Tue Oct 23, 2018 12:50 pm


natural "tanning" is difficult to get right - good luck! i am a tanner but i used synth tans as they are less work and more reliable, so i'm not that familiar with natural tanning. what i do know is that you HAVE to smoke the hides or it is not a true tan and will not last forever. i'm not sure about drying - it seems everyone has their own method and they stick with what works for them. this is another reason why i don't care much for natural tanning...synth tans have very clear instructions and everyone does it the same way so you can ask for help :p

the drying on racks vs dryers is because the first dry is to ensure the hair stays in well (i use salt, rather than drying,) and the second dry (in the dryer) is to dry the tanning chemicals and soften the pelt. that's what the blocks are for. you can also just soften by hand.

you'll know it's dry enough when you can stretch the skin and it has some resistance and will turn a nice white. this is a good video that shows what i mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDd8t3TJe60 i like to take some sandpaper after they're completely stretched and dry and sand down the leather. it makes it super soft.

good luck!
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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#3  Unread postby swaggymama » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:52 am


Thank you Shazza - I've been viewing videos of different methods etc for days... and I think I know what I want to try out, along with some 'shortcuts' such as using a blowdryer to quick dry the fur

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#4  Unread postby GBov » Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:32 pm


For your first one you can try this.

After removing the hide from the rabbit, fleshing and drying it - or buying a dried hide on Etsy (movingonwiththings.etsy.com ;) - brew up a very strong brew of black tea, about 6 bags to 2 cups of water simmered for ages.

Once cool sponge it onto the hide side several times, not too much at a time, until the hide is a supple as a damp rag. Not dripping, a well wrung out dishrag dampness.

Then lay it flat on a towel, roll it up, put it on the floor and walk on it a bit. That gets any extra out.

By only wetting the hide the fur will stay dry so you are ahead of the game at that point.

Then gently pull and stretch it. This bit is all by feel and can take a few hours but sitting down with a favorite DVD helps the time to pass.

The key is GENTLE, gentle pulls and stretches.

I put hand cream on mine when the hides start to feel dryer but as I said, it is a by feel thing and you dont need to, I just like the finished profuct more.

Another thing I have found is if my hide starts to crackle or be stiff in parts I simply need to dampen that spot with a bit more of my tea and keep working it.

The end product is supposed to be soft and limp with no hard/stiff bits but the edges are always going to be stiff, that is fine, you cut them off anyway when turning your hides into beautiful things.

It is very hard to tell when the hide is done when you are starting out but the beauty of tea tanning is that you can go back to it tomorrow if it stiffens up after you think it was done.

Every hide is going to look different with natural tanning but if you think about it, it is only the fur side that most people see anyway so who cares? :lol:

Last thing, NO HEAT!!! Dryers on air only if breaking hides in them with blocks, very very important.

Learn on hides, one by one, until you are happy with what you are producing and then step it up into working several hides at the same time. Trust me, the finished hides build up, even one at a time. And keep them out of the dogs reach, my dog ate 4 months worth of work before learning that eating hides = a hiding!

__________ Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:32 pm __________

I have smoked hides and left hides unsmoked. Mostly the difference is smoked hides smell amazing. :D

One of my first hides, a mouse, is still going strong, unsmoked, 35 years and counting.

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#5  Unread postby michaels4gardens » Sun Nov 25, 2018 7:27 am


just a note..[ once upon a time ...i raised rabbits for a fur market] when you process rabbits for fur , .. as soon as the hide is removed, pause a minute , rinse the blood out [if any] , and lay the hide flat on a rack,...or... slide it over a "stretcher" [wire frame] and hang it up.. , or ...toss the hide into a tanning solution. If you just pile the hides until you are finished butchering a litter, or several litters, you will get places on the hides where the hair/ fur is loose and will come out easily.... this is because the hides will "heat up" when fresh and in a pile. The "Heating up" causes the fur to become "less well" attached to the hide... If you leave them piled for an hour or two in the summer, you can even get some totally bald spots... JMHO...
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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#6  Unread postby GBov » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:27 pm


michaels4gardens wrote:just a note..[ once upon a time ...i raised rabbits for a fur market] when you process rabbits for fur , .. as soon as the hide is removed, pause a minute , rinse the blood out [if any] , and lay the hide flat on a rack,...or... slide it over a "stretcher" [wire frame] and hang it up.. , or ...toss the hide into a tanning solution. If you just pile the hides until you are finished butchering a litter, or several litters, you will get places on the hides where the hair/ fur is loose and will come out easily.... this is because the hides will "heat up" when fresh and in a pile. The "Heating up" causes the fur to become "less well" attached to the hide... If you leave them piled for an hour or two in the summer, you can even get some totally bald spots... JMHO...


I put mine into ice water or into the fridge.

My goal is always to flesh on the same day I did the rabbit but alas :oops: my freezer once again has hides in it.

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#7  Unread postby shazza » Sun Nov 25, 2018 4:01 pm


i can never do more than five or six at a time before i have to go take a break, so i've never had slip issues with just piling them up. then they either go right into the salt or rolled into bags and into the freezer. even in texas summer, though i couldn't butcher during the day, so it wasn't as hot when i was working. the one time i had a team helping me we bagged the pelts and put them into a cooler with ice.
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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Green2Rabbits » Sun Jul 05, 2020 7:15 am


swaggymama wrote:......
I think I want to stick with a more natural way of doing things, but I'm wondering if the steps are absolute, or if there is wiggle room.
.......
-tan (will likely use black tea or egg white)
-dry
-tan again
-lotion
-dry
.............
Do you HAVE to smoke the hides?

How will you know if it's dry enough?

Seriously - I've been googling / reading for like 3 hours today and I don't have a clear answer...


I have learned a lot from 2 main youtube people on this. The first I strongly recommend is "TheTribeOfBenjamin" and "Xavier de la Foret" by watching their videos you will get a really good idea what's involved for doing it natural.

I myself tinker around in brain tanning and alum pickling. And I see this is an old thread but I'll try to answer a few things incase some one else is also wondering.....

The Tea method makes a stronger less supple hide that uses tannins like for belts or saddles but can be done to any leather. The egg YELLOW is a substitute for brains where you use the fats from (yokes or brains) to soften the leather.
Brain tanning is less durable but much more supple usually used for clothing like shirts and trinkets.

You smoke for color/sealer/bug replant. You can smoke any leather for color but you need to smoke brain tanned (including egg) skins IF you want them to be able to get wet and dry again without loosing their softness. The smoke and bits of tar and stuff that's released during smoking wood covers the leather and seals in the beneficial oils that you worked in the hide.
Brain tanned hides especially are more prone to bug damage if not in a safe space so by tanning it the smell helps deter the insects that eat leather. (The smell does dissipate after a week or two and doesn't smell bad or strong with time)

The step you described as lotion is when you oil the hide. But yeah usually you do this to hides that aren't brained. Typically the brain tan method has enough oils in it right away to not need any oil added but in several years you may want to oil it again.

Practice to know when its dry. The hide will not feel cool at all. A slightly damp hide will feel a bit cooler than normal and practice will help but for me this is still tricky. A rabbit hide is thin and will dry quite fast but deer or bigger can take several hours if braining and stretching by hand.

Again I'm newer to this and do it the natural method by brain tanning. Nothing wrong with using a tea method and it's better to get a more durable fur. I just personally have little knowledge on that and am better on braining. You probably already have your answer though but if not feel free to DM/PM me. I learned everything I know from YouTube and the internet so I can probably direct you to a video that shows it.
If anyone has questions feel free to ask I'll answer if I can or will try to direct you especially on braining.

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#9  Unread postby GBov » Sun Jul 05, 2020 10:35 am


I have to say tea does not make a stiffer hide, all my hides I now do with tea and they are lovely. If I do say so myself. :lol:

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Zass » Tue Jul 07, 2020 6:57 am


I haven't done much tanning in the last few years, due to there not being enough space in my little house. I think you guys have it all covered pretty well, so I'll just leave this little gem:

Practice on the hides you don't care about first, and leave your favorite pelts in the freezer until you get a method down!!

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#11  Unread postby GBov » Tue Jul 07, 2020 1:56 pm


Zass wrote:I haven't done much tanning in the last few years, due to there not being enough space in my little house. I think you guys have it all covered pretty well, so I'll just leave this little gem:

Practice on the hides you don't care about first, and leave your favorite pelts in the freezer until you get a method down!!


100% correct!!!

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Re: New to processing pelts

Post Number:#12  Unread postby Green2Rabbits » Sun Jul 12, 2020 9:51 pm


GBov wrote:I have to say tea does not make a stiffer hide, all my hides I now do with tea and they are lovely. If I do say so myself. :lol:

I don't do a true tan so when it comes to using natural tannins don't quote me.

I heard it is more durable and thought less wiggly.....not stiff like a flour tortilla left out I mean less flexible as aposed to braining. I could be wrong on that. The video I watched was using a cow hide I think so rabbits are WAY thinner.
Thanks for correcting me I should try actual tanning since rabbit hides would be way faster than deer.

__________ Sun Jul 12, 2020 8:51 pm __________

Zass wrote:Practice on the hides you don't care about first, and leave your favorite pelts in the freezer until you get a method down!!


Great advice! Since the winters are so cold by me I started out on fresh road kill that was not visually damaged and fresh. Being winter it was like going in a freezer if you got the animal withing 20mins defending on time.

Usually it was either hit in the head (broke neck) or most deer would be hit in hip or neck head shoulder area.

Being summer forget about it but come winter if it's cold by you and you have the proper paper work (check with DNR) you could practice then also and for free.

Sorry he made a good point though find the least pretty rabbit and don't beat yourself up if it gets torn or the fur slips. My first was a Frankenstein back when I was around 14 or 15 yrs old. Lol.
Still no where near a professional....

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