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Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Discussion of fur breeds, tanning pelts, using the furs, marketing.
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Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#1  Unread postby Zass » Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:37 pm


Well, not a true tan, but an "oil-tan". Similar to brain tanning, but without the problem of finding enough brains. (or the ick factor)

I've never actually done any brain tanning. I haven't had the urge to break open enough rabbit heads and scrape out the brains for the procedure. I won't touch a deer's brains (CWD ) and I rarely get a goat or sheep to work with.



So my first thought is, "this stuff is CHEAP!" Around $2.00-$2.50 for a 16 oz bottle.
It's available anywhere in the country. My local dollar stores and Walmart all carry it. Most hardware stores should have it.

Did my best to keep things as simple as humanly possible.


Basic equipment:
Image
1. Bottle of Murphy brand oil soap
2: Antique and dull carpet knife. (preferred fleshing tool)
3: Untreated, unsalted pelt. Straight from the freezer.

That's it.

I've read in numerous places not to salt pelts used for brain tanning. So I didn't use salt here.

It's not a good pelt. The rabbit was somewhere in between her baby coat and her adult coat, and skin was incredibly thin in some places.

Been a LONG time since I've fully fleshed a raw pelt.

I have to say, fleshing a raw pelt is indeed more difficult than fleshing one that has been salted or and/or pickled.
Fresh meat is slippery stuff.

I finished it as quickly as I could. Without any chemicals to prevent rot, you REALLY want to finish ASAP. I actually put a fan on it to keep the skin cool and dry it out a little while I was fleshing.

After fleshing, I simply spread some oil soap (undiluted, I haven't played with water-soap ratios yet) on the pelt and let it sit in the fridge...for about an hour.
Normally an oiling pelt is placed somewhere warmish.
Normally an oiling pelt has already been pickled and tanned and is safe from epidermal slip.

This pelt was not safe. There was no way I was going to leave it anywhere warm for any length of time.

After about an hour I opened up the pelt and returned it to it's place in front of the fan.

The skin is paper thin in places, it was drying out fast.

Time to start breaking. You know, pull and stretch the leather, work it soft as it dries. Starting when the leather starts turning white when you tug it, up until it's fully dried.

The finished skin was soft, had a sueded feel and a nice white color. No stretch at all, unfortunately, and hint of a papery sound when balled up.

Decided it could use a little more oil.

For the second application I mixed a bit of water with the oil soap and worked it in.

Again, dry and break.
When I wasn't breaking the pelt, I stuck it in the freezer. So it didn't dry out while I was sleeping or away.

The second application might not really have been necessary.


The finished fur side:
Image

(mostly)Finished leather side:
Image (leather is a bit damp on the edges)

Total oil soap used, about an inch from the top of that bottle.

Ok, so. It WORKED as well as I could have hoped. All the hair stayed on it. It's supple. It's the color of broken leather, and it's not oily. It did lose the sueded feel after the second application.
The whole process took less than 24 hours.



It's as "tanned" as well as any pelt I've done with this product: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/231155854680?lpid=82 Which claims to also produce an "indian style" tan.

Actually, for rabbits I like the oil soap better. It didn't leave a greasy mess in the fur it contacted. (the product I linked does leave a mess, I do not recommend it)

It's easy to over-oil rabbits.

Still not as much stretch as I'd like.
The smell is something like citronella. Might be less attractive to dogs and insects than pelts done with brains, eggs, or mayo.

There is a bit of "bunny barn smell" in the fur that I'm not used to encountering. It's because the pelt was never washed or pickled. Tumbling with sawdust would probably help that out. (Or not, it's not an unpleasant smell)

The real work in tanning is fleshing, breaking, and pelt handling to prevent slip. Those skills could be learned with this method.

Perhaps a good way of teaching kids the basics without exposing them to anything harsh? I dunno, I liked the idea that any interested teen in the country could pull a bottle out of their panty and give it a go.

Just don't use an important skin to learn on!!

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#2  Unread postby SA Farm » Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:38 pm


Thanks for posting this, Zass! I've read you can use egg yolks to tan as well, but I haven't tried it yet :)
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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#3  Unread postby Sagebrush » Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:53 pm


Sounds like it might be a good learning tool. Now would you use this type of tanning if you are making slippers? I have a bunch of skins in the freezer that I need to do but have not felt brave enough to do them on my own yet.

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Zass » Wed Aug 13, 2014 7:05 pm


Sagebrush wrote:Sounds like it might be a good learning tool. Now would you use this type of tanning if you are making slippers? I have a bunch of skins in the freezer that I need to do but have not felt brave enough to do them on my own yet.


Grab a junk skin and give it a go! A buckling would work out better than this 1/2 grown doe I used.

Tanning has a learning curve.

It takes practice to be able to consistently do it well.
Gotta start somewhere, and you might as well learn with cheap stuff instead of pricy chemicals.

You should tan one, and then decide what you could do with it the leather you've made. :D

Just keep in mind that it won't be waterproof.

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#5  Unread postby DitchDoc » Thu Aug 14, 2014 10:27 am


GREAT information, thank you for posting this! Do you do anything special to hold the hide while you're fleshing it? Back in the age of the dinosaurs when I attempted deer and (only once...gah it stunk) a boar hide, made a wood frame and laced the fresh hide to it for fleshing.

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Zass » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:45 am


DitchDoc wrote:GREAT information, thank you for posting this! Do you do anything special to hold the hide while you're fleshing it? Back in the age of the dinosaurs when I attempted deer and (only once...gah it stunk) a boar hide, made a wood frame and laced the fresh hide to it for fleshing.


I have a split, barkless piece of an oak log that I use for fleshing small indoor projects. A wet pelt won't move around much on there. That fresh dry-furred pelt I used here was a bit more of a pain.

Hmmm, one wouldn't be able to lash anything as thin skinned as this a rabbit to a frame.

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#7  Unread postby Miss M » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:18 pm


Very interesting! :) How do you clean the fur, if it has blood on it?
We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.
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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#8  Unread postby Zass » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:51 pm


Miss M wrote:Very interesting! :) How do you clean the fur, if it has blood on it?


For this experiment, I just used a pelt that wasn't dirty to begin with. I keep the rabbits clean while alive and as clean as possible through the whole skinning process.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure , right?

I wouldn't want to get it wet and take the time to dry the fur side, for fear of slip. Not saying it can't be done. Tanning is funny that way.

I suppose, tanning is like raising bunnies. There are a LOT of different ways of doing things and everyone has to find out what works best for them. What works OK once might not be OK the next time you try it. What works on one type of pelt might not work on another.

If I really wanted to use a dirty pelt, I'd probably pickle it to stabilize the pelt first, since bacteria is of much greater concern on a bloody, wet, or otherwise messy hide.

I demonstrated how over-the-counter vinegar (acetic acid) can be used for that:
tanning-easy-and-using-vinegar-as-a-pickle-experiment-t18829.html

Leaving a fryer skin in overnight was good enough, but most skins need three days to pickle fully.

That would stabilize the hide and minimize risk of bacteria causing your fur to fall out. Then you could wash it with dish soap or even shampoo, neutralize with a solution of baking soda and water, rinse and proceed to tan.

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#9  Unread postby DitchDoc » Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:16 pm


Thank you Zass! I've a dozen hides in the freezer, think I may give this a whirl over the weekend and see what happens. I don't have a handy log to use, will figure something out. Do you break the hide with your hands or do you pull it over the log back and forth?

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#10  Unread postby Zass » Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:07 pm


DitchDoc wrote:Thank you Zass! I've a dozen hides in the freezer, think I may give this a whirl over the weekend and see what happens. I don't have a handy log to use, will figure something out. Do you break the hide with your hands or do you pull it over the log back and forth?



Rabbits are pretty thin, so they don't need as much force to break as deer or coons.

I use my hands, the rounded part of my carpet knife, a chair back or handle, a wooden spoon.

Oh yeah, and, my mouse sander.


You know...whatever.

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#11  Unread postby Miss M » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:32 pm


Okay, I looked at your vinegar thread. I'm starting to think I can do this.

Do you think I could do the vinegar, and then the Murphy's?
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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#12  Unread postby Sagebrush » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:37 pm


I was wondering the same thing.... If so I know what I will be doing with my weekend!

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#13  Unread postby Zass » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:48 pm


Miss M wrote:Okay, I looked at your vinegar thread. I'm starting to think I can do this.

Do you think I could do the vinegar, and then the Murphy's?


Yeah,
rough flesh before putting the pelt in the pickle (mainly just take the fat off) You can take your time and do your final fleshing after it's pickled.

I haven't yet tested the stability of the vinegar over a three day period, but I think that length of time would only be necessary for really thick rabbit skins.
I do know that your not going to want to leave it anywhere warm. (refrigerator pickles, anyone?)

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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#14  Unread postby Miss M » Fri Aug 15, 2014 2:07 am


Ooooooooh, okay, so get the fat and anything loose off, put it in the vinegar, stick it in the fridge.

Wait a day or two (how does that hide "look" pickled?), remove, flesh, put back in vinegar in fridge for a while, remove, neutralize with baking soda, then apply tan (like Murphy's).

Is that right?
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Re: Tanning with Murphy's Oil Soap experiment

Post Number:#15  Unread postby Zass » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:18 am


Miss M wrote:Ooooooooh, okay, so get the fat and anything loose off, put it in the vinegar, stick it in the fridge.

Wait a day or two (how does that hide "look" pickled?), remove, flesh, put back in vinegar in fridge for a while, remove, neutralize with baking soda, then apply tan (like Murphy's).

Is that right?



That should work out just fine.

Anytime a raw pelt is anywhere warm, balled up or put in plastic before freezing, exposed to too much body heat or moisture, etc. you can loose patches of fur.
It's why most hair-on tanners rely heavily on acid pickles.

Brain tan methods were more traditionally used for producing buckskin leather (hair off, where slip isn't an issue)

A pickled pelt will be pale, the leather will be whitish and kinda puffy looking. The meat slightly plumped. Compare the one in my picture to what one looks like fresh off the rabbit or out of the freezer. :)

You can see in the pic there how even the flesh was almost white.

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