Tanning Game & Domestic Hides

HomesteaderWife

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@Larsen Poultry Ranch - I've seen mixed reaction to salting before freezing, but I have also tanned hides that were frozen. I'd say your factors will depend on how long they've been stored, how they were folded or stacked when put in, and how you thaw. If they were stacked on top of one another, or if they were folded in a way that the flesh side was touching hair side, there could be hair loss. Long term storage of frozen hides can cause freeze burn. In Monte Burch's "The Ultimate Guide to Skinning and Tanning" book he talks about taking the frozen hides and putting them in several changes of cool water to thaw. Don't hang them out alone, or put them in hot water. Time is important gettign them saved and keeping your fur. Once that hide is moving and not stiff, go with it. Have your tanning method prepped before you thaw. Depending on what tanning method you are using, have some salt on hand.

In the end, preserving a hide with smoking will help at the end of the process can help. I got really into Matt Richards' book "Deerskins into Buckskins" because he breaks down in much more detail why certain steps are done, how the makeup of the skin is and how it is changed and he talks about how the smoke is that preservation. I had a chance to correspond with him and he pointed out how the alum tanning I was doing was unstable on its own without the smoking to make it permenant. I had learned the lesson years prior after stretching a salt-alum tanned hide and softening, only to come back and the hide was very stiff and had little "crystal" looking spots on it. When I smoked them, I didn't notice this.

Sorry for my rambling! As for tanning, have you thought of how you'll tan them? If you have quite a bulk, salt/alum would be an inepensive method. Find yourself a deep rubbermaid or a plastic trash can (metal corrodes) - Monte has the salt/alum recipe in the book I could share. If you're soaking them in a solution, have some gloves and turn them a few times a day and uncurl them in the alum. If you don't work the hides and make sure every part of it has exposure to the solution, those parts won't take. They'll be all green/blue and yucky looking. If you haven't tanned before, start with one and don't get overwhelmed.

I do not have experience with egg tanning JUST yet, but I will say that after talking with Matt and asking some questions regarding it, don't wash the egg out. I've seen a bunch of videos of people egg tanning then washing the hide afterwards. I'm going to work on a comparison video with some raccoon furs where some are bottle tanned, egg tanned, or alum tanned. Curious to see how it pans out, let me know if you are tanning any of yours that way!
 

HomesteaderWife

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I wanted to know a little bit more about salt myself, so recorded something about it once I did some digging with some helpful tips included. Intro could be skipped, it's just explaining to any new viewers that tanning is a good way to be resourceful and even those not hunters/trappers could still get into it and help cut back on waste from throaway hides.

 

Larsen Poultry Ranch

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I was actually going to try using egg, since I wanted to avoid chemicals. The rabbit pelts are in Ziploc bags, several to a bag. We tried to be careful and keep flesh sides together as we put them in the bags. Some are several years old now. It will be a learning experience even if the hides don't turn out.

I will try thawing using several buckets of cold water rather than warm water. Maybe put some salt in the water too?
 

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@Larsen Poultry Ranch - I'm not sure but in Monte's book he mentions using 1 ounce borax to each gallon warm water needed to cover hide as a relaxing bath for frozen, dried, or salted hides. The directions on a tanning formula I have mention two days of salting, then a soak in some warm water with salt (doesn't specifically say, but I think it is meant to be a relaxing bath).

Once the hides are wrung and start to dry where you can pull them and it turns white, it's time for the eggs. Seems like 1 egg yolk + water + a dash of neatsfoot oil or olive oil can do one fur. I am currently drying and stretching a raccoon I used 1 egg yolk + about same volume warm water + dash of neatsfoot on. Once it starts to dry and starts to turn white again when you pull on it, time to stretch and soften. I'll add some photos when I get it done - this hide was salted, relax bathed with the salt and water, then egged. I'll smoke it when I can as well.

Save those egg whites to cook/bake!
 

Larsen Poultry Ranch

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Reviving this thread, unless you'd prefer that I create my own?

We butchered 20 rabbits on Saturday, and I am attempting to tan the first 6 using the alum-salt method. The rest of the hides have been placed in the freezer, 3 to a ziplock bag, with the flesh side together. I tried to keep the flesh and fur sides not touching but I don't know if I was fully successful, I'm hoping they will only be in the freezer for a week or so, until I get more buckets or finish this first batch. These rabbits were very fatty and were about 3-4 months old when butchered. These first 6 are regular fur and chestnut in color; the rest are chestnut, black, chinchilla, and there are 3 Rex furred (black/castor). There's an additional 5+ rabbits I still need to butcher unless I can get them sold, including a sable agouti Rex and a chinchilla Rex.

I reread this thread and watched several YouTube videos on alum-salt tanning and each video had a different ratio. I am using a kitty litter bucket as I have a bunch of them and it has a lid. I poured in 3 gallons water and added 1 cup salt and 1 cup alum, mixed with a wooden stick. Most of the videos said to stir 2x a day for 4+ days and then flesh the pelts. Then return them to the solution for an additional 7+ days, then stretch the pelt while slowly drying. Some of the videos added more salt/alum to the existing solution after the first segment but some didn't. I'm hoping I haven't already screwed it up.

The rabbit pelts were left in tube form so they got turned inside out and I tried to pull off the bigger loose chunks of fat before attempting to submerge them in the solution. They didn't want to stay submerged so I put a plastic lid and a brick in to keep them under water. Two bricks sunk the lid too much and then tipped over, releasing the lid and pelts back to the surface. The cats were very intrigued by this whole process and wanted to inspect everything, especially the pelts. The 6 pelts raised the water level almost to the top of the container, I'm glad I decided to start with only 3 gallons of water.
 
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