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Old 06-14-2011, 10:59 AM
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Default Re: How do you store your tying materials to keep away pests?

Sorry- this is a long post, but it's my typical response to this question.

It's always good to set aside sufficient time to tie... but also occasionally to get familiar with the materials you have and spend some time setting up things that may help you effectively use your time when you do tie.

I learned the importance of having CLEAN, well packaged and labeled materials at a pretty young age after having an infestation cost me a few pelts, tails and capes. Don't assume that materials you purchase or receive are always insect free or have been properly treated and cleaned. SMELL them on receipt, check them for excess fat or oil (on the skin side), and NEVER introduce them into your inventory until you have given them an opportunity to prove themselves worthy! This isn't usually a problem with synthetics, but natural materials definitely need to be 'studied'.

Even with the highest quality on-skin or on-hide materials (Hoffmann, Metz, whatever) you will periodically find problems that can be easily cured by spending a bit of time checking them over and washing them. Look at the skin and see if there are any 'blobs' of fat or greasy/oily areas- you can typically find these by running a piece of medium blue or grey paper across them and see if it darkens. After using a razor blade and sharp scissors to cut away any fat or excess skin, you can use the edge of a spoon (dedicated to this purpose, NOT a kitchen utensil!) to scrape the back of the skin and make sure there's no more surface fat.

Now, smell the patch and see if you pick up any oily scent. Even if you don't, washing the materials is a good idea. Fill a clean sink with warm water and a small amount (a couple of tablespoons) of Dawn dishwashing detergent. Place the neck in the water and allow it to sit for a few minutes, then using your hands, rub the skin surface gently to remove any surface oils. Turn the neck over and 'swish' the feathers through the soapy water while fanning them away from the skin. Drain the sink and rinse both sides of the neck under running warm water until there is no soap remaining. Rinse the neck again under cool water and place it skin side down on a pad of paper towels to drain and dry. If you have a ceiling fan, place it on the table under the ceiling fan and turn it on medium to help dry the feathers out. You can also do this with a hair dryer on low heat by draping the skin side of the neck over your hand and aiming the dryer at the feathers.

Allow the neck to dry completely for a day or so and then place it in a NEW, CLEAN, ziploc-type bag and label it with the date you purchased it and the source you obtained it from. IF YOU'RE REAL PARANOID... you can pop it in the freezer for a couple of days and pull it out before introducing it into your inventory... this way if there were any insect eggs you may have missed, it will kill them.

One thing you'll notice after doing this is there will be a bit of a difference in the color of the feathers from before and after washing, the other is how much the feathers will shine. You can do this with necks, saddles, full capes, any "feathers on skin" patches and you REALLY should consider it. All it will take is one rancid or buggy patch that ruins the balance of your materials to change your mind.

The same can be done with fur patches, it's not necessary to do this with tanned hides but with dry cured furs it's a good idea. I've routinely done this with bucktails, calf tails and any on-hide fur I get from live kills. You will need a utility knife (to remove excess skin and fat), a comb and/or brush, and a bit more time for drying these materials after washing. It's also a good idea to consider making a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and table salt to use to sprinkle on the skin to help cure and dry it after the majority of the water has dried out.

And furs, capes, pelts from live kills should ALWAYS be frozen, defrosted and frozen a second time after they are completely dry to kill off any eggs.

A little time spent up front will provide a better long term experience when tying, especially with the high cost of materials currently.

Store your labeled ziploc bags in snap tight plastic containers away from excessive heat and light to extend the life of your materials and try not to mix materials (feathers, furs, synthetics) unless it's smaller volumes stored in a travel tying kit. Keep your plastic containers to a reasonable size- I think it's much better to have more medium sized ones than fewer large ones. If you can be sure your materials are bug free when you store them this way, you can avoid the need for using moth cakes, eucalyptus nuts, cedar or chewing tobacco plugs when you store them.
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