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Fur On Hide Processing

Posted 09-25-2013 at 07:55 PM by random user
Updated 10-28-2013 at 07:42 AM by random user

Hide Processing:

NOTE: Do NOT process hides if you have open cuts on your hands without laytex or nitril gloves. Be sure to REALLY wash your hands and forearms when the processing is complete. If you do manage to get an infected cut, it will grow that lovely red line up your arm rather quickly. With the warning given, I will state that I have done will over 100 times in my life with no problems and that I some woodchuck hides in my tying materials that were processed this way over 15 years ago.

(Also, I am profoundly lysdexic, so if there is a major glitch in the text, please let me know because I literally can't see it.)

The two most important things are to dry it as fast as possible and be sure to ‘flesh’ the hide well.

The longer the hide is wet or even mildly damp, the more hair is going to fall off.

‘Fleshing’ is the process of scraping everything that is not skin off the skin side of the hide. If you leave, fat, membrane, etc. on the hide, it will neither dry well nor store well. Fleshing is best done with a small very sharp knife. The process is to just scrape away at the hide until you reach the skin. The actual skin layer is the layer where you see a texture change and can generally see the pores of the skin and all the shiny and slippery stuff is gone.

Quick and Simple Hide Process:

This is good for hides where the fur will eventually be clipped off or for quick preservation of hides which eventually be processed more later. The down side to it is that the hide ends up board-stiff. This process is effective with any mammal from a medium sized beaver on down to as small as you want to work.

With small skins, grey squirrels, et al, the best way to flesh them is to lay a towel over your knee, and use that as the surface to scrape the unwanted tissue off the skin. A grey squirrel should take 15 to 30 minutes. If/when “you get good at it” can take 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the skin is fleshed, wash it quickly and thoroughly with and grease dissolving dish detergent and rinse very well. The scent of the detergent will stay in the hide and fur. Lay the hide out on a dry towel, roll up into a tube, step on one end of the tube, twist the towel tight and pull up upward. This will pull a lot of the liquid water out of the skin and fur, leaving the hide damp and ready for the next step.

Take a piece of ¾” plywood or similar, maybe twice the size of the hide when it is laid out. Use 2” coated finishing nails and pin the hide, fur side down, to the plywood. Only drive the nails into the ply wood ¼” or so, so that the bulk of the nail is still sticking out. Try to keep the nail heads all at the same height. The skin should be “loosely-snug” between the pins, but not drum-tight. The skin is going to shrink as it dries. If it is pinned too tightly, it can rip through the pins.

The next step is to slide the hide up to the top of the nails and get it off the plywood. The farther up the nails the hide can be raised, the better. With the hide lifted, cover the skin side with borax. Reach under the hide with one hand and work the borax into the skin with the other hand. Once completed, leave 1/8” on dry borax on top to the skin.

With that complete, go after the fur side of the skin with a hair dryer, blowing against the way the fur normally lays. Blow the fur with the hair dry so that the fur stands up. If the hair dryer is adjustable, go with the highest air flow setting and medium to low heat setting. Too much heat becomes a bad thing. The faster you get the moisture out, the better the fur will stay attached to the skin.

Now the hard part: Put the stretched out hide someplace dry with airflow and wait. It is a good idea to make sure that a dry layer of borax is on top of the skin throughout the drying process. More borax can be rubbed in, or the existing borax can be rubbed around. The hide should be completely, dead, bone dry and board-stiff in no more than a a day or so.

The faster the hide dries, the more fur and under-fur remain attached to the skin. This statement has been repeated several times intentionally.

Leaving the hide wet is essentially “Bucking” the hide. (“Bucking” is the process of literally rotting the hair and fur off a skin – think Buckskin.)

Once the hide is dry, all of the dubbing can be removed quickly and easily with a fine hair or pet trimmer, or left on the hide to be clipped off as necessary.

Borax is a slightly more expensive (maybe $0.25) more than salt for drying skins. Salt is corrosive and will actually eat into the dried hide if you leave too much on it. Borax does not do this. Borax also has the same type anti-bacterial properties of salt, but is not really so edible. Borax is just as water soluble as salt, but a little less nasty if you are rinsing it out of a dried hide. Borax is used as a laundry additive as well as a mild insecticide and completely harmless to humans (unless it is eaten by the pound of inhaled by the pound).

Lastly, The Borax being referred to is "20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Detergent Booster" which is commonly sold in the laundry detergent section of many stores.
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  1. Old Comment
    A great and useful post, thanks for sharing. I had always assumed the process was more tedious than you described for preserving a hide with fur on.

    Posted 10-02-2013 at 11:53 PM by littledavid123 littledavid123 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    gzarboni's Avatar
    Good post. My father in law is a taxidermist and he pretty much does the same thing.
    Posted 10-03-2013 at 10:37 AM by gzarboni gzarboni is offline
  3. Old Comment
    random user's Avatar
    Originally Posted by littledavid123 View Comment
    A great and useful post, thanks for sharing. I had always assumed the process was more tedious than you described for preserving a hide with fur on.

    It's pretty quick even the first time you do it. Small sharp knife that is comfortable to hold is the only, trick, if there is a trick. It's all about getting the hide clean and dry as soon of possible. Moisture in the enemy with any fur on thing.

    Brain tanning (aka braining) fur on is a more complicated and longer process but still not too bad. Again this is a speed thing.

    Full on brain tanning, aka 'buckskin', is a much more messy, smelly, labor intensive thing. Step one in this is letting the hide rot slightly in a 'bucking" or 'lime-ing' solution to remove the hair, fur and some epidermis. This is what you are watch when you see someone standing and sweating in front of a hide scraping the hair off. It's a lot of time and effort. It's also why a brained deerskin runs in the $300-$500 range, and you need four of them to make a good shirt.
    Posted 10-04-2013 at 08:52 AM by random user random user is offline

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