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Thread: Squirrel hair

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Squirrel hair

    I'm going hunting this saturday and I intend to keep all the fur from any squirrels I kill. Does anyone have any good methods of sterilizing and cleaning the fur to removed blood and the like? Also does anyone have a good method of dying squirrel fur?

    thanks,
    Jordan

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    Jordan, there have been past threads about preserving & dyeing various materials. A search should give you some additional information.

    When you skin them be sure to remove any excess fat from the hide, and hand wash them in warm water & Dawn dishwashing detergent. Dawn is a very good degreaser. This will remove most of the oils, dirt & blood. Rinse well with cold water. Get as much water out of the fur as you can (old towels or paper towels work well, or even a hair drier) & tack the hides to a board, skin side out, & stretched out so they dry. Keep a close eye on them, because while wet, they could start to mildew & mold might form, which would ruin them.
    You want to prop them up somewhere that air can circulate around them. Inside is best, like in a basement or garage, especially this time of year, as there will still be bugs around that might be attracted to the hide. Also don't want to put them anywhere that mice can get to them, as they're chew them up.

    I've kept tails with both the bone in & de-boned & never had any issues. But, I also keep them in sealed bags & often in a freezer. A freezer is a good place to store such materials for long term.

    Once dry, there is little need to do anything else, but a thin coat of Borax can be applied to the hide side, which will aid in removing any oils that might still be present. With raw, dried hides you don't want to remove all the natural oils, but if you see any that's seeping out into droplets or running down the hide, that means there's still excess.

    Dyeing them is simple, like dyeing Easter eggs. I prefer acid dyes, which can be obtained at shops such as Dharma Trading Co. I've used both Jacquard & Dharma's house brands with great success. Keep in mind that the cleaner & less excess oils there are on a hide, the better the dyeing results. Of course, some colors are much easier to dye with than others also.

    Basically, you heat some water, you want it hot but not boiling, add your dye & a little bit of white vinegar, then add your fur & let it soak up the dye. The vinegar, which is the acid, sets the dye. Usually only takes about 20 minutes or so, but again is dependent on the hide & the dye.

    You may have to experiment with the dye quantity to get the colors the way you want, but I've found that with acid dyes a little goes a long way, so I start with about a table spoon per 1/2 gallon of water.

    Now, you can dye the hide before it's dried, but be sure to clean it. This means tacking the dyed hide to a board, so wear appropriate gloves, to keep the dye off your hands. You should wear gloves anyway when using dyes, as they are chemicals & should not use them with utensils that would also be used for food. Use caution too, as there may be some dust from the dye powder, which is not good to be breathing in.

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited by bigjim5589; 08-28-2013 at 01:16 PM.
    Remember, no one likes to be behind the big truck, but that's better than being under it!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    Hey Jim!

    Actually my plan was to use my hair clippers and shave the bad boys (just the belly and body fur, not the tails, those are a separate project)! My main goal is to use the fur for dubbing GRHE type flies, mini buggers, and the like. I had thought of putting all the fur in a strainers, using dawn to clean it, then stuffing it in a sock and tossing it in the dryer to dry. For dying i was thinking of using a white tea towel to wrap the fur in a bundle, and then place it in the dye. Thoughts??

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    Squirrel fur is an excellent dubbing.

    I've never tried shaving fur first then attempting to clean or dye it, always have done so on the hide. I have however dried bucktails in a clothes dryer, inside an old pillow case. The lint trap had to be cleaned often, as some of the hair would get loose & thru the cloth. I might expect that clipped fur that small in a sock would mostly end up in the lint trap or thru it & wasted.

    Not sure about the tea towel idea either, as the towel may absorb more of the dye than the fur. Speculation on my part however, as again, not something I've tried.

    I'm an old fur trapper & processed fly tying materials to sell for many years. IMO, on the hide is still the best option as you may lose more material than you gain by taking the course of action you intend. Only way to know for sure is to try it & see what happens.

    Keep us informed please!
    Remember, no one likes to be behind the big truck, but that's better than being under it!

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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    Will do Jim!

  7. Smile Re: Squirrel hair

    Hey Big Jim:

    Thanks for saying that Squirrel Fur is an "excellent dubbing".

    That had occurred to me, but I just was not quite confident about trying something different.
    Now I will.
    Welcome to the world of Fly Crying

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    I use a lot more squirrel tail than squirrel dubbing and this time of year are free for the gathering. (road kill )
    Just cut the tails off at the base and dunk the end in salt. They take care of themselves.
    The simpler the outfit, the more skill it takes to manage it, and the more pleasure one gets in his achievements. --- Horace Kephart

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    different acid dyes have slightly different methods.
    when i use Jacquard and generic brands i add the dye, then the materials, let the dye absorb in to the hair/fur/feather, then add the vinegar.
    For darker colors you generally need to leave it much longer, and when i've dyed materials black i've often dyed them red first, then dyed them black, leaving them in the dye bath overnight (allowing it too cool), before reheating the next day and adding the acid.

    I've also used Cushings Perfection acid dyes to great effect, where the dye and acid are added together then the material. When the dye bath is clear (All the dye is in the material) its time to take it out,, rinse it and dry it.

    i've found for Jacquard, the dye bath never goes clear.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    Eunan, I've only ever used the two dyes that I mentioned, so that's good to know. Have you ever had any problems arise from the amount of vinegar you've added? I left some fur on the hide in a dye bath once over night & when I tried to remove it, the hide had disintegrated. Since then I only use a small amount of vinegar, and don't leave them in the dye that long. I've also never had a dye bath become completely clear when using Jacquard dyes.
    Remember, no one likes to be behind the big truck, but that's better than being under it!

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Squirrel hair

    Here is a question gentlemen:

    For nymphs and/or caddis larvae, what colors of dye (other than olive, brown/tan, and maybe a dark red) would you recommend?

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