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  • #8749
    Gypsy Wanderer Husky
    Gypsy Wanderer Husky
    Survivalist
    exprepper

    How I Tan a Rabbit Hide
    Ask a dozen hunters how to tan a hide and you will get a dozen answers. Go ahead, do a search online. You will find hundreds of different ways. Most people think their way is the best (or only) way to do it properly. In reality, there are quite a few ways to do it. Each has its own merits and drawbacks.

    One thing that is often confused is the difference between tanning and preserving. Preserving is done by simply removing any meat and fat from the skin. Then the hide is left to dry. You often hear of people “tanning” a hide by scraping off the fat and drying it with salt. While this works fine for taxidermy or hanging a pelt on the wall, it is not tanning. A preserved hide will slowly continue to decompose, eventually the hair will begin to slip and the hide will disintegrate. If it is often handled this will happen in a few years or less, if it is hanging on the wall it could last for decades.

    Tanning permanently changes the proteen structure of the skin. After a hide is tanned it can be used as clothing or in some other handleable (is that a word?) use. It’s hide will not decompose and its fur will not slip.

    I am going to show you how I tan a hide. It is not the only way, it may not be the best way. It is my way. My way is cheap, easy, and quick. Here we go:

    1. Obtain something dead with fur.
    If you read my blog you will know that I have recently come into the possession of a dead rabbit. My intention was to skin it and practice my tanning skills on it.

    rab

    2. Skin the dead thing.
    I’m not going to show you how to do this. I totally botched the skinning, the hide was paper thin and ripped in several places. There was enough left over to practice on though.

    botched
    Right before I botch the job

    3. Wash the hide.
    I use a 5 gallon bucket. Just get the dirt and blood off. It shouldn’t take much scrubbing.

    4. Stretch the hide and nail it to a board, fur down.
    I like to use finish nails. Staples to a lot of damage and are hard to remove. Large nails put large holes.

    skinned
    The large hole is the exit wound
    5. Coat with salt. (Optional)
    Put a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of salt on the exposed hide. This is an optional step that I always do. The next step takes time. If you do not have the time to do it right away, salting will preserve your skin until you are ready. It can also make the next step easier.
    salt

    Salty. Not in a yummy way.

    6. Flesh the hide.
    Remove all of the salt, brush off as much as possible. Take a dull knife, spoon, file, or anything handy and start scraping all of the meat and fat off the skin. You kind of push it off. Depending on your skinning skills, this can take a long time, or no time. All of the fat and meat must be removed. If you do not have time to finish, just re-salt and you can start back up later.

    7. Tan the hide.
    I use egg yolks to tan my hides. This is a version of brain tanning. I prefer it because I don’t have to dig around for the critters brain. If you have an extra brain laying around you can substitute it for the egg yolk. I used one egg for the rabbit skin, it was barely enough. beat the yolk until it is smooth. Gently rub it into the skin. You should cover every bit of the skin, but it should not get on the hair side of the skin.
    yokes

    The yellow makes it look like something out of a horror movie

    8. Cover the skin with a clean, wet rag.
    This helps keep the egg from drying out.
    rag
    The rag keeps it from becoming crusty

    9. Coat the wet rag with borax. (Optional)
    This keeps the flies off, but doesn’t really do much for the hide.

    bor
    Borax is great for preserving

    10. Let it sit over night.
    Just don’t let it dry out.

    11. Remove from board.
    Don’t worry about the nail holes. You will take care of those later.

    12. Wash again.
    Same 5 gallon bucket. Get any salt, egg, or borax off the hide. I usually have to change the water at least once.

    13. Let dry, but not all the way.
    It needs to be slightly damp for the next step.

    14. Work the hide.
    While it is still damp, work the hide over a board, rope, or just about anything fairly smooth. You are softening the skin. If you do not do this it will dry hard as a board. It takes a long time. Do it until the skin is totally dry. I like to do this in the evening as I watch TV.

    hide
    About half way there
    15. Sew any holes closed.
    I just use a plain needle and thread.

    16. Trim the hide.
    Take a pair of scissors and trim the raged edges of the hide. Don’t trim too much. This step can make a nice hide great!

    17. Smoke (optional)
    Smoking the hide gives it a measure of waterproofing. If you don’t do this and the hide gets wet, you will have to rework it. Smoke over very low heat with a hard wood for about 30 minutes. Don’t cook it! I have a smoker, which is great for small hides, but for larger hides you may have to use a fire pit.

    That’s it! At least that’s how I do it. It is simpler than it sounds and lots of fun. You can go from start to finish in 24 hours if you wanted, although I usually break it up into a few days.

    Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.
    George S. Patton

    #8752
    Hannah
    Hannah
    Survivalist
    member6

    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this, Husky!!!
    I can’t wait to try it!
    I plan to use the hide(s) as a cat bed (talk about spoiled.)

    #8799
    Profile photo of tweva
    tweva
    Survivalist
    rreallife

    Thanks Gypsy….I’ll keep that one/print out…you make it look easy. How do you work the hide? I was a little unclear on that..roll it back and forth repeatedly? Sorry if I sound dense…

    #8815
    Profile photo of freedom
    freedom
    Survivalist
    rnews

    Thank you Gypsy, great information to have.

    #8820
    wildartist
    wildartist
    Survivalist
    member7

    Thank you, Gypsy, for this valuable information. It will be very necessary in coming days. Nothing keeps the wind from going through you like leather; and nothing keeps you as warm as fur. The Inuit of Alaska used soft young caribou fur-side in for underwear, and heavier furs, fur-side-out, for outerwear in subzero, blowing cold on the tundra. Now, of course, they buy their thermal underwear from Sam’s Club in Fairbanks…

    On large hides, tweva, I know Native Americans “work” it by rubbing back and forth (person holding each end I believe to keep pressure on it) over a pole lashed horizontally between two trees.

    I have dried/salted raw steer hides but never tanned one. Yes they were stiff and didn’t smell that good either. Used one for a rug in my bedroom as a teenager, in the Ms. Dan’l Boone stage. I think Mom finally had it put outdoors ;)

    We used to give our moose hides, especially from young ones, to a Native man in our Alaskan village. He brain-tanned them (I never learned, and regret it) then smoked them. I have a beautiful pair of his beaded moccasins with beaver fur collar, and the smoke is still fragrant.

    I really appreciate this post! Maybe I will try it on squirrel pelts–the season opens in 30 days and I am eager to try my new 10/22 takedown. Bushrat ordered it for my birthday. He is a sweet man…

    #8830
    Gypsy Wanderer Husky
    Gypsy Wanderer Husky
    Survivalist
    exprepper

    tweva: we basically Manhandle it. what your doing is softening the leather now, softly pounding, rubbing, lightly beaten to make (and keep) them flexible and soft

    Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.
    George S. Patton

    #9142
    Jay
    Jay
    Survivalist
    member3

    This is amazing! Thanks for the detailed instructions! We are going to have some rabbits at our homestead and when its time for them to jump into the pot I want to make the most out of them so this will come in handy. Awesome!

    Alea iacta est ("The die has been cast")

    #16054
    Profile photo of Hillbilly
    Hillbilly
    Survivalist
    member3

    Does any know about using lye for tanning? Successful tanning is one of those things I have not yet done.

    #16103
    Gypsy Wanderer Husky
    Gypsy Wanderer Husky
    Survivalist
    exprepper

    I havent used it, but going by my father they used it to remove to fur.

    Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.
    George S. Patton

    #16105
    Profile photo of Hillbilly
    Hillbilly
    Survivalist
    member3

    Would’nt it be cool to make a set of “Buckskins” this fall?
    Thanks Gypsy…

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