The Cherrytree Family

 

 

          

Raw pelts are delicate and can be easily damaged.  Once the hair begins to fall out or ‘slip’, the damage can destroy the value and appearance of a pelt.  There are a few different ways to preserve a pelt and stop or prevent damage.  The way the pelt is preserved will depend on how the pelt will be used and sometimes it depends on the species of the animal.  Tanning a pelt may seem like a complicated process, but it is quite easy and a properly tanned pelt from a trophy animal makes a fine reminder of a hunt.  Tanning a pelt does require quite a bit of time and work, but it is not overly complicated and can be accomplished with tools and chemicals that are readily available.

Fur pelts that are being sold to a fur dealer are usually left ‘green’, meaning the leather is not tanned, they are just properly cleaned and dried.  Green pelts can keep for years if kept in a dry spot and away from insects and animals.  If a green pelt is exposed to water the skin will absorb the water and soften and begin to decay once again.  One good benefit from keeping a green pelt around for a while, a year or more sometimes, is that the leather will usually soften quite a bit, requiring less work later on.  The only chemical that might be used to ‘green’ a pelt is common table salt.  Processing a pelt in this way is a fairly fast process, only taking a few hours of actual work time.  Green pelts usually cannot be used for clothing, as a green pelt that comes in contact with moisture will begin to rapidly decay.

Pelts that are going to be used as a trophy display or clothing must be tanned.  Tanning a pelt takes more time then just ‘greening’ a pelt, but the pelt is completely preserved.  Pelts can be tanned with natural materials or they can be tanned with man made chemicals.  Water can still damage the leather and fur of a tanned pelt, but the pelt will no longer decay.  Pelts that are tanned with natural materials are usually either brain tanned or bark tanned.  The man made chemicals used for tanning pelts are readily available from sporting goods outfits and the local hardware store.  There are several places that even sell tanning ‘kits’ that contain all of the equipment and chemicals necessary to tan a pelt.

There are several steps that must be taken before the pelt is ready to be tanned.

  1. Cleaned - The fur must be cleaned and all the burrs, mud and dirt must be removed.
  2. Fleshed - All flesh, fat and other tissue must be removed from the flesh side of the pelt.
  3. Stretched/Dried - The pelt must be properly stretched and completely dried.

At this point the pelt is considered ‘green’.

There are a few tools that you can use that will make the job much easier.

bullet Fleshing board – A board that is ¾" thick, about 6 inches in width and 4-5 feet in length.  One end of the board has taper starting about 6 inches from the end and tapering down to about 1 inch in width.  Smooth all sharp corners and give it a good sanding.  Be careful to remove all bumps and burrs from the surface of the wood, as a small bump can wear a weak spot in the pelt during the fleshing process.
bullet Fleshing Knives – A set of unserrated knives that are used to scrape the flesh, fat and other tissue from the flesh side of a pelt.  These can either be purchased as a set or you can construct your own set from a few old kitchen knives bought at the local thrift store.
bullet Salt – This is sometimes used in aiding in the drying process.  Be aware that using salt will usually make a pelt much stiffer and harder to re-hydrate later on.  You shouldn't need to use salt on smaller pelts such as coyote and fox; they dry pretty fast and normally do not require it.  Do not use salt that has iodine added, it may interfere with the tanning process.
bullet Drying and Stretching board – This board is similar in shape to the fleshing board, except it is either split up the middle or has large oblong holes drilled through it to allow air to flow around the pelt.  You can also use spare fleshing boards as stretching boards by using small wooden wedges to stretch the pelt and allow airflow.

 

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