Intro: How to Tan a Rabbit Pelt
This instructable is going to show you the the method I use to tan/cure my rabbit pelts. if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment.
Things you'll need:
•Sharp knife (Not razor sharp)
•Plywood board- 22"X22" or so
•Staple gun or small nails
•5 gallon trash can or bucket (must be plastic, metal reacts to the chemicals)
•Plain salt (non iodized)
• Denatured alcohol
•Metal screen, about 1/2" X 1/2" squares
•Water (filtered or not, well water works fine too)
Step 1: Stretching the Pelt
In this picture, the pelt is not stretched, but the stomach area of the skin has been cut to allow the skin to lay flat. lay the skin down in the middle of the board. stretch one end of the pelt to the end of the board and put 2 nails or staples through the pelt, into the board, on the very edge of the skin. about 1/4 inch from the end of the pelt. Next, stretch it as much to the other side as you can. Be cautious not to rip the skin from the nails. Do this all around the skin until is locked firmly in place.
Step 2: Defleshing the Pelt
At this point, you're going to take your knife (smooth, non saraded knife) and cut away all of the flesh. this will make the pelt much softer, and easer to oil. the flesh contains blood veins, and insulation for the rabbit. But once dead, has no use. You can see in the picture, the flesh, is the pink, the skin, is the white/black. you want to get rid of all the pink. Take your knife, and put it at a 90° angle to the pelt, make a cut just enough to show the white/black skin of the pelt. you will be able to see it split. Then, take your knife and cut underneath the flesh, this will separate the flesh from the skin. Defleshing takes quite some time, though, if you do it all at one time, you can probably get it done in 1-2 hours. depending on the skin, and how good you are. The flesh toward the outside if the pelt (the belly area) is a lot thinner, and will take more time to remove.
Step 3: Salting
Once all the flesh is removed, take about 1 container of plain, non-iodized salt (about 79 cents a container) and cover the pelt with it. The layer of salt should be about 3-4 mm thick. or about the thickness of 2-3 nickles. leave the salt on the pelt for about 3-4 hours. scrape the layer off and put another one on. leave the 2nd on for 8-10 hours, and the last (extra thick, 4 nickles) for a full 24 hours. make sure you use brand new salt each time. You will need about 3-4 containers of salt for a average size rabbit skin.
Step 4: Tanning Solution
After riseing the rabbit skin in the 5 gallon bucket/cana to remove the salt, its time for tanning. take a container 35-45 oz denatured alcohol and mix it 50/50 with water. Put the mixture in a large pickle jar or another 1 gallon glass or plastic container. Use a round, soft rock to weigh it down let the rabbit skin sit, completely submerged, for about 12 hours. then take it out and stretch it in all directions. Put it back in the container and leave it for another 12 hours. This tanning solution can be reused over and over again. Keep it for the next time you do pelts.
Step 5: Washing and Oiling
Take the pelt out of the alcohol mixture and rinse it in the bucket of water. (after putting fresh water in it) Then, take a regular shampoo and wash the fur as you would your hair. This helps remove the alcohol smell, and make the fur softer. rub through the fur with a dry towel and pat down the skin side. take the screen, and lay the pelt fur side down. Then take some neatsfoot oil and work it into the skin. make sure to get the edges of the pelt. Set it sit for 12-14 hours and pat it down with a paper towel. Put more oil on one more time and wait the same duration. Pat it down again, and wash it with shampoo like you did the first time. make sure you wash it really good in order to get any neatsfoot oil out of the fur. After that, rub the pelt down with a towel, and let it dry natrually, indoors. Do not try to blowdry it or put it on the clothes line. this will make it stiff again. if for some reason the pelt is stiff at the end, let it sit in warm water for 3-4 minutes (completely submerged), oil it again, then wash it again. After this, you're done! I would recomend writing the date the rabbit died with sharpie on the skin of the pelt.
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