I came across a really great deal on some old rabbit hides this Spring and didn't know what to do with them. They where headed for the garbage can but but I made an offer and the farmer handed them over. I didn't like the thought of the furry little critters being offed for just the meat.
These were the sorriest hides you have ever seen. the fur looked good, but the leather sides were so dried out they stood on end, and didn't want to bend.
Out came my secret weapon. This product is the best thing for leather I have ever seen.
Chelsea Leather Food. This stuff puts the life back into all lether goods. Originally made for English Soccer shoes, it works on all leather goods. Awesome on old and new furniture and car seats, as it does not leave an oily residue. It does not rot the threading as some oils do.
Anyway I did them up, now they are good to go for projects. Soft and suptle. Sorry to you green peacers, but they were farm raised rabbits killed for the meat, and I didn't want to waste the hides.
I saw the mari-gras masks by Bug and said "Hey. I'm going to try it."
So here we go.
Step 1: Preparation
According to Bug the drill is to soak the leather in a cold bath for 10 minutes and then transfer to a hot bath of 180F for 90 seconds. I was not exact , but close.
I put a pot of water on the hot plate and turned it up to high to get it heating. I chose a white hide (snowman) that was pretty creased. You could just imagine what this looked like before I softened it. All those creases were folds, and it was dry as a bone. Terrible.
I put the hide in the sink for the cold bath as the water continued to heat.
When the water reached 190F, I turned the dial to low and waited the allotted time for the cold bath. I then gently squeezed as much cold water out of the fur as I could and transfered it to the hot bath.
I used a stop watch to time this for 2 minutes rather than the 90 seconds. No reason, just to be different. Then I dumped the hot hide in the sink, allowing it to cool a little from the heat transfer to the sink before touching it. I then scalded my hands trying to squeeze the water out too soon.
When cool enough to touch I gently squeezed the hide to get as much water out of the fur as possible. The fear here was that the hair may fall out. None did.
Bug figured the reduction in size for leather to be about 30%. He was about right for the hide also. you can see in the photo an unbathed hide beside the bathed hide.
Step 3: The Transition
I have come up with a better idea now, as I laid there like Norman Bates, with slimy flesh on my face, but this is how I did it this time. It was not as gross as it seems, but close.
See the photos for what is going on.
Now it has been overnight and the hide has started to stiffen in the center.
This is taking a lot longer than Bug's masks. This is likely do to the increased size, the fur still being on the hide, and the good Chealsea Leather Food.
The newly added lubricants from the leather food seem to be keeping it pliable. This is a good quality normally, but not for this Instructable.
In the photo you will see that I placed the mask on a couple of coffee filters which are laid on the surface of a bag of shopping bags. The curved surface resembles the curve of a human head. I also placed the small nipple from a jar of Honey Bee honey where the nose is to hold the nose point as it dries further.
This curvature is also a little tighter than my face so if it does dry out completely to a very stiff mask it will 'pinch' on to my face for a tight fit.
I thought about re-boiling it to see if more oils will come out but, at this point, I don't want to take the chance of the mask shrinking any further. It just covers my face now, and it may become too small if it shrinks further.
Step 5: The Finish
Well I have sewn the head strap on and trimmed the face of the mask a bit to give it some character - not much though as the snowman is to blend in.
I have to say that regardless of what I say in the next step I was very pleased with this once I added a hood like cloth.
This mask is AWESOME. Comfortable. Not too hard. Face it rabbit fur soft. Good visibility. The mouth matches up. I did leave the nostrils off though - I think this may help keep the face warm on those Winter 'Combat' missions.
I do still look forward to making one with the techniques in the next step.
Step 6: When I Try Again.
When I try again I will do it a bit differently. The three instructables at the end will be a great help, but I do have some slight modifications to suit my personal situation. The outcomes should be similar though.
First I will cast my face - or simply get a mannequin head, as it is more generic
Cut the face portion so that only the desired area are used. I could make just eye cover masks. I would get three to a hide if I did that. In this case I would just require the eye portion of the plaster face.
I could then use the former to form plastic from old HDPE pop bottles to the shape of the plaster.
The hide could then be glued to the HDPE pop bottle form using the vacuum bag.
Trim and attach the tie and I will be good to go.
Hope you enjoyed it. When I do this I will try to get another instructable made showing it.
How Cast a Face in Plaster - by rachel
Vacuum former - by drcrash
Vacuum Bagging Basics - by shortshift