'How to Brain Tan Furs, Pelts and Roadkills', an illustrated five page tutorial by Jim Miller
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Tan Your Pelts With Nature's Tools

Adapted for the web from a chapter in Brain Tan Buffalo Robes, Skins and Pelts

by Jim Miller



still life with brain tan furs
Jim Miller and friends
Our ancestors lived very close to the circle of life. Thankful always for the food, tools and clothing that came from a successful hunt. Warmth, color, protection and camouflage are shared with us by our four-legged brothers through the giving of their pelts. Today, one need only walk the roadside to find animals whose lives were taken. Thoughtlessly and sometimes without knowing, left there to become crow food. Whether you are seven or seventy, for the beginning tanner a road kill could become a rewarding first project.

Many of these pelts are in perfect condition. Nonetheless, a pair of rubber gloves are recommended when handling these critters from the wild. My hat is made from the first pelt I ever tanned. It was a large, fluffy road kill raccoon I named Ricky. But whether from the trap or the road, each animal comes with a complete tanning package -- no chemicals are needed. The process is an easy one and will start you on the way to using all of the animal when you take it's life. So let's get started.

skinning furs and pelts

Skinning

To remove the pelt from the body or carcass, tie both back legs to a tree limb about head high. With knife or sharp stone in hand make an incision from the hock to the vent (see diagram 1). Next cut the tail on the underside from the vent to it's tip. Using the knife gently, begin pulling the pelt up away from the leg and cut the film or membrane that holds the skin to the meat.

As much as possible pull the pelt off the carcass. Only use your knife if absolutely necessary. If the raccoon is a fairly fresh kill and still warm, the membrane and pelt will pull away easily. However, if the carcass is cold, this stuff acts like rubber cement and must be cut carefully, particularly at the head, neck and tail. Always leave as much of the fat and meat on the carcass as possible. It will sometimes want to pull off with the pelt. Cut through the cartilage beneath the nose and ears. Pelts taken off in this manner are referred to as cased. They're great for bags and pouches to flip over a belt. Also very warm as socks though usually the fur is short lived.


 
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