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Tan Your Pelts with Nature's Tools:    page 5

Tips for Tanning Heavier Furs

A couple additional bits of information for you when working with beaver pelts. Average to large blanket size beaver are very thick at the neck, tail and jaws. I call them baby buffalo. And as with buff's I use my hand held scraper (wahintke) to thin them out a bit before braining. This will require them to be stretched and tacked on a board after fleshing over the beam, or laced onto a hoop or small rack.

Feel the thickness of the pelt in the rib area and use that as your gauge for the rest of the back, neck and tail. This scrape/thinning is most easily accomplished when the pelt is still damp. It works well in winter to hoop and freeze scrape them too. Temperatures of 20 degrees or less work best.

Also, with many of the heavier pelts such as beaver, I brain them twice and work them dry as described earlier in this chapter. Then I dunk them right into the warm brain slurry. After soaking for an hour or more I stretch and pull it in the solution until it is completely saturated and then wring it out just as a deer skin! The hair will look shiny and does not slip. (I got this tip several years ago while working with another tanner from Montana.) Just be sure to work the pelts completely dry and give them a thorough smoking of a couple hours or more.

This Article is excerpted from Jim's forty page book Brain Tan Buffalo Robes, Skins and Pelts. You can read our online review and ordering information to get a copy directly from Jim. You can find contact information and more details about what Jim does in's Resource Directory or at his 'Willow Winds' website.
©1997 by Willow Winds
Drawings by: Joe Schnur
Photos: Greg Lashbrook

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