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Thread: Brain tanning rabbit fur

  1. #1

    Default Brain tanning rabbit fur

    I'm attempting to brain tan a bunny fur. I've had two semi-successful efforts so far, but I keep getting a slightly papery feel instead of lovely softness.

    I think it's because I've been washing the fur side after soaking the fur in brains and it removes too much of the brain doing it that way. How do you clean the fur when you've brained it? Can anyone offer me any tips? Thanks!
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
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  2. #2
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    Where did you get the brains Susannah "No Z's" ??

    Are ya a Zombie??
    http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=2  66&dateline=1221166572

  3. #3

    Default Bunny brains

    Are you soaking the whole skin in the braining mixture? Perhaps if you just rub the brain into the skin side only the fur side won't need washing. It's quite difficult to stop rabbit skins going crispy when they dry - you need to pay a lot of attention to them as they're drying out, continuously manipulating them, pulling them round a taut rope and then finally giving them a very light sanding with fine sandpaper if needed. If you've got little bits of brain in the fur once you've dried and smoked them then you could probably just brush it out.

  4. #4

    Thumbs up

    Interesting, Im hoping to be treating my first rabbit skin this coming weekend, I'll absorb comments here and read-on! Thanks for everyones input.
    Regards, Ashley Cawley

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  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks guys - I was soaking them, but I'll try just rubbing them in the skin side instead and see what results I get.
    Dave - the rabbits are a pest here on the farm as they dig up the trees my mum is growing. We shoot 'em. :-) Got some in the freezer at the moment needing eating.
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  6. #6

    Default

    My brother in law has just brought in another 3 rabbits, so I've skinned them and put 2 of the pelts in the freezer. The other pelt I've started processing again.

    I haven't had a pelt work properly yet, but I'll try not washing the fur after braining this time and see if that solves it. I'll put photos of my process up when I'm done and would be grateful for feedback then.

    Thanks all!

    :-)
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  7. #7

    Question

    I skinned my couple on the weekend and got started on scraping the skins, I was using flint and it worked well, however I was told you can air-dry rabbit skins, unfortunately with the time of year and weather it didn't work (I tried!) so I quickly soaked them in a salt solution overnight to keep them and carried on finishing them off the next day, a bit more scraping and then tried to air-dry again, didn't work, wouldn't dry so as a last resort and with time running out I bunged them in the airing-cupboard, they've dried better than I expected. All nice and stiff, the skin is thin though.

    I haven't brain-tanned them yet, I was wondering what brains do I use?... I mean is it enough using the two brains from the rabbits that I skinned to make up a solution?... I was reading about getting Pig or Horse brains somewhere , hopefully I don't need to do that. Any advice greatly appreciated!
    Regards, Ashley Cawley

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  8. #8

    Default

    Someone once told me each animal has enough brains to preserve its skin.......one way or the other


    I don't know anything else about it though

  9. #9

    Default Photos of brain tanning

    I've taken some photos of the process I have been following for brain tanning.
    http://www.susannahrelf.co.uk/Bushcraft/tanning.html

    Some nice zombie shots in there Dave. ;-)

    Anyone got any suggestions on how to improve this? My latest pelt is rather papery as well, though some of that is due to the fact it was still a little damp in places when I ran out of spare time to work it.

    Thanks!
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  10. #10

    Default Bunny tanning

    Hi,

    I think you've answered your own question there - you have to keep working the skin until it's completely dry. I've left large skins that feel very supple but ever so slightly damp still, and they've gone stiff in places too. Get a bit of thicker rope or a smooth broom stick handle to pull them round in their final stages and try a pumice stone or a bit of careful rubbing with very fine sandpaper on any papery patches.

    Like the pictures!

  11. #11

    Default

    Thanks Joe- it's good to have confirmation that I'm not doing anything wildly wrong. I'll damp the pelt I was working and give it another go when I get a chance :-)
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  12. #12
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    I have found this very interesting as I am about to go skin a deer.
    Ta ra will let you know how I get on.
    Dave
    Last edited by tommy the cat; 21-11-2008 at 18:14. Reason: typo

  13. #13

    Default

    I found some really interesting videos on youtube about brain tanning deer hides. There are 28 of them in the series and they're from redtailinstitute:
    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=...te&view=videos
    Check out pages 2 and 3 of the videos on the link above.
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclingrelf View Post
    Thanks guys - I was soaking them, but I'll try just rubbing them in the skin side instead and see what results I get.
    Dave - the rabbits are a pest here on the farm as they dig up the trees my mum is growing. We shoot 'em. :-) Got some in the freezer at the moment needing eating.
    For soft tanning with the fur on, try soaking them in water, then wet scraping the skin side, then smoke the pelt. Then you put it in the braining solution, wet scrape again, and work it and work it and work it while it dries. Knees are the right size for working coney pelts over.
    Don't push the river. It flows by itself.

  15. #15

    Default

    Interesting - what does smoking it before braining it do? Does it make the pelt soak the brains up better? Scraping it with the brains on sounds a good idea to help work them in. Thanks rivermom!
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  16. #16
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    I think the smoke protects the fur, while opening the skin fibres so that they absorb the brains, or something like that. I'm also a bit confused by the idea of cooking the brains. I thought you had to be very careful when making the solution that the water is warm, not hot, so that the brains go mushy without cooking.
    Don't push the river. It flows by itself.

  17. #17

    Default

    Hi Rivermom - I found people recommending both cooking and not-cooking the brains, so it doesn't seem to matter which way you do it. I figure cooking them helps kill bacteria, but it probably doesn't make much difference given that the pelts are not cooked! :-)
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  18. #18

    Thumbs down

    hmmm, I don't think my attempt is going well, not sure. I've not had the time to do proper research that I would have liked too, nor spend actually working on the skins. Pah! I hate this busy, fast pace of life. (not tanning!... modern-life I mean ).
    Regards, Ashley Cawley

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  19. #19
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    Snap Nightwalker tooooo busy. Spent a life time fleshing today and still quite alot of membrane left to do. I have now read rough flesh (scrape) cover with salt leave 24 hours resalt leave for 24 hours the mix a brine solution soak hide for 10 hours (less for rabbits) then rinse scrape remaining membrane flesh then tan.
    Currently looking at salt alum tanning.
    Hope I dont ruin the hide.
    Dave

  20. #20

    Default

    I finally got time to damp the crispy areas on my pelt and rework it today - with success! It's lovely and soft :-) Woo hoo!!! I put a huge amount of work in to that pelt, so now have a fantastic sense of achievement. I'll hopefully work the others in the next few weeks and then smoke them all at the same time. The tip from Joe about pulling the pelt around a taut rope is probably the thing that helped most. It also wasn't raining today, so less moisture in the air (which is what stopped the pelt from drying properly last time I tried)

    tommythecat - I didn't soak the hide before fleshing it at all. Just removed it from the rabbit and scraped away. But maybe the method is different for buckskin - I fear soaking rabbit pelts may make the fur even more likely to fall out. I have a few bald patches on my pelt from working it even without soaking the fur much. But I don't know anything about salt alum tanning, sooo...

    I now have even more respect for our ancestors, who presumably had to go through the process I've just been through whenever they wanted a fur to wear!!!

    Also lots more questions:

    What natural cordage can be used for the taut rope (I used nylon string because of its strength)? I'd have thought nettle string would wear out too quickly.

    Did our ancestors here in Britain do mainly brain tanning, or did they use salts like Dave is doing? Did they work small pelts like rabbits inside by the fire when it was raining, or did they just wait for suitable weather before working them outside?

    I haven't tried rivermom's suggestion of smoking the pelt before braining it yet, so I'll maybe try that with one of the next pelts to see if it makes the process easier.
    Last edited by Cyclingrelf; 25-11-2008 at 23:47.
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  21. #21

    Default Rope tip

    Great! I'm glad you got them skins all soft using the taut rope. A wilderness alternative would be a de-barked, knot free, seasoned sapling or Hazel pole. De-barked and seasoned because otherwise you will end up with a green tinted skin. I've made a pretty convincing rope out of Clematis bark, about 1" thick, using the same method of laying up as so often used in making nettle cordage. It's quite strong but not as strong as the same thickness of rope you would buy in a shop. It would certainly be good enough for pulling skins round though.

  22. #22
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    Got to say having a bit of a mare! Really struggling to scrape the hide soaked for an hour to try to rehydrate and spent another 3 hours gettin no where fast. I am using the back of an old mitre saw blade over an old ironing board. I have a had a bit of hair loss too......I would have liked to have had a go with a smaller animal first but the deer hide would have gone in the bin...cant have that.
    Anyway only gonna use it as a rug so dont know whether to tan now before it deteriorates more?!?! There is no flesh on the hide just cant seem to get all the membrane off!!
    What do ya think?
    Ta dave
    Ps well done for getting results there chaps.

  23. #23

    Default

    Hi Dave, I haven't done a deer myself yet, but there's a video here on scraping off the flesh and membranes you might find useful
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rvON...eature=related

    Good luck!

    Thanks for the tips Joe - the hazel pole sounds a good idea!
    Last edited by Cyclingrelf; 26-11-2008 at 22:07.
    The Stone Age was defined by the clever use of crude tools.
    The Information Age is being defined by the crude use of clever tools.

  24. #24
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    Gonna experiment with a different scraper although looking at that I am alot nearer than I think I thought that I was.Think the skin is too wet an I need a better fleshing beam....off to the woods for a log i think.
    d

  25. #25

    Default Deer hide

    Hi Dave,

    You definitely need to be scraping over a rounded surface like an old drainage pipe or very smooth log about 6" diameter. The soaking will tend to make the hair 'slip' in some places more than others. Also, deer hairs are very prone to breaking and shedding everywhere if used as a rug so it's better that you get them all off anyway. If I were you, I would scrape all the membrane and flesh off over a rounded beam and then put it back into soak in a water and wood ash solution for a couple of days, then just 'push' the hopefully slipping hairs off with a fairly dull blade again over the rounded beam or pipe. Then follow all the usual steps for producing buckskin. Or you could stretch it in a rack and use your right angled hide scraper to remove the membrane from the skin side - I do that quite often but you need to be careful how much weight you put behind your metal edges or you could go through the hide fairly easily.

    If you want to keep the hair on a deer hide next time (for a wall hanging?) it would be best to scrape the flesh off when it's fresh (or put it straight in the freezer if that's not possible) and then stretch it out on a rack to dry scrape the non hair side before braining, working, drying, buffing and smoking. Try not to soak it at all, just dampen it on the skin side only when required.

  26. #26
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    Very interesting Joe thanks. Was thinking of an underblanket more than a rug. Its currently in a alum salt solution...will see how I get on......probably no hair left on it but then I guess I will make buckskin!
    Ta Dave

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