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Old 05-17-2004, 10:57 AM
Felissa Felissa is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Someplace witty.
Posts: 40
Can I soften a tanned pelt?

I've been researching for weeks with very little luck, so I figured I'd toss this into the swirling mass of SDMB for some answers. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I've recently come into possession of a huge pile of fur pelts (mostly fox) that either weren't tanned very well, or they're old. Either way the leather is very stiff in places. I can still use most of it, but if I can get more use out of them I'd be much happier. I have no prior taxidermy experience.

I'll be using them for various crafts, mostly doll related.
Old 05-17-2004, 01:09 PM
bare bare is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Northern Idaho
Posts: 1,374
Is it possible that the pelts aren't even tanned? Rather, stretched and dried?

If they were intended to be sold to a tannery, that would have been the way they were stored prior to sale, in which case, you'll have to have them tanned.

You might try a couple things yourself. Take some Neats Foot Oil, or Saddle Soap and apply it liberally to the skin side of the hide. Roll them up tight and leave them in a warm place 90-100 degrees for a few days to let the oil soak in. Then you have to break the grain of the hide which is done by constant stretching and working.

I've broken deer hides by putting down a deep layer of straw, hide, burlap, more straw on top and repeatedly dropped a big rock on it. Takes forever!

All that said, if they were mine, I'd be off to the taxidermist and have them done commercially.
Old 05-17-2004, 01:47 PM
justwannano justwannano is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: S.E.Iowa USA
Posts: 2,773
Its called breaking the skin.
bare has a good point. Be sure they are tanned.
However the method is still the same.

The breaking process is simple.But first they should be moistened. I'd try water first.
Use a damp sponge on the leather part of the hide. Then you have several methods to try. The first I'd try is drawing the leather side across a beam to break the skin fibers you will also be stretching the hide.Pull the hide in all directions until it turns white.
Luckily since you want a fur on pelt we won't consider the ancient chewing method of softening hides.
you can pound the pelt like with bares method or just use a rubber mallet with the hide laying on a pile of sawdust.You wouldn't want a hard surface or damage to the hair might occur.
Another method is to put the hide in a clothes dryer with a heavy object, a tennis shoe stuffed inside a old sock was suggested,and run the [u]cold[u] dryer until the hide is softened.
With all methods the leather must be damp.
Kathy Kellogg has written a book titled "Home Tanning & Leathercraft Simplified"
Its only 10 bucks and would probably be quite helpful to you.
"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday,lying in hospitals dying of nothing."
Redd Foxx

If your mind should go blank, Don't forget to mute the sound.
Old 05-17-2004, 03:01 PM
Felissa Felissa is offline
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Someplace witty.
Posts: 40
I'm fairly certain they're tanned. The came from a small fur coat/clothing factory that had gone bankrupt. Some of them are dyed (black, brown, blue, pink, purple...). Some are whole pelts, some are bits and pieces. The faces are in the worst condition, which I gather is to be expected. Some of the larger pelts were kept folded and seem to have dried out that way. (perhaps they got too humid, then too dry?) Surprisingly, very few have holes or bald patches.

I'll order that book right away



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