Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tanning a Nutria - Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, you can read it here. Sunday night I finished the Nutria tanning project I started at the end of November. At the end of Part 1 I set the racked nutria by the wood stove to dry. Over the course of a few nights there, it dried out. One weekend my friend Andrew and I decided to work on our hides together. He obtained an animal from the same source. His was much larger than mine as you'll see in the picture below.

I used the same metal scraper my brother and I used on the bison. It was pretty easy except the details of head. Half of the time was spent carefully scraping around the ears, eyes, nose and lips.

Andrew did an open skinning and used obsidian to scrape. He tanned it and laid it out in the sun and then never saw it again. I guess someone walking by took it.

Saturday I began the long process of tanning. I used a mixture of soap, oil and water. I rubbed it in till it started getting soft. Then I poured on more mixture and folded the trash bag over top and let it saturate for several hours. When I came back it was fully saturated and flexible.

I started a fire in the wood stove to warm the air. I popped in the new Wolverine movie and settled in for many hours of stretching and drying the hide. I wrung out as much moisture as I could. Then I pulled it back and forth over a rounded post stretching all parts of the hide. Wolverine ended. I put in Watchmen and continued. The skin changed from blue to white meaning it was getting drier. Two and half hours later when Watchmen was winding down, the hide was basically dry but still felt a little cool to the touch. I continued to work the hide as I watched The Ladies Man although it was basically done at that point. The next morning the belly was soft and flexible as can be. The back was just the slightest bit stiff. Overall I was very pleased. I think the lesson was to wring it out more and towel off the fur side before stretching.

The next day I buffed the hide with a pumice stone to soften it up and get rid of skin fragments. In the picture below the right side has been buffed.

Sunday night I got out my smoker. I used to have a pail to contain the fire and support the top pail. Without that I had to rig up this monstrosity of wood and stone to support the top pail and funnel the smoke up. The efficiency of this device was pretty pathetic. 75% of the smoke probably never reached the hide. It might be hard to tell in the picture but there was a skirt of denim sewn onto the hide and connected to the duct. Using the duct prevented the flame and heat from scorching the hide.

Here you can see that the smoke was definitely reaching the hide through the duct. I later clothes-pinned the arms and mouth shut to keep the smoke inside longer. To get smoke I built up a bed of coals and then added wet wood and live evergreen branches. I had to constantly monitor it to keep it from flaming up or burning out. After an hour and a half I took it down.

The picture below shows the finished product. The picture quality isn't that great so it's hard to tell the difference between this and the pre-buffed picture earlier. But the color is definitely darker.

I'm very happy with the finished hide. The hair stayed on and it's soft and flexible enough to make a puppet out of. There were some holes to sew up and I lost the eyelashes, but other than that it's pretty nice. The only thing left to do is make something with it. Most likely I'll sew the bottom together to make some type of bag. I'll post pictures if/when I do that.


ap said...

Awesome work. I say go with the puppet!

Jason said...

hey just curious about what mixture you used for your tanning solution. I tried tanning a deer hide with eggs, but did not have that great of results, and am looking for a good non brain alternative the next time around.
Thanks for the posts.

Sassmouth said...

This is the recipe I used:

1/4 bar soap
1/4 cup neatsfoot oil
1/2 gal of water

Grate the soap and then warm it in a pot stirring it until it is dissolved. Don't heat or stir too much or it will get foamy. Add the oil and stir it up.

Torjus Gaaren said...

Amazing! Looks very soft!