I have been reading the list for about a year or so now and checking the archives, and just about everything says to SALT THE HIDE. WHY? I have been a licensed trapper for about 30 years, a game warden for over 33 years (now retired) and taken fur-handling and grading courses and never seen green pelts salted except by a private company collecting deer and moose hides from hunters. All other pelts were simply air dried. The North American Fur Auction sells millions of dollars worth of pelts (red squirrels to polar bears) at each sale several times a year and none of the pelts are salted, only air dried. Some times many pelts are held for a year in this condition before being sold and who knows how long after that before they are tannned for fur garments. Surely the large buyers from China, Russia, Italy, Greece etc. would request (demand) that the pelts be salted if it yielded a better product.
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Rehydration is problematic. For Taxidermy purposes, they require more work, and get less stretch. Heres a question for you, why have many trapper, and fur coat tanners, tried to get into Taxidermy tanning, and lost their ass! I have seen quite a few get slammed on here! There is a big difference between a coat maker, and a Taxidermist.
OS is right, there is a difference in garment leather, and hides for taxidermy. The salt is to remove bodily fluids out of the hide to prepare it for a pickle/acid soak. The less body juices in the pickle, the better it works to kill off the rest of bacteria in the decomposing hide, that is what you want to stop. In addition, if you have been around this site for a year, you would have known that. It's in the archives.
OS wrote "There is a big difference between a coat maker, and a Taxidermist." Very True. A taxidermist requires an artistic talent to recreate the animal in a lifelike form. A taxidermist may not be able to make a very good fur coat as that is another artform. The common element is tanning the hide.
Mr T. wrote "The less body juices in the pickle, the better it works to kill off the rest of bacteria in the decomposing hide, that is what you want to stop." Does this mean that hides tanned for garments is not as good and the ladies $10,000 fur coat is going to decompose and fall apart?
Now I've seen a few things in my time, but I don't ever recall seeing too many air dried bear hides. I think I might like to see that before I die. What we're trying to collectively tell you is that the fur market is a vastly different world than the taxidermy world. What all wood pulp has in common is cellulose, yet the paper you wipe your butt with and the paper they bag your groceries in still share the common denominator. Now, do you want to make fur coats or do you want to mount the animal the fur came from? All fur coats that I know of are thin strips of hide sewn back together. We don't need that kind of heartache. Salting a hide makes it more susceptible to rehydration which in turn make it more supple in it's wet stage. Furs, conversely, still have to be "drummed" to soften and "stretch" is not a requisite quality. But no one says you HAVE to salt. Knock your shorts off if you'd like.
In my previous day job, I inspected many taxidermy operations (legal requirements) anually and took notice of their work (personal)and also to answer enquiries from hunters, etc. I also have had training in selecting hides for coat lots and have handled pelts tanned by the garment tanners. These pelts were much softer (like soft cloth) as compared to pelts I had seen at taxidermy shops. Now, I don't want to make coats, and I don't want to mount animals. I just want to tan a few of the hides I trap (beaver, otter, mink and muskrat) and make hats, mitts, wall hangings for family etc.
hi scooter, if you go straight to the pickle [acid and salt] with your fresh harvested, skinned and fleshed beaver, otter, mink and muskrats skins. you will not need to air dry or salt. yet all skins will be getting ready for garment or taxidermy processing.
in our countrys distant past air drying hides was a great way to preserve the furs till the market buyers could see them. and salting is not recommended. i agree with you to that point. why? the fur buyers object to salting is a legitmate question and i for one do not know the answer except to guess that it is just not nessessary. on the other hand, the taxidermist trade need the thicker parts of the hide like lips, feet etc. and they need them in good shape. and salting works to that end. so i quess salting these thicker skinned areas while air drying the thinner skin areas with out salt would be the best compromise for both arguments.
Like someone above had stated, coats are usually strips of hide sewn together, so a little slip won't be a problem.
If a taxidermist has a slip spot the size of a baseball, there is a serious problem. We salt to reduce slippage...ie, to help lock the hair in place, bottom line.
Scooter, if you want to tan beavers for a hat, go for it..just dont be surprised if you see some fur slip off, unless you are quick to go from the rough flesh to the pickle.
I agree with ej. It really has a lot to do with the thickness of the hide. Many fur bearers have thin skin and they air dry easily, with big game, that is not the case. Areas like the feet, air can not penetrate to dry it faster than it will rot. The salt takes the moisture out for you.
As said above, the ease of rehydration, stretch and workability of the hide in the wet stage is very important to the taxidermist.
Also if you trap, you could have hundreds of animals to put up. Salt is messy, it it is hard on tools. Air drying saves time and it works fine. Also think of this. When a trapper sells a fur, he is done. If the ears slip a little, big deal. Salt is an insurance policy for the taxidermist, and it is one of the best tools we have.
George all you have to do is go to the fur harvesters in Ontario Canada , you will see hundreds of AIR DRIED bear skins. Polar bear skin that we get in , NEVER salted ALWAYS air dried.
Are not welcome in my shop!They only make good rugs.
If your going to tan your own trapped animals the thing to do is skin, flesh, salt, fold up skin hair out let drain over night. Next dry hanging loose or on your stretchers or go straight to pickle or tan, being a trapper with your back ground i'm sure there very fresh so spoilage is not a concern. Beaver, otter, mink, and muskrats are very easy to home tan. You might have to degrease beaver depending on how you fleshed it. btw beaver is as forgiving as deer hides as far as handling so slippage is not a great concern, use salt while your fleshing and keep the hide temp low, put in freezer periodically as your fleshing if needed. With 30 yrs. experience trapping you probably can flesh completely and quickly and then salt which is better because the salt goes directly to the skin. JMHO as a trapper/taxidermist of 37 years.
In the Bush - Salt is bulky and heavy to lug in and in the Far North, even a bag of common Salt can become expensive to fly it in. So......most field care in the Bush involves air dried skins.
However - salt dried skins do rehydrate much easier because you dissolve the salt impregnated in the fibers and the fibers relax much faster, whereas with air drieds you need to penetrate and relax the fibers without the benefit of the voids salt creates when it dissolves.
Thin small mammel skins are commonly air dried - but thick skins (the thickness of WT Deer or thicker) definitely should be salted simply to remove the juices they contain prior to pickling and tanning - and secondly to aid in relaxing them later. By removing the juices which tend to break down quickly, you also help the skin dry rapidly. Without using Salt - thick skins tend to dry extremely slow.
Both methods "set" the fur or hair tight.
However, for Taxidermy work I like to salt everything (thick or thin skins) I intend to mount. I want to have it drained of the body juices, the fur or hair set tight, and I want it to relax easily prior to the tanning process.
I thank all for your input. I think Bruce,EJ and Grafton have pretty well answered my question.