Tanning rabbit hides is an age-old pastime that some people still practice today. The rabbits are not slaughtered simply so that their hides can be tanned, but are used for other purposes, which leave behind their pelts for tanning. The process of tanning rabbit hides is a fairly simple one that allows you to preserve the fur for other uses, including making clothes, blankets and for show.
Remove the skin from the newly deceased rabbit and place it into a 5-gallon bucket of fresh cool water. This allows the skin to cool. The skin can remain in the water for the length of time it takes to complete the processing of the dead rabbit.
Remove all traces of blood from the skin by rinsing the skin multiple times. This will prevent the skin from becoming stained during the tanning process. Skin stains are not a problem, however, unless you plan to create a garment that allows the skin to be worn on the outside instead of turned in.
Combine 1 cup coarse salt and 1 cup alum in 2 gallons of room temperature water. Stir to ensure that the solids have completely dissolved before introducing the skins. Make sure to wear rubber gloves to prevent the alum from getting onto your skin.
Place the skin into the mixture and stir it with a wooden stick. Allow the skin to soak in the room temperature liquid for 48 hours, making sure to move the skin around in the liquid at least two times per day.
Remove the pelt from the solution, squeezing out the excess, making sure not to wring the skin. Do not discard this solution as you will be using it again during this process.
Remove any remaining flesh and fat from the skin. Using a steak knife, separate the tissue from one corner of the pelt and work it forward. The underlying tissue will usually come off in one piece if you work slowly and gently. When you have finished removing this layer, rinse the remaining hide with cold water.
Add 1 additional cup of salt and 1 cup of alum to the original salt/alum mixture. Mix the ingredients until they are fully dissolved. Place the hide back into the mixture and move it through the liquid with a wooden stick. This time, allow the skin to soak in the mixture for seven days, stirring twice daily.
Remove the pelt and wash it in warm soapy water. Shampoo works well as it is mild and smells nice. Rinse the shampoo out of the hide thoroughly with lukewarm water, ensuring that you remove all of the soap. Then hang the hides to dry in a cool, shady area. It will take at least six hours and upwards of two days for the skin to dry completely.
- Make sure to wear protective gloves and eyewear to prevent burns to your skin and eyes.
- Rex hides provide great hides for tanning as the hair is soft and plentiful.
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