Rabbit pelts, renowned for their softness and versatility, are a coveted material for various crafts and projects. Preserving these delicate hides is a crucial step before diving into the tanning process. In this guide, we’ll explore three effective methods for preserving rabbit pelts: freezing, salting, and drying without salt. We will also discuss the importance of avoiding warmth and moisture throughout the process.
Freezing: If You Have the Room!
Prepare the Pelts: Skin-to-skin
The pelts should be folded in half, skin-to-skin. This will prevent potential freezer burn if the hides are left in the freezer for an extended period of time. Once you have them folded, you can roll them up tightly. If the pelts are dirty, that is fine. It would be worse to wash them and introduce water as this will encourage bacteria growth throughout the freezing and thawing process.
Wrap Tightly and Seal in Plastic
After arranging the pelts, wrap them tightly with cellophane to minimize air exposure. The goal is to create a compact bundle that prevents freezer burn and preserves the pelts’ pristine condition. Once wrapped, seal the pelts in a plastic grocery bag or a Ziplock bag to provide an extra layer of protection. If you plan on tending to the hides within a couple of months the cellophane is not needed. But, it will provide extra protection in case they are in the freezer longer than intended.
No Skin Exposed
Ensure that no skin is exposed during the freezing process to prevent freezer burn and preserve the quality of the pelts. A secure wrapping technique, combined with a well-sealed bag, prevents any part of the rabbit pelts from being vulnerable to the cold.
Salting Heavily: A Traditional Approach
Liberally Apply Salt
Lay the rabbit pelts on a flat, clean surface with the fur side down. A cut-open garbage bag or tarp works well to keep spilled salt contained. Liberally apply a non-iodized salt to the entire skin side of each pelt. Ensure even coverage, paying extra attention to the edges and corners.
Let the Salt Work its Magic
Allow the salt to penetrate the pelts by leaving them in a cool, dry area for an extended period. This curing process draws moisture out of the pelts, acting as a natural preservative. Regularly check the pelts, adding more salt if necessary.
Storing the Salted Hides
After the hides are completely dry, you can shake off the excess salt. This salt can be reused so do not discard it! Then, place the dried hides in a container where they can get air flow. A bin without a lid works well for this. The dried pelts can be stored for many months this way.
Drying Without Salt: A Gentle Approach
Clean and Air-Dry
Begin by cleaning the rabbit pelts thoroughly, removing any excess flesh or debris. Do not use water to achieve this. Once cleaned, lay the pelts out in a single layer, fur side up, in a cool and well-ventilated space. Something like cage wire works well so that the hides can also get air movement from beneath.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
Position the pelts away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and potential damage. The goal is to allow the pelts to air-dry slowly, preserving their natural softness without the use of salt. Sunlight will also introduce warmth which will encourage bacteria growth and therefore could make the hair slip (fall out).
Patience is Key
Unlike the faster salting method, drying without salt requires patience. Regularly check the pelts and rotate them to ensure even drying. The process may take several days, but the result is a set of rabbit pelts ready for the tanning process with a gentle, natural feel.
The Importance of Avoiding Warmth and Moisture
Warmth and moisture are adversaries in the quest to preserve rabbit pelts. These elements encourage the growth of bacteria, which can lead to hair slipping—meaning it will fall out. To safeguard against this, it is essential to keep the pelts in cool, dry environments throughout the preservation process. By doing so, you ensure the longevity and quality of your rabbit pelts, setting the stage for a successful tanning experience in the future.
In conclusion, the art of preserving rabbit pelts is a meticulous process that lays the foundation for their transformation in the tanning journey. Whether choosing the expedient freezing method, the time-honored salting technique, or the gentle salt-free drying approach, the application of these methods ensures the optimal preservation of the pelts’ softness and quality. Throughout this preservation endeavor, the constant refrain remains: avoid warmth and moisture. These elements, if introduced, can be detrimental, fostering bacterial growth and causing the hair to slip. By adhering to these preservation practices, rabbit pelts are poised for a future where they can be seamlessly incorporated into a myriad of crafts and projects, their softness and natural allure preserved for posterity.