How to - Skinning and Tanning a Squirrel Pelt
You will need:
A squirrel, preferably with undamaged or minimalist damage to the skin
A thin bladed sharp knife/razor blade. Stanley knives are perfect
A thicker bladed pocket knife
Latex gloves (If you desire)
Dixietan Paste http//www.fntpost.com/Products/Tanning+Kits+Supplies/Dixietan+Paste+(1+lb+Box)
A mixing bowl and spoon
Sand paper (Not really a necessity)
Ok first up were going to skin our squirrel. Id like to apologize for not having any photos of the process, next time I skin one Ill have to take some pictures as I go along and post them. I will be uploading some diagrams that go with this tutorial separately.
Were going to skin this squirrel so that we preserve the face, legs and tail, as well as the main pelt. The first incision we are going to make is down the belly. Make this with your thin bladed knife. You want to make a cut from the chest, all the way down to an inch above the rectum. (See diagram 1)
Make sure you dont cut too deeply, or youll pierce the gut sack, remember you only want the skin! As you go along, youll get used to the depth you should be cutting at, its just practise =^_^=
So now you have 2 skin flaps one either side of the cut. Lets work on the right hand one first. Put your fingers under the skin and tease it off the body. Youll notice a clear thin membrane holding the skin to the body, cut through this with your thicker bladed knife, its very easy to cut through, and the skin peels off so much easier. The warmer and fresher the animal, the easier the skinning process is. Then start on the other skin flap, doing the same, teasing the skin off the body, cutting the membrane as you go. Eventually youll be able to peel the skin off around the back, and youll be able to stick your hand through the gap, lovely! (See diagram 2)
Next stop is the legs. These are quite difficult to explain but very simple to do, hopefully the diagrams I provide will make things a bit easier.
Let start with the back legs, say the left one. Put your scissors under the skin through the belly cut you made and cut through the skin down the squirrels thigh where all the meat is. Now leave your scissors, youll just need your hands, and maybe your thick bladed knife for this bit. Holding onto the foot, push the foot and leg through the skin, keep pushing until you get to the bottom of the paw pad, then snip the meat with either your knife or scissors so the foot is left attached to the skin. Remember the membrane! Keep cutting at this membrane throughout the whole process, will make it so much easier. The leg skin will be inside out. Push it back the right way and youll see the foot is still attached to the leg skin, theres just not yucky meat! Do this with all four legs. Be patient, I know its quite fiddly. (See diagram 3)
Ok so the legs are out, now the tail. I find it easier to debone the tail after youve skinned the entire animal, but its your choice, if you want to debone it, now is a good time. Im going to explain how to keep the tail attached to the skin, and then debone it later.
Youll notice the skin is still attached to the animal around the rear end, so thats the next step, pull the skin down over the genitals, remembering to cut the membrane, now when you see the colon, try to snip as close to the skin as possible, to avoid poo leakage, often you can just pull the skin from around that area and it leaves a hole, but if the situation arrives where you have to cut the bum off to free the skin then do that, its not a problem. So now we have the tail, Either debone it now, OR separate the back skin and underside skin where the tail starts and chop through the bone, BUT NOT THE SKIN, so the tail is still attached by the back skin (See diagram 4 which will explain this better)
Now youre ready to face the head. Put on some chilling music or a film or something because this requires patience and can be stressful XD
Start to pull the skin up the squirrels body, as though your pulling a shirt off of it, remember the membrane! I will say at this point it helps if you have something to pull against, so either hold the back end of the squirrel down with your feet, or tie it to something by its back legs. When you get to the neck, this is where the fun begins; youll need your thin bladed knife for this. Gently tease the skin over the head, cutting lightly at that membrane as you along. When you get to the ears, you need to cut through the ear buds (where the ears sprout out of the skull) this will leave the ears still attached to the pelt, and will separate them from the skull. Do this with both of them. At this point you need to flip the squirrel over and get the chin skin off, this is quite delicate and is easily messed up, so patience is needed. Once this is free turn the squirrel back over and continue teasing the skin off of the face, remembering the thin membrane. When you get to the eyes, cut into them, dont worry, if youre careful you wont pierce the eyeballs themselves, just the skin, leaving a hole where the eye would be. Be careful with that part; do this with both eyes, once thats done, breathe a sigh of relief. Now its just a case of pulling the skin over the nose. All done! Sort of
If you havent deboned the tail do it now, simply split the tail with your knife a little bit, then using some pliers pull the bone out, its tricky but eventually it comes out. (Diagram 6)
Most time consuming and boring part, put on Lord of the Rings or something. Basically holding your scissors flat against the skin, keep snipping until all the flesh comes off, I really cant explain it better than that. Its like a thin membrane attached to the skin, its see through but when you snip it off its actually pink, you cant tan without fleshing, its very important you thoroughly get rid of all the flesh for the best results.
Yay lets tan. Dixietan comes with its own set of instructions but Ill type here anyway. It suggests you salt your pelt for a few days, but it doesnt matter if you work on a fresh pelt. Make sure the pelt is cooled down once youve finished fleshing, put it in the fridge for 10 minutes, this stops bacteria growing.
Mix up the powder with warm water to make a paste and smear this onto the pelt with the back of the spoon, put enough on to cover it thoroughly. Leave this for 24 hours.
24 hours later
Scrape of this and put on another layer of paste. Leave this on for 3 days.
3 Days later
Now heres the hard work part again. Scrape the paste off of the pelt and wash the pelt thoroughly; youll notice the pelt has a leathery texture already. Use shampoo on the fur if you like, I did :D towel dry the pelt and rub some soap into the leather. Once this has soaked in, put some olive oil into it too. Mop up any excess. Now this is the most important part. As the leather is drying you need to stretch it, pull it apart, stretch it over the back of your chair, do whatever but keep that leather moving, its what makes the pelt supple. I find the easiest way to do it is over the back of your chair; if it dries stiff, just put some water back on it, to make it nice and supple, and rework the leather. Very important you give your all to this part. Keep stretching until it is dry, it doesnt take long. You should now have a lovely supple pelt. Your leather may or may not turn white, mines a creamy brownie colour but as long as its supple, you know youve done it all right.
And there you have it, our very own squirrel pelt. All the techniques are the same for any fur bearing animal from a mouse to a lion! Any questions, please dont hesitate to ask, have fun tanning your first pelt, I did