My dog inspired me to make home made dog toys. Which led me to traditional tanning furs.
I’ve been making dog toys for a little under a year. They are very popular on my Etsy page! But I also sell them on here too I was inspired by my own dog and me wanting to give my dog something a little more natural. Then it got me thinking. I fell down the tanning rabbit hole. I was buying furs from someone, who did not even know where she got the furs from. I could not get an answer from anyone on how these furs were made. My only option in my mind is “I have to tan them myself” and “I must know where the furs come from!”
After hours of research reading a variety of texts from homesteaders, hunters and indigenous teachers, I figured the best tanning option for dogs is the brain tan method.
For the brain tan method, You flesh the furs, wash the furs, let dry slightly but not all the way. Then you add what is called the dressing. Which is either brain, egg yolk or another kind of fat. You let sit until it absorbs into the skin. Once absorbed, you stretch the furs until dried. The next step is to smoke them, which helps the furs not turn back into rawhides when they get wet.
After learning a lot and feeling confident, this is what I did
I contacted every rabbit farmer in my state. I found one way up north in the beautiful mountains. We talked back and fourth and I went to meet her. She takes amazing care of her rabbits. I even got to pat them. She had a pile of furs to sell me already. You can check out her website here. She calls her rabbit farm the “Honey Bunny Homestead”.
After I picked up my piles of furs. I went straight to work. I dug a hole for smoking. I then spent a day making sure my first couple furs were fleshed and washed well. I applied the dressing and let sit over night. The next day I spent the whole day stretching. What a workout! It really works your arm/shoulder muscles. I stretched them until dried. I started around 11am and finished around 4pm. After 4pm I would check them every hour, give them a good could stretches.
The next step I had to do was smoke them. I set aside another day to smoke them. Made sure my rack was good to go. I made the rack out of sticks. I took a basket backpack I have, fetched some punky wood (which is just rotting wood) and gathered some good dried sticks. I made a stick fire in my hole, let it burn up and build some embers. Then I added the punky woods. Got it smoking well and added my rabbit furs! I put wool blankets over the furs so the smoke will stay under them longer. I let them smoke for about an hour.
My next step after smoking is to just hang them up and air them out a bit. They have a smoky campfire smell. After airing them the smell is not as strong and to me a little pleasant.
After all these steps I’m now ready to cut, sew and sell! Oh and I will definitely be keeping some for my own dogs 😉
Thank you so much for reading!