The above directions are excellent, for all general purposes, but we subjoin, in addition, a few other valuable hints and specific recipes in common use. Every trapper has his own peculiar hobby in regard to his tanning process, and the recipes are various and extensive. The above is one of the most reliable for general use. A common mode of tanning mink and muskrat skins is given in the following:—
Before tanning, the skin should always be thoroughly cleansed [Page 277] in warm water, and all fat and superfluous flesh removed. It should then be immersed in a solution made of the following ingredients: Five gallons of cold soft water; five quarts wheat bran; one gill of salt; and one ounce of sulphuric acid. Allow the skins to soak in the liquid for four or five hours. If the hides have been previously salted, the salt should be excluded from the mixed solution. The skins are now ready for the tanning liquor, which is made in the following way: into five gallons of warm, soft water, stir one peck of wheat bran and allow the mixture to stand in a warm room until fermentation takes place. Then add three pints of salt, and stir until it is thoroughly dissolved. A pint of sulphuric acid should then be poured in gradually, after which the liquor is ready. Immerse the skins and allow them to soak for three or four hours. The process of “fleshing” is then to be resorted to. This consists in laying the skin, fur side down, over some smooth beam, and working over the flesh side with a blunt fleshing tool. An old chopping knife, or tin candlestick, forms an excellent substitute for the ordinary fleshing knife, and the process of rubbing should be continued until the skin becomes dry, after which it will be found to be soft and pliable. The skin of the muskrat is quite tender, and the fleshing should be carefully performed.
These should be stretched on a board and smeared with a mixture composed of three ounces each, of salt and alum; three gills of water, and one drachm of sulphuric acid. This should be thickened with wheat bran or flour, and should be allowed to dry on the skin, after which it should be scraped off with a spoon. Next, take the skin from the board, roll it with the fur inside, and draw it quickly backward and forward, over a smooth peg, or through an iron ring. The skin should then be unfolded and rolled again the opposite way, and the operation repeated until the pelt is quite soft and flexible. This is a good way of softening all kinds of skins, and the above preparation will be found excellent for all ordinary purposes. The muskrat skin may be treated in the same manner as the above, if desired, and the process directed on the muskrat skin may also be applied to the pelts of the other animals.