When your rabbit dogs are working like a well-oiled machine and you, too, are on top of your game, the end result is rabbit meat on the dinner table and in the freezer. While you are without a doubt enjoying this, each rabbit's usefulness goes far beyond what's for dinner. Another viable part of the rabbit is the hide along with the warm, soft fur that is prized by many.
Lots of people use the pelt for various purposes; the list of what can be made with it is quite long. No matter what suits your fancy, rabbit pelts can be a part of it. Perhaps you live in a climate that is cold more often than not and would benefit from a warm hat and gloves. If so, these can be made using rabbit pelts. In the event that a scarf or blanket is more fitting for your needs, they, too, can be made. Even items that you yourself may not need can be made with rabbit pelts to give you a more personal option when it comes to giving gifts around the holidays or for birthdays.
If you're going to begin using rabbit pelts for the purpose of making items such as this, there is a process you must first go through. Although preserving the hide (removing any remaining meat and fat) is important, so is tanning. A hide that is not tanned lacks long term potential and will gradually decompose. This means that beautiful project you painstakingly created will start to lose hair and essentially fall apart, nullifying the time and hard work you put into making it.
Since no one wants to see their rabbit crafted items meet an untimely demise, tanning is a necessary step in the process. Truth be told, just as there are a million ways to skin a cat, there are about as many ways to tan a rabbit, or so it sometimes seems. If you ask around, you'll be told many different processes, but one particularly easy option involves using eggs. Many of us have eggs in the fridge on a regular basis and if we happen to run out can easily buy more at very little expense, making tanning with eggs all the more appealing to try.
Photo: Unlucky Hunter
In order to get started, you will first need to wash your rabbit pelts. Dunking and agitating in a large bucket is usually adequate enough to remove any blood or dirt that may be present. The hide will then need to be stretched and tacked down against a hard, flat surface. At this time it should be coated with pickling salt to the tune of at least 1/4" if not a little more. Once salt is applied, you can take a break as this acts as a preservative. Hides can be left under salt until you are ready to resume the tanning process in a couple of days if need be. When you do resume your efforts, the next step is to remove the salt and then go at the hide to remove any remaining fat or meat. This can be a time consuming process so allow yourself ample time to finish or plan to re-apply salt until you can.
Next up is the eggs! Grab a couple and scramble them thoroughly with a whisk. This will then need to be rubbed into the hide by hand, on the skin side only. You want to thoroughly coat skin while avoiding hair. Once you have applied the egg, take a wet rag and lay it over the top of the hide. This will keep the egg from drying out or evaporating until its work is done. At this stage you can add borax but it is not necessary. The main goal is to let it sit overnight without drying out, at which point the process can resume.
The following morning, remove your hide and wash it. The same process of dunking and agitating in a bucket is fine, but ensure that you remove all salt, egg, and borax if you used some. The hide should then be allowed to dry partially (but not completely) before the process of working it begins. At this time, allow yourself a block of time to work the hide and soften the skin. Run the hide over a smooth surface by hand until it dries.
After this process is complete, you can trim the edges and sew closed any holes to clean up the hide's appearance. To add an extra layer of preservation, the hide can then be smoked for 30 minutes over hard wood in order to give it some waterproof qualities; this will also eliminate any yellowing from the egg yolks. All in all, this is a process that can be completed in 24 hours or so if you set your mind to it, or it can be done over a bit more time as your schedule allows. Either way, the end result is a tanned rabbit hide that can be used for a plethora of purposes!
Have you ever tried tanning with eggs? Do you have another preferred method? Let us know in the comments!