How to Tan a Squirrel Pelt

By G.K. Bayne

The art of tanning a squirrel pelt, or any animal hide, is almost a lost talent in today's world. Squirrel pelts were known in days gone by as a long wearing, durable leather that was sewn into patterns to make coats and other winter wear.

Prepare the pelt by scraping away as much visible meat and flesh as possible. A dull knife can be used, as it will scrape the hide without nicking.

Make a solution of 5 cups of salt to 1 gallon of water in a 5-gallon bucket. Submerse the pelt in the salt solution for 24 hours. Scrape away any remaining flesh and membrane after the soaking time.

Make your tanning solution. Begin with 2 lbs. of salt to 4 gallons of water. Stir it to dissolve the salt completely. In a separate container, mix 2 lbs. of alum in just enough water to dissolve and mix thoroughly. Add this to the salt mixture.

Place the scraped pelt into the tanning solution. Allow it to sit for 24 hours, but stir it at least twice a day.

Remove from solution and rinse the entire pelt under clear water. Hang the pelt, fur side up over a banister or railing out of direct sunlight. Let it hang for several days.

Roll up the hide, by folding flesh sides together and let it sit overnight.

Work the hide over a straight edge to soften the leather. Patio railings or table edges work well for this process.

Work Neat's Foot or other leather lubricants into the leather with your fingers; this insures the tanned hide is both soft and pliable. Use a dog brush or other comb to work out any mats or tangles on the fur side of the hide.