Spey Pages banner
1 - 12 of 12 Posts

· Registered
246 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yesterday I was given a couple of pheasant capes from a friend. I need to know how to go about treating them and drying them out so that they don't rot. Any suggestions?

Much appreciated.

· Released to spawn
4,347 Posts
First throw them in the freezer to kill all the little buggies then put just a little borax in a large enough baggy with the pelt.
+1 ;)

- you may want to do the freeze, thaw to ambient (room) temperature, then freeze again, allow to defrost, dry out some, then place in new ziplock baggie, add borax, and then add a second bag on top.


1,423 Posts
#1, make sure and scrape any trace of fat or fleshy matter from inside of the skin. Then proceed.

Personally I just pluck. Loose feathers keep with less chance of issue. Pluck desired feathers from each area placing in separate zip-locs. Simple and easy to locate what's needed once pre-sorted.

That's just my method and has worked very well. YMMV.

Best of luck.. B

· Undertaker
1,570 Posts
plant press

Haven't collected skins in a while, but my favorite way to treat bird skins is to scrape the fat off, salt them like mad, then dry them flat in my plant press (remnant from my college days). Salt makes them stiff as a board - borax leaves them more flexible. I like the idea of killing off the critters in the freezer, but haven't done that.

· Bamboo Rod Maker
340 Posts
Skin prep

Forget the salt.
Forget the freezer.
Forget the microwave.

I have been preparing bird and animal skins for years to use for tying flies.

Do the following:

Small skins
1) Scrape off all of the fat and any tissue clinging to the skin
2) Wash the skin in warm water and Dawn with a handful of Borax in the water
3) Rinse in clear warm water
4) Hang to drip dry. Do not wring
5) When almost dry use a hair dryer to fluff up the feathers or fur.
6) rub the skin side with dry borax and pin out flat until the skin is dry.

Large skins like deer
1) soak and wash in large plastic garbage can warm water, Dawn , and borax
2) scrape all fat and tissue on of the hide while the hide is still wet
3) wash in warm water and Dawn and a couple cups of borax
4) rinse well in clear warm water
5) sling out all of the water you can
6) lay out over a line or better yet some bushes and let the hair dry
7) stretch the hide on some 3/4" plywood flesh side up for a day.
8) stretch the hide with the hair up for a day. Put some large dowels between the flesh and the plywood to allow some air under the hide.
9) stretch the hide with the flesh side up until dry

Store the dry skin in a plastic bag with moth balls containing paradichlorobenzene as the active ingredient. There is not a bug in the word that will survive the borax or the paradichlorobenzene.

Fur and feathers that is clean is a joy to work with.

Enjoy the collecting,


· On the Columbia River,B.C
Single hand rod 63 years, Spey 12 years Fly tying 63 years
438 Posts
Been doing just about the same a jdfishbum with a couple of differences.
I'm 72, been doing this since I was 15.
For birds stretch skin up, on a cardboard box and hold in place with pins. Clean the skin getting off all meat and grease. Use a paper towel to help soak up the excess grease. I use a 50/50 mixture of alum and borax. Borax will do if you have no alum, and rub it into the skin. Let the skin sit for a couple of weeks with the borax up and the skin is not wet any more. When finished ,remove from the box and put in a ziplock bag with a little borax and or alum, and shake it up till the mixture is through out he feathers. This will do in any little bugs still in the feathers. The first time you go to use the feathers empty out the mixture ( borax etc) and shake as much of the mixture out of the feathers as you can. Always keep in a ziplock bag when not in use and it will last almost forever.

For hides
Make sure the hide is completely fleshed and clean. Then wash in soapy water. I use a little kitchen dish soap and some cloths soap. Push the hide around in the soapy mixture to make sure all of the hide is well soaped. Like jdfishbum says, let it soak for a few hours. the rinse all the soap out. This make take several rinseings. Rinse till the water comes clean. I now desolve about a cup of borax in hot water and put it in the wash container. Put in a couple of gallons of warm or cold water ,put in the hide, and some more water, enough to cover the hide and stir the hide to make sure the borax is mixed into the hair. Let sit for a couple of hours. Take out the hide and let it drip dry while you get the frame ready. Do not rinse. The little bit of borax in the hair will kill any bugs left alive after the washing, and any that might take up residence after the tanning.
Now -- I make a 2x4 frame about 1 foot wider and 1 foot longer than the hide. I put the frame together with wood screw so that I can take it apart and use thew 2x4's for some thing else when I'm done. I punch holes all around the hide and stretch the hide inside of the frame using cord or binder twine or what ever you have. Scrape the hide again where nessesary to remove any missed fat or meat. At this point the frame is suspended off the floor any way you can. Now sprinkle on the borax or borax and alum mixture and rub it in. Don't leave any bare spots. Now leave to dry and cure. this could take a couple weeks until the hide is dry and stiff. I use a small fan to blow air onto the hair under the suspended hide to dry the hair. The sooner you can dry the hair the better. When completely dry and stiff remove all of the borax from the hide. I actually use a small soft hand broom for the purpose
I have elk and deer hides that are 30 years old and still in perfect condition. The only thing that happens is that the hair can get brittle with age after 20-30 years.
After the hide is cured and before I take it off the frame I mark the hide with a felt pen into squares for future cutting. I like 3 inch by 3 inch pieces. While still on the frame I cut the hide down the middle top to bottom as I only cut up 1/2 the hide at a time. Then remove the 2 pieces from the frame. Roll up one half and tie with string to hold it rolled up and put in a garbage bag for future use. I then cut up the rest for immediate use and store in large sip lock bags.
If you are a casual tier you now have enough hair to do you forever, unless you hand out a few pieces to your friends and I suggest you do just that.
Good luck and good tying.
Columbia Old Guy
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.