How to Tan a Raccoon
My sister in law found this raccoon on the side of the road, freshly hit and brought it to me. I’d been wanting to try tanning a hide but I don’t want to mess up a hide a really care about so this was a perfect tester project.
The first step is to skin the animal. This guy had rigored already and was stiff but still workable. I didn’t bother with the feet or face but opted to keep the ears and some of the black banding on the face.
Next, lay the skin hair side down and flesh the skin. Try to get as much fat and flesh off the hide without cutting through it. Nail or staple the hide to a board and rub salt into the skin (non-iodized!). Layer enough salt on the entire flesh of the hide to a depth of 1 inch.
Let sit for 24 hours. Change out the salt and replace with a fresh inch of salt and leave for another 24 hours. Once you’ve dumped off the salt, re-hydrate the skin in 3 gallons of water, 3 lbs of salt (New salt! Don’t reuse the old salt!) and a capful of Lysol disinfectant (in a brown bottle). Allow to re-hydrate overnight or until hide is pliable. Rinse hide with cool water and let drain 30 minutes.
You’ll need to mix up a pickle, basically an acid solution. There’s lots of methods, but you need to reach a PH of 1.5-2.0. I used 4 gallons of water, 4 lbs of salt and 2 ounces of McKenzie Ultimate Acid. Place the hide in the pickle (using gloves) in a plastic container. Use milk jug or rocks to keep the hide submerged. You’ll need to stir the hide every 24 hours while it’s in the pickle. After 3 days in the pickle, pull the hide out and rinse it off.
You’ll need to flesh the hide again to get any remaining bits of meat or fat and thin the hide to a mostly uniform thickness. Once you’ve done this, de-grease the fur with Dawn dish soap and water. Check that your PH is still in the 1-2 range and return the hide to the pickle for another 24 hours. Rinse again.
Add baking soda (without the hide in it) to the pickle until the PH reaches 4-5. Let hide soak in the nuetralizing solution for 20-30 minutes. Rinse and allow to drain until the hair is dry and the flesh is just damp.
Mix up a tanning solution. I used Lutan-F. For every gallon of water, you need 2 ounces Lutan-F and 1/2 lb of salt and the hide needs to float freely. In the case of a raccoon, the hide needs to soak for 12-14 hours but no longer. Remove from tanning solution and rinse. Allow to drain until hair is dry. Once mostly dry, lay hair side down and rub oil into the skin side. I used McKenzie Leather Oil in a solution of 1 part oil to 2 parts water.
After a couple days of breaking the hide; stretching and breaking the fibers to make a pliable hide; it’s complete. I trimmed the edges to make a cleaner shape, remove my nail holes and clean up some bits that were left behind. From here, it could be put on a felt backing for a rug or wall-hanging.