Proper Manner of Skinning Mink and Stretching Skins
First cut down the back of hind legs from heel to anus. Now, with thumb and fore-finger peel the hide off the legs. Next, slit from anus towards the end of the tail one inch; loosen with fingers as before around butt of tail; then get a couple of flat sticks and notch them to fit around the tail bone. Grasp these firmly in one hand and pull the skin off the tail. Proceed with the knife to carefully remove hide from the hind-quarters. Having cut past the navel, you can, with a single pull, rip the hide past the shoulder. Now place your thumb between hide and fore-leg, at elbow joint, and pull fore-leg out. Another pull will bring you to the ears, where the knife comes into play again. Cut ears at the base, close to the skull and proceed to carefully skin to the end of the nose.
Board being of proper length and width, proceed to pull hide over same, hair inside, belly on one side and back square on the other flat side of the board; not on the edge. If there be much flesh on hide, as sometimes happens with an old mink, pull hide tight, securely fasten with a few small wire nails, putting nails in the end of legs and one at root of the tail. With a dull case knife scrape off the surplus flesh. This will enable you to stretch properly as a fleshy hide will not stretch well. This done, you may pull out the nails and proceed to stretch out legs, nailing at edge of board on belly side. Have both legs even. Put at least half a dozen nails in each skin, so that they will not give way when the hide dries up. On the other side, put a nail near the edge of the board, taking care to keep the back even as it looks much neater than if long cornered, and cuts better when it comes to making up. Always place your nails near the edge of the hide. If you use a three piece stretcher, shove the wedge as far as it will go, but do not use too much force as you may split the hide and ruin it. Now, tack the belly and the back, pull the tail straight, and tack on the middle piece. In this position, it will dry nicely and not kink up as they are sure to do when not nailed.
My choice is a flat board stretcher, with two tapering cleats, one for the belly and one for the back, the latter being long enough to allow the tail to be tacked to it. Put a nail in the belly cleat, so as to keep the hide and the cleat in place. Next, pull fore-leg up, tie with thread or twine close up to body. With a sharp knife cut about three-eighths of an inch above the string, press down with the finger, having care to turn hair out, forming a sort of rosette.
Now put away in a warm room, but not near the stove. After 8 or 10 hours, or when half-dry, it is ready to clean and polish. Use a dull case knife, scrape gently, and the fat will readily come off. If any filaments have a tendency to run into the grain of the skin, cut close with a sharp knife. Having removed all fat, we are ready for the finishing touch or polish. Dampen a small sponge or woolen rag, don't soak, and rub all over the hide. This will lay low all the fleshy filaments which give such a ragged appearance to a skin, and will give it a neat and glossy appearance such as I have never been able to obtain by any other process. Now put away to dry, but keep away from the fire. Let it dry thoroughly, before taking off the board, as a partly-dried hide will shrink, consequently decreasing in value. When dry, always hang (don't pile up) in a dry, cool place, where mice cannot get at them. A good way is to hang them to the ceiling with a string.
J. A. DESPARDINS.
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