SIZE AND CARE OF MINK SKINS
SIZE AND CARE OF MINK SKINS
Mink hides handled right bring from a fourth to a half more in market than the same hides handled indifferently, says an old Iowa trapper and buyer. Now I will state it more plainly. Take a medium sized mink, a male one if handled right will be, when stretched properly, from 20 to 22 inches long, and from 33/2 to 4 inches wide at the tail, tapering gradually to the nose.
Take the same hide, stretch it over a shingle tapered to a point being 6 or 8 inches wide at base and a foot long, you will get just half as much for it as the first one.
I have bought small mink hides about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the rearójust as you would stretch a muskrat. Take the same hide, stretch it 15 inches long, and you have added 25 per cent, to the value of the hide. I shipped two large mink hide a short while ago. They were near of a size and color as could be. One was about 12 inches long, the other about 22 inches and well handled otherwise. One brought 100 per cent, more than the other.
I take common laths heavy as I can get, saw them in two in the center, plane them smooth, taper the ends of the two round the edges, make a tapering center piece, stretch the hide over the two outside pieces. Draw the hide down as far as you possibly can. See that the nose does not slip off the end of the boards. Now tack the hide on each side of the tail, putting in 4 tacks, allowing room for your center piece.
Now you are ready for your center piece. Insert it at the bottom, press it through gradually, but be careful not to tear the hide from the tacks that you have already driven in. The center piece will not always go through the full length. The size of the mink regulates that part of it. One must have different sizes of boards or laths. Now turn your hide over, pull down the legs of the mink as tight as you can and tack, using several tacks. I use large tacks No. 12 three-quarters of an inch long, being sharp as needles.
Most trappers use the one piece stretching board, as they claim the three piece too much trouble. If the one piece is carefully made, planed on both sides, and about three-eighths inch thick, it is a good board. A one fourth board after being planed on both sides is very good.
In this country there are two varieties, which some naturalists have supposed were distinct species; one small, dark-colored, common in the Northern and Eastern States and Canada; the other larger, with lighter-colored, coarser and less valuable fur, common in the Western and Southern States. The dark-colored variety measures from eleven to eighteen inches in length from the nose to the root of the tail, and has a tail from six to ten inches in length.
The lighter-colored is large and is found in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Dakota, Manitoba and adjoining Canadian provinces.' It has been known to reach a weight of five pounds.
Trappers claim they have often secured pelts, without over-stretching, that were 25 inches long, 4 inches at root of tail and 3 inches at neck. This measurement being from root of tail to end of nose. From tip of tail to end of nose 35 inches. A few instances of even larger skins are fairly accurately established.
In the Northeast the skins are much smaller for instead of an occasional five pound mink one that weighs three is considered large. Owing to the fine fur and darker color it is worth as much if not more than skins larger, but caught in a more open section, such as the Dakotas, Iowa, etc.
In the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, etc., mink are not so large as Northwestern but larger than Eastern, yet are not worth as much money owing to their color not being so good.
In the states bordering on the Ohio River as well as Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, etc., there are some cotton mink. In size they may be as large as any in the section, but the under fur is light, in fact often white. This greatly lessens their value, so that a "cotton" mink is often classed as a No. 3 or No. 4.
When it is taken into consideration the various shades of mink, dark, brown, pale and cotton, and sizes from the different sections, to which are added Nos. 2, 3 and 4, it can be seen that to now all about the value of mink one must be in touch with all parts of the country.
Many have asked for a standard size by which to grade minkólarge, medium and small. The standard to be based on prime skins of course.
At first such a plan looks reasonable, but after looking at the suggestion from all sides it does not appear so.
1n the first place prime, large mink vary in weight from 3 to 5 pounds, depending in what section caught. The five pound skin, usually from an open country, is pale and not so finely furred as a 3 pound one from the Northern New England States or Eastern Canada.
Again, were mink graded by a standard size, they would be over-stretched.
A dealer who we believe tries to treat all fairly submits the following measurements for the three sizesólarge, medium and small:
Large, 22 inches long, 4 wide at tail, 3 at neck.
Medium, 18 inches long, 3 wide at tail, 2 at neck.
Small, 14 inches long, 2 wide at tail, 2 at neck.
The figures are from root of tail (tail not measured) to end of nose.
The measurements as given are intended to be general, including skins from Southern, Central, Western and Northwestern sections, with the exceptions already noted, but at the same time it must be kept in mind that all skins the same size are not worth the same.
It is a good idea to stretch the pelts as soon after removed from the animal as possible. If allowed to lay around for hours the pelt will be hard to stretch to its normal size.
If you find a mink drowned and thoroughly water soaked, take it by the head, just like you were cracking a whip, then by the hind legs and crack it the same way. The mink will soon be dry. If muddy it should be washed first.
Pelts should not be put on the boards when the fur is wet. They should also be removed as soon as thoroughly dry, that is, after the skin will not shrink. They should be left on boards from three days to a week, depending on the weather. Do not turn after removing from boards, but have flesh side out.
Harding, A.R.. Mink Trapping. Columbus, OH: A.R. Harding, 1906.
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