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Invicta Flies - Preserving With Borax
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Guinea hen skin preserved with borax.

Small mammal hides, tails, bird skins and wings can be preserved quite well and very easily with borax. Granulated borax is better than powdered, as it makes clean-up much easier.

After cleaning and fleshing the hide, simply lay it flat in container such as a shoebox-size Rubbermaid box on a layer of borax, flesh side down. Sprinkle some more borax onto the fur/feathers and rub the substance into it a bit with a finger or two. Ensure entire skin is covered to about 1/4 inch. Leave in a cool, dry location for three to four days, or until skin dries out completely. Hide will be very stiff, like rawhide, when done.

Squirrel tails, small bird wings and the like can be cut from the hide, left in the sun for a few hours, then covered in borax. Be sure to rub the borax into the feathers or fur so that it reaches the flesh.

When completely dry and stiff, remove from borax and shake, brush out remaining granules. If an excessive amount of fur or feathers slip out of the flesh at this point, it is not done and needs to be left in the borax a day or two longer. You may have a few hairs or feathers fall out which were detached in the first place, but any more than this indicates the hide is not yet fully preserved. Give a good tug on the fur, and if it won't come out, it is done.

Brush out well or use a vacuum hose to get most of the remaining borax. You can rub some warm cormeal (warmed in the oven, yet cool enough to handle) to "dry clean" the fur or feathers. This helps mellow out any undesirable odors, as well.

For larger bird wings, such as goose or turkey, it may be necessary to cut open the thickly muscled sections and flesh out as much as possible to preserve fully. Powdered borax mixed into a solution can be injected into this area of wings of pheasant size if you don't feel you can flesh these enough and the wings will be around for a while.

This is an easy way to preserve furs and feathers which will be used in their natural state. However, due to the stiffness of the hides, the finished product may be a little tough to work with as far as lining up hairs or trimming close to the hide. For bird skins it is ideal. If you plan on dying or bleaching mammal skins such as rabbit or squirrel, I suggest using a waterproof tan such as chrome-based. Borax can be purchased from some grocery stores, or from taxidermy companies such as Van Dyke's.

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