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Work on a Bushy Tailed Wood Rat by AtFirstPlush Work on a Bushy Tailed Wood Rat by AtFirstPlush
this is a: Wood rat, bushy tailed rat, and also called a pack rat

I've been wanting to post this for a while. Another tutorial based on the INSIDE of the(any) pelt, the work it often requires (often not to such an extent) but the work and TIME that should always be done before any mounting should be attempted. Because even if you paint the most beautiful of paintings, if you didn't properly prep the canvas, the painting won't last. And as I've stated before, a few hours of prep work is the most important part of any mount. l/s or plush. The pelt is your base. And if it isn't shown the kind of effort and energy it requires to be your canvas, then any other other work on it will be a waist of your time and result in a poor plush, and a poor sale. And ultimately a reflection to your lack to detail and/or respect to the animal. And despite my lower described gripes on this rat, the end product is a lovable, awesomely and unexpectedly soft, very adorable, and lots of fun pocket plush.

So here we go with some gripes and tips when buying...My very annoyed reaction to this description:

"Bushy Tailed Wood Rat (Pack Rat) 9" long plus tail, brown back, white abdomen, super heavy winter fur, cased, HAVE FEET & CLAWS, ears turned, lips split, etc. #1 except ~1" repairable tear on left side of head; 1" repairable cut on left shoulder, ~1/2" and two ~1/4" repairable cuts in lower back; otherwise very slightly damaged. Tip of tail missing. Specimen has nice feet, etc. Could probably be made into some type of mount by competent taxidermist"

Now, I've never been someone to hold a grudge against anyone or any fur company that has had less then an accurate description when selling furs that I am interested in for plushing. And this is the first time that I've ever been disappointed in this co.. And as far as I'm concerned, I am a very competent artist. All humility aside.

#1- I always look over the images with a fine toothed comb. I have come to expect that most item descriptions give details, however you should expect them to just mention only the major flaws. Then if the price is right, I'll personally take the plunge if I REALLY like the pelt or have an attraction to it.

#2- I almost always take the descriptions of pelts with a grain of salt. BUT when something is described as "...COULD probably be made into some type of mount by competent taxidermist," I always assume their is MORE damage then is detailed - and it's clearly stated that it "COULD" be mounted. But when the price is set higher then I think it should be, especially on something such as a rat, I at least expect the pelt to be of good quality, and after a little fix here and there, that it WOULD be mountable. But when it shows up in the mail, and I find this amount of damage, I get pretty bent about the price and lack of details in the sellers description. Especially since I at least expected it to be mountable in other relevant respects as well. And as you can see, this poor wood rat had a myriad of issues in addition to the ones mentioned. And the damage was far worse then I ever expected.

#3- This is my overall gripe. The face was basically torn/cut off - not just a simple cut, and an eye was enlarged. And although it has a beautiful - near perfect tan, I don't feel it was an appropriate tan for mounting/hydrating. In addition, on TWO of the feet(which were in fact described as "nice feet" - which tells me they should HAVE been... as the buyer) the toes were torn through the foot AND inside out... as you can see on the foot off of the dime. It looked pretty wonky and wasn't an easy fix. In fact, all the feet are smaller then a dime, and working on such a tiny area, and sewing them to fix the toes properly etc. was more then a pain in my BUTT!! As for the cut on the shoulder, you can see that it wasn't just a single cut, and also had two small holes that needed to be sewn shut. On the reverse side of that same area, the fur was effected, so even once sewn shut, the fur looks odd.
Also, the tip of the tail IS intact, but it's the fur about an inch from the tip that was accidentally cut by the skinner. No big deal, but that tail is in great condition otherwise, and if it was l/s mounted, it could have been been hidden. And the area of the cut fur on the tail, even unmounted, ...this was obvious - even from there pix. That kind of text mistake in any listing can lose a sale in my opinion. And whom ever had the task of making the listings, should have deff. taken the time so they weren't so careless with the description.

So my feeling on the matter is that if $20 was asked for per rat pelt, fully tanned(as the matter was here) no matter the condition of the rat pelt, that price would still be excessive. And some of the rats listed for nearly $100 have slips and rubs in addition to other issues like my rat and most of those issues could clearly be seen from the pix. Another rat was listed for $60, and it didn't even have it's tail! So I have no idea how they set their prices on these particular rats. I got MINE not because of the cost, but based on the overall condition of the pelt - and the overall description, so I decided to go for her.

All the rats listed were from the same area, same time of year, and I believe all of their coats were equally as beautiful. So a 'pea sized' set of rubs in a rat pelts rump is like a fist sized rub on a coyotes rump. It's going to show. But at least a coyotes rump-rub is fixable, where as a rat wouldn't be so easy. I say this because all the rats left have rubs, slips or other issues. So if you ask me, the cost of the rats is quite excessive for what they are and in the condition they are in. So I am glad I only got the one.
I don't mean to be so harsh, but I get really irritated when descriptions on ANY fur item do not disclose all of the current issues, and I believe that if the issues were properly described, more pelts would sell, and sell faster.
Sadly however, I probably won't do another wood rat in the future. Even if it's from a different batch. Because if the tan on mine is normal, then the species of pelt is the problem. If this is the case;
:bulletblack:wood rat pelts are fragile like rabbit, where they will rub and tear easily when hydrated and while they are being mounted, and they are not easy to sew without further tearing them. And if these pelts are going to have these kinds of skinning issues(cuts, tears, rubs) before they are even tanned, they are just not worth the effort or the cost. But I am glad I at least took a chance with Mandy.

:bulletorange:Ok, now that I got that out of my is the TUTORIAL:

:bulletblack:I had to hydrate the head in order to turn out the ears further and sew all the issues in the head/eye - soften the whisker pads and thin them out and turn out the nose

:bulletblack:all 4 legs were hydrated to turn the toes right side out, and so that I could carefully stretch the legs back out so they were properly proportionate to the rest of the rats body (I used a plastic crochet needle to help turn the toes right side out)

:bulletblack:I decided to use neatsfoot oil on the rump to soften the area to sew the MANY cuts, which was better then just hydrating the area so that I could avoid any further tearing - and although the area looks dark in my pix, the oil gets soaked up into the leather, keeps the leather soft and the dark area lightens significantly after a few days- and it doesn't harm the pelt in any way, or affect the fur side - as long as YOU don't get it onto the fur - then you will have to use a damp cloth to get it off (time consuming)

:bulletblack:I then found the anus(reverse side - she was intact), thinned that out, and then sewed the tail shut so the pelt would come back together properly

:bulletblack:I've become pretty good at making my own head forms or heavily altering premade ones, however I primarily use them as a base, and use 3 kinds of clay(not all at the same time) and or epoxy, and hide paste to finish, and for the overall shape I manipulate the clay in small species like the rat here(although my rats appearance would have been better if the rip wasn't there, because it did tear on her left side of her face and whisker pad while I was mounting her...) to maneuver the clay into place as I work to get the desired appearance, because you can't put the form in through the mouth like you may be able to in some canid species (then I pin, & baby sit it while I let dry for a few days)

:bulletblack:I fixed and sewed her feet first, then sewed her pads and legs shut
(I do NOT use clay in ANY of my soft mounts feet, personal or commissioned. No matter the species. Never have, probably never will - it is a matter of personal preference) but I do stabilize them and stuff them. I HATE hard feet. (However I can see benefits where that would be a good idea when doing any life sized mount)

:bulletblack:Mandy(this wood rat) is also slightly free weighted and stuffed for love, her tail is not stuffed and she is not armatured in any way
:bulletred:(if you are a competent and careful and 'tight' - 'stitch artist' - and are sure you sew ever little hole and seam shut, you can pretty much free-weight anything)

:bulletorange: ref pix
:bulletyellow: Mandy finished
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AlexXe666 Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Arr the poor thing, i hate animal cruelty and people who like animal cruelty!!!!
AtFirstPlush Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Professional General Artist
So do I.
AlexXe666 Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Sharpe19 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
I've heard of Neats a teams or two about softening the leather, haven't had a chance to use it yet though. My inquiry on this is ho many times can a good fresh dry tan be hydrated? I understand to get accurate measurements the skin must be moist to stretch and see where exactly said measurements are, but if you don't have the proper head form on hand at that time or a particular item needed, do you let it sit in the fridge until the item arrives or can you let it dry once more and hydrate it again when it comes to mounting?
AtFirstPlush Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Professional General Artist
I'd say a total of 3x's:

1 for measurements if you don't have them from the raw state - put wet area wrapped in cloth, then whole thing in FREEZER in airtight bag after measuring
2 once thawd and prepping for mounting, if it begins to dry (like in the nose or eye areas) you can hydrate all again
3 if you allow an area like the whole head to air dry, you can rehydrate again

but if your waiting on taxi supplies, use the freezer, it STOPS issues from happening, where as the fridge just slows them down - freezer is best for long periods, fridge is good for 8 hour stints (don't leave a tanned pelt in the fridge or freezer for more then a week, the fridges process will dry out the leather)

(a good tip, put a teaspoon of taxi salt in the water your using to hydrate with, it helps kill any possible bacteria & helps keep the pelts fur folicals(sp) tight and their are other benefits as well

so, basically, twice (long soaks) before you could encounter problems. I don't use the oil in the face, I believe it will prevent the pelt from setting properly, and glue set properly - it would be 'too soft' and or 'oily'... although the oil is a great 'dry' oil. And it's totally natural, so if you get it on ur hands(which I actually personally enjoy, especially in winter) or on your clothing, it should come off and out with a wash. the oil is also not needed in excess, a tiny bit on a hydrated leg to soften goes a LONG way. a whole teaspoon of oil on a hydrated yote leg may be too much. i dipped a fingertip twice into the oil to cover the rats rump area.

Sharpe19 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
I was thinking of using the oil on a gray fox I have. The head was hydrated twice. Once by one 'taxidermist' who took measurements and bough the supplies, the second by an actual taxidermist that did the mounting. Everything is perfect on him except his neck leather is as hard and stiff as raw hide. He was a dry tan, but I would like to finish sewing him up if it weren't for how awkward that neck makes him look.

As for the hydrating, that is good to know. I presume this rule is different with wet tanned and birds. I have a teal wing that was gifted to me (papers included) that I had planned on using in a bird taxi class at the local college, but never got the chance to take it (maybe this year if I can get the funds for it) that I have had sitting in the freezer for a while.
AtFirstPlush Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Professional General Artist
hiyah again... ;) neatsfoot would be perfect for the area. I'd like to suggest that you take a damp towl and gently surface hydrate the stiff neck area, then get a toothbrush and dip and brush off the excess oil, and apply the oil left on the toothbrush to the stuff areas. wait for about an hour, and put ur hand inside the area and gently stretch and rub the area as it dries to soften. It should get a LOT better. a lot of tans will get stiff after hydration when dry... I can only assume it's because they were not as well oiled during the tanning process.

I know nothing about birds except for using borax and hydration. ... wet tanned pelts, unless well oiled, are not good for soft mounts, just l/s. (most wet tans are NOT oiled - and it's a hell of a thing to make them soft) and I believe you don't need any if much oil for the wet tanned pelt that's going to be a l/s.

I had to soften a pre-term lamb(hope to post soon) that was only wet tanned(It came to me as a lamb 'board' lol) and it took FOREVER to get that succer to be soft, plyable and plushable... now he's plushed... but with Zhons help and my neatsfoot, he's a fantastic plush!
Sharpe19 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
I know about the wet tans for the life size. Got jokingly half of a melanistic coyote life size given to me (literally just the body, no cape/tail) that had been mounted once but unmounted. Makes for some awesome referencing. In Michigan we are, unless holding the proper permits, only allowed to have tanned pieces, no wet tans or green skins.

As for the bird, he's a pretty one for sure. The previous owner has him well covered in borax, just keeping him in there to be on the safe side.

Good to know about that with the oil. One more question if I may as this question eludes me often. Now I know soaking feet can get them to loosen up and packing clay inside (if no bones) can be used to shape the feet. What of dyed feet? I get a bunch of dyed black fox feet from a seller on eBay often, most of the times they are a bit mangled or naturally missing a toe. While the missing toe only brings me amusement for a moment, the mangled toes are something I would like to fix. Would it be the same method or would I need to add something to the water (I'm assuming they were dyed as they were tanned) as I am not sure how the dye will react once the skin has been hydrated once more.
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Submitted on
December 11, 2012
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Camera Data

PENTAX Corporation
Shutter Speed
1/30 second
Focal Length
18 mm
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Date Taken
Dec 5, 2012, 1:56:01 PM
Microsoft Windows Live Photo Gallery14.0.8081.709