Whether you're looking to enhance your historical skills, or just looking to spice up the man cave, here is the simple process to hoop a beaver pelt.
February brings many things to many parts of the country: cold winds, the end of hunting seasons, and the hope of an early spring. February also brings prime beaver plews for trappers across the country.
Beaver are a late primer and are typically prime from mid-January to late March, depending on your specific location. If you've ever trapped one, you can know how exciting pulling one up out of the depths can be.
Beaver and beaver fur is an integral part of the story of the west. Beaver was the fur mountain men searched endlessly for during the early 1800s, and their explorations established our knowledge of the western lands. Demand for these fine furs skyrocketed as felt hats became stylish. However, the beauty of their fur is not something relegated to the past. It is something we can still enjoy today.
If you are a beaver trapper, an aspiring trapper, or simply like to celebrate the history and culture of the west, a hooped beaver pelt might be a neat addition to your home. If you are a DIY person, you might need some help getting started hooping your pelt.
For those interested, here are the simple steps to teach you how to hoop a beaver pelt.
For starters, if your pelt is going to be used for decorative purposes, it is going to need to be tanned. I've tanned several hides in the past, but this particular hide was tanned by professionals at Blue Creek Traders. It was an excellent hide, and I wanted to ensure it was top quality. The folks down there did a great job and created a soft hide that I know will last a lifetime.
1. Choose your supplies
To begin the actual hooping process you'll need to identify the type of vegetation you are wanting to use. Many different varieties will work for the job, but they will need to have some degree of flexibility. I've seen young pines work for people, used cottonwood saplings with some success, but willow is my number one choice for several reasons. One, willow has the exact qualities in a wood you need for a hoop. It is flexible yet strong enough to provide support. Additionally willow was the typical material used by mountain men to hoop their beaver pelts, so it is more historically accurate.
2. Gather the wood
Once you have identified the wood you want to use, the next step when learning how to hoop a beaver is to harvest a few selections for your project. Not too thick, and not too thin. You'll need to have an idea on the size you will want your hoop before grabbing your materials to ensure you harvest enough. If you are unsure harvest a few additional pieces to be same, you can always use them on a fire.
3. Fire bending your hoop
Now the actual hooping process is ready to begin. Depending on your material used, and how perfect you want your hoop, it might be beneficial to get a fire going at this point.
Get yourself ready by laying the beaver hide out on the ground somewhere near your fire so you can use it to determine your hoop size. Skills like this are often done by feel, and not using exact measurements with tap measures and such.
Next heat your material over the coals of the fire being careful not to singe the material. Once the material has been heated it should allow you to bend it into roughly the shape you are looking for. If you have selected pliable material, you won't need the exact shape but the heat bending will help you reach nice arcs in your hoop. Repeat the process until you can roughly get the shape of your hoop with your pieces.
4. Binding the hoop
The next step to hoop a beaver pelt is to bind your pieces together. In my project I used two pieces of willow for my hoop. You may have more pieces, and you may have less. It all depends on what you gathered. Some soaked rawhide tied in a whip knot works nicely for the job. With your hoop now bound together you can heat it over the fire one last time to get the perfect bend and ensure the hoop will lay flat.
5. Prepare the hide for lacing
Next you will need to punch holes in the hide. I use and awl for this job and punched holes roughly every two inches about an inch and a half from the edge. Again, it all depends on your personal preference. Too close to the edge and it could tear, too far in and you might not get the look you desire.
6. Lacing the hide
With your holes punched you can start lacing. Mountain men would have used rawhide, but I used a synthetic sinew for my project. Rawhide is just too valuable a commodity to hoop a beaver pelt with. Lacing takes some time, but there is obviously no way around this part. I typically go around my hoop very loosely at first to ensure my pelt stays centered, then go around and pull the sinew snug all the way around.
7. Final odds and ends
You're about done at this point and just need to find some way to fix it to your wall. I've just tied a short loop on the top of the hoop to suspend the hoop from. If things go right you will have a authentic looking piece of western history hanging on your wall in a short time.
There you go, the simple process for learning how to hoop a beaver pelt. It is a simple project, but it is a worthwhile task for somebody interested in trapping or history related projects.