Beaver pelts are the only fur pelts dried in a circular shape. Modern day trappers do this by tacking the pelt out on a board. Trappers of the Mountain Man Era in the 1800s made hoops from willow or birch branches and sewed the raw pelts inside the hoops to dry in a round shape. Today a tanned beaver pelt mounted in a hoop can be purchased as a wall hanging reminiscent of the Mountain Man Era. This decoration can be made at home by purchasing a tanned beaver pelt, cutting willow sticks, and using supplies available from a leather shop.
Things You'll Need
Beaver pelt, tanned
Leather hole punch
Leather lacing, 20 feet
Making the Hoop
Cut two green willow branches 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter. Cut them long enough so the ends overlap each other 4 to 5 inches and when joined end-to-end will make a hoop larger than the round beaver pelt. The proper size hoop should have a clearance of three inches between the pelt’s edge and the hoop.
Peel the bark off the sticks. Place them in a tub of water until they are soft enough to bend easily into a half-circle.
Match the thick end of one branch to the thinner end of the second. Flatten the top four inches of one and the bottom four inches of the other so they can set against each other flat side to flat side. Do this with a sharp knife.
Hold the flat ends together. Tie one end of a 12-inch strip of leather lacing around the two ends and wrap the lace tightly around the two pieces, keeping the wraps snug against each other. Slip the last two inches of the lace end under the final two wraps and pull hard to lock the wrap in place.
Hang the hoop out to dry, keeping it out of the weather. Depending on the temperature and humidity, the drying can take up to a week. Check for dryness by twisting the hoop in your hands -- when it feels dry and hard and does not twist or bend it is dry enough to use.
Mounting the Beaver Pelt
Punch holes through the pelt 1/4-inch from the edge and spaced three inches apart completely around the pelt.
Lay the pelt fur side down inside the dry hoop and run one end of the lace through a punched hole in the pelt. Pull the end of the lace out and around the hoop. Tie the lace end to the hoop.
Continue to thread the lace through the punched holes in the pelt and around the hoop in a WW pattern. Do not pull the lace tight but continue to loosely lace completely around the hoop.
Adjust the pelt so it sets evenly in the center of the hoop by loosening or pulling up the lace until there is an even spacing between the pelt and hoop.
Tighten the lacing by starting at the beginning knot and pulling the lace snug all around the hoop, keeping the space consistent between the pelt and the hoop. Come full circle around the hoop and tie the end of the lace to the hoop.
Willow works best for hoops, as the branches are flexible when green or wet. Tanned beaver pelts can be purchased from a taxidermist or on-line sources. A leather punch has a revolving wheel with different size hole punching dies on it. Use the size that is the same diameter as the lace. Do not pull the lace too tight or it could rip out the punched holes in the pelt. Pull just snug enough to take the wrinkles out of the pelt.
Do not cut willow branches in parks or on private property. Check with local agencies such as National or State Forest Departments as to where you can legally cut branches.