Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Moderators: William Anderson, letumgo

Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby letumgo » Sun Jan 10, 2016 3:46 pm

Earlier today I sat down to tye with a new starling skin purchased earlier this year. Unfortunately, when I pulled it out of the package, I noticed that the feathers were dirty and kind of oily. I had purchased this starling skin, without pulling the skin out of the package (lesson learned - examin new skins more carefully).

After looking over the skin, I decided to clean the skin and dry it before using it for fly tying. I figured I'd photograph the process, to be able to share it here, for discussion.

Here is the skin, as it came out of the package.
Image
Image
Image

I filled a small plastic container with an inch of warm water, then dunked the skin to get the feathers wet. Once it was soaked, I then drizzled roughly a tablespoon of Woolite into the back of the skin and gently rubbed it into the feathers. I then layed the skin back in the water and agitated the feathers to help remove the dirt and oil. As I cleaned the skin, I could see the water getting dirty from the material coming off the skin/feathers.

I repeated this process several times, replacing the water several times and then finally rincing out the skin with clean water until it was nice and clean.

Here is what the water looked like after the first bath.
Image
Anyone care for a bowl of starling skin soup? Ewe...

Now it was time to dry out the skin. First step, gently squeeze out the excess water, and lay the skin out on a few layers of clean paper towels.
Image
Open the skin and stretch it out so you can get to both sides with a hair drier.
Image
Image

Using a hair drier, blow dry the feathers and skin, to remove water retained by the feathers. As the feathers dry, they will fluff apart from each other. Be sure to dry both sides of the hide (feather side and skin side).
Image

I notices as the feathers dried, they began to look shiny, with a nice glossy irridescent shine. Just what I was hoping to see.
Image
Image

The feathers up near the neck of this bird had a lot of very fine feathers (i.e. - short fibers), with nice creamy brown tips (nice jungle cock sub).
Image
Image

The lower back (rump) area of the bird has significantly larger hackles. In this case, the rump feathers had a large spade shape feather, with longer fibers. I really like using the rump feathers for soft hackles. I feel the longer fiber length adds more movement to the finished fly and it looks more "buggy" to my eye.
Image
Image

I will leave the skin out over night to be absolutely certain it is fully dried, before putting it back into it's plastic bag.

Overall, I am very pleased with the results and figured I'd share the process, to show how easy it is to clean bird skins. Give it a try.
User avatar
letumgo
Site Admin
 
Posts: 9108
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:55 pm
Location: Buffalo, New York

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby daringduffer » Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:37 pm

Well done Ray. I do the same, using diy soap flakes. During the drying process I use the comb I showed a couple of weeks ago (Best new tool). I don't know if it makes a difference but I like to think it does, at least to me. It feels good to handle the goods.
Just imagine all fly tiers licking their fingers during tying with lots of dirty materiels.

dd
daringduffer
 
Posts: 1429
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:11 am

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby letumgo » Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:47 pm

Stefan,

I've use a comb when cleaning hides/pelts, but have not tried it when cleaning bird skins. Interesting tip, which I will need to try.

I've never been one to lick my fingers when tying. When I need to moisten my fingers, I use a small dish with a sponge in it. The thing is normally used for wetting postage stamps, but comes in handy for fly tying. I found it especially handy when tying zonkers/matuku patterns where a little moisture helps control the stray fibers when wrapping the rib forward.

Image
Image
Image
User avatar
letumgo
Site Admin
 
Posts: 9108
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:55 pm
Location: Buffalo, New York

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby Mataura mayfly » Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:37 am

Nice work Ray, handy tutorial.
On the final drying, I wonder if anything might be gained by using a method like the "cell phone dunked in water saver" type. Use the same or slightly larger dish, put a layer of dry rice in the bottom, place the skin in laying flat and cover with some more rice.
Or maybe borax could be tried, or some kind of damp rid product.

Just to be sure the skin was as dry as possible before storing in a plastic bag to help keep it moth/vermin proofed.
"Listen to the sound of the river and you will get a trout".... Irish proverb.
Mataura mayfly
 
Posts: 3648
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 6:28 am
Location: Southland, South Island, New Zealand.

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby William Anderson » Tue Jan 12, 2016 10:53 am

Ray, great tutorial. Thanks for sharing the steps and the experience. I know this is helpful and necessary sometimes. I'll confess to shying away from this kind of thing. I have cleaned a couple skins, gifted from generous hunters but somehow that part of the flytying world where you skin and clean your own materials eludes me. I get it, but for some reason I'll go to some trouble to avoid having to deal with messes. That being said, let me express an enormous thank you to those of you who do. It's a noble and rewarding pursuit and if not for you, I'd be stuck with synthetics. :D

You really do have to check materials even from venders that would be distributing ready to use materials. WooHoo, it's show season. :D

That skin turned out really nice, btw.
"A man should not try to eliminate his complexes, but rather come into accord with them. They are ultimately what directs his conduct in the world." Sigmund Freud.
www.WilliamsFavorite.com
User avatar
William Anderson
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4387
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:14 pm
Location: Ashburn, VA 20148

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby hankaye » Sat Jan 30, 2016 2:32 pm

Ray, Howdy;

This thread would go nicely in the Reference section, as I just received one of the 2
Starling skins that I ordered yesterday. Thought I'd give it a wash and hang it on the line
as I've no use for a hair drier. Nice breezes today.

hank
Striving for a less complicated life since 1949...
User avatar
hankaye
 
Posts: 5589
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:59 pm
Location: Arrey, N.M. aka 32°52'37.63"N, 107°18'54.18"W

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby swellcat » Sat Jan 30, 2016 4:15 pm

That could enable some folks.

I'd say a raw-skin process would be little different, save pressing salt/borax into the hide side.

Nice-looking starling with lots of green and "eyes". Starlings (along with cedar waxwings) are coming daily to dine on hackberries (which have sugar, fat, and protein, and can be folks food, too). I'm seeing mostly what appear to be shiny, solid, all-black-looking ones . . . at least from 50 feet below.

When I read the birdhouse-building US sites, the native-bird conservationists tend to be adamant that we kill the Euro invader starlings and sparrows. (If we need an excuse to be murderous, there you go.)
---
User avatar
swellcat
 
Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2011 4:37 pm
Location: Cowtown, Texas, US

Re: Bird Bath Tutorial - How to cleaning a bird skin

Postby hankaye » Sat Jan 30, 2016 6:47 pm

Ray, Howdy;

Thanks bud! :D
That ought to save me a hour of searching next time.

hank
Striving for a less complicated life since 1949...
User avatar
hankaye
 
Posts: 5589
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:59 pm
Location: Arrey, N.M. aka 32°52'37.63"N, 107°18'54.18"W


Return to Tutorials / Step-by-Steps / Video Demos

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron