Conservation and Trapping News

Jim Gibb: Tips on Taking Beaver off the Board (video)
Dec 27, 2022 11:08 ET

Published Date: 12/26/2022


  • Original Title: How to Up your Beaver Pelt Game: Tips on Taking Beaver off the Board
  • He never raises the beaver up off the nails. He does use a piece of wood, what looked like a 2X4 that was like 12 inches as the anchor as he moves around the board removing the nails. It helps so you don’t rip the pelt, and I also would guess it would help so you don’t dent the board itself. Just throw the nails in the center of the pelt, then dump them all off later as you remove the pelt from the board.
  • He makes sure the beaver are dry before he skins, fleshes, and stretches them on the board
  • First you need to do after 4-5 days of it stretching in a warm place with air, is rub a paper towel over the hide before removing (to get off oil and fat I would assume). If the beaver is wet, you do need to raise the beaver off the board but if not then no need (I think by, “raise” he meant push it up the nails a little bit).
  • A beaver’s quality is “basically read by the leather.”
  • If you see no holes but yes-a-bunch-of-black-spots on the skin after drying, that means it’s a damaged beaver. They are holes/scares. Could have been from fighting or being attacked by a wolf.
  • On marks: If beavers fighting, marks usually up by the shoulders, and around the back feet. But if they were attacked by a wolf (or whatever), the marks are usually up the center of the hide in the back area.
  • The further a beaver has to go out of the water to get its food, the more susceptible it is to predators.
  • The last place a beaver will prime-up is in the neck area. It will get white (primer) on the flanks first (aka on the sides of the hide). The entire back section is last to prime up, meaning the neck part is the last of-that-last part. So flanks, then back middle, then neck… to prime.
  • Guard hair isn’t really what matters, it’s the under fur. Feel if it has cushion, that will tell you if it is a nice heavy beaver. If no cushion, that means it’s either “early or flat.”
  • Damaged beaver is perfect for the hatter trade
  • Reasons for damaged beaver: Overpopulation, competition, lack of food. Still can be a nice heavy beaver but not for a sheared garment.
  • The type of nail Jim prefers to use is called a “Box nail.” It has a very thin shank. A regular nail is almost 2X thicker than this box nail. He said they’re nearly impossible to find today these nails. 2” Box nails he prefers. Something about the head being larger too so if you hit it a little off it doesn’t hit your thumb. Look for the thinnest box nails with the big heads.
  • He uses two types of brushes. One is the horse brush and the other is a dog slicker brush. Brush the fur. He said many at Fur Harvesters were never brushed and you would notice a big difference.
  • When storing put them skin-to-skin and fur-to-fur. He usually puts 30 in each fur bag. 40 gets a little bit too heavy.
  • He has a special two-sided table. Note: I’m pretty sure the plans to make this are inside the Fur Harvester’s manual which you can get as PDF on their website.
  • He used to sew every single foot hole, now he just nails them shut
  • He tries to put in a nail every ½” inch but it doesn’t really matter, just follow the pattern.
  • Although the flanks will feel the heaviest if you rub your hands around it, but if you really want to know if it’s finished (prime), rub your hands on the top of the back of the neck.
  • The horse brush will help you remove the hair from the dog slicker brush, just brush it out.
  • On board: You’ll notice his is a little bit shiny. He did an experiment. He varnished it after putting the patterns on. He will definitely do this again he said to save the boards. The best marker colors are black and red; and Maybe blue and green. But don’t use the lighter colors like yellow or whatever. He does not like black permanent marker because grease from the beaver makes it come off. His board (the one with the nail method used on it!) is he thinks, about 10 years old and still in perfect shape.
  • He has three “fatigue mats” on the cement floor which makes it easier on your back. Get a Home Depot or whatever.
  • Yes cut off the ears for faster drying.
  • His dog’s brush does not have the auto-removal-button so you don’t need that. Just use another brush like the horse brush from time to time to remove it.
  • The #1 thing he recommends is having a “good constant source of heat.” That’s why he finishes in the basement of his house.
  • The board he uses standing up is really nice.
  • He has a good light, a radio, and a magnetic strip to keep his knives on which mounts on the side of the board table which he got at Princess Auto for like $23.
  • He wears an apron and gloves so he can go eat lunch. He’s also always standing on those mats, not the concrete floor.
  • He thinks it’s over an hour of work from time you catch the beaver until it’s ready to sell.
  • His table is collapsible. Link to the diagram to make it yourself here: