Fur Goods

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fur Goods


articles made from the pelts of wild and domesticated fur-bearing animals and sheep; also, raw and dressed animal skins. Fur goods are subdivided into three groups: raw furs—the undressed hides of wild, sea, and domesticated fur-bearing animals, ready to be processed into semifinished fur products; semifinished fur products—the dressed natural (undyed) or dyed skins, as well as pelts, strips, linings, trimmings, and sheepskin; and finished fur articles and coats—clothing, footwear, and some everyday articles, such as sleeping bags and rugs, made from dressed skins, pelts, strips, and linings. There are three sources of raw furs: wild animals, domesticated animals, and sea animals. Wild animals are both hunted and raised for their fur (the fur trade and fur farming). Among the wild-animal furs are leopard, badger, squirrel, beaver, Siberian chipmunk, sable, fox, arctic fox, marten, mink, muskrat, wolf, otter, European beaver, suslik, hamster, mole, hare, wildcat, polecat, ermine, wolverine, raccoon, lynx, nutria, kangaroo, and weasel. The fur of domesticated animals such as ponies, rabbits, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, reindeer, and calves is also used. Raw furs of sea animals include seal and sea lion pelts.

The manufacture of fur goods requires primary processing of the raw stock, dressing the semifinished product, and producing the finished goods. Primary processing of the pelt includes flaying (removing the skin from the animal), degreasing (extraction of any remaining fat from the leather), evening the pelt by stretching it lengthwise and crosswise, and preserving it by drying, salting, or treating it with various compounds, such as aluminum sulfate, a sulfuric acid solution, or sodium chloride.

Dressing the semifinished fur product involves a number of chemical and mechanical operations designed to make the skin soft, more flexible, and more resistant to the atmospheric, mechanical, and bacterial influences to which it will be subjected. The luster of the fur is enhanced by a special process. In preparation for dressing, skins are soaked to remove preservatives and washed to remove soluble albuminous substances. Layers of muscle and fat and subcutaneous tissue are scraped from the skins, and natural fats are partially removed from the hair and leather by degreasing. The leather is beaten to increase its porosity. These preparatory operations do not alter the basic formative albuminous substances in the skin (collagen, elastin of the dermis, and keratin of the hair and epidermis). However, the structure and properties of the skins are altered by the subsequent dressing operations—pickling, softening, tanning, and lubrication. In pickling, an acid and salt solution makes the leather more porous. The bundles of collagen, decompose, leaving the skin softer and more elastic; the chemical and mechanical properties of the leather improve; and conditions favorable for tanning are created. Tanning—treating the hide with solutions of special compounds, including chromium and aluminum salts and formaldehyde—fixes the skins in the condition attained after pickling. It also increases their resistance to rotting, swelling in water, and wear, and improves other properties that affect durability. The addition of lubricants increases the softness and elasticity of the leather. Dressing operations are completed by drying the skins, tumbling them with sawdust in drums to clean the hair and soften the leather, and mechanically treating them in kicking, staking, and glazing machines. At this point the skins are referred to as natural, or undyed.

Most semifinished fur products are colored with oxidizing, vat, disperse, acid, mordant, and other dyes. Dyeing is done in an almost neutral medium, so that the hair is not harmed. The color and its resistance to friction and environmental effects such as light and moisture depend on the choice of dyes, the method of dyeing, and the care with which operations preceding the dyeing are carried out. Before they are dyed, furs are neutralized with weak alkaline solutions to loosen their structure and clean the hair and mordanted with chromium and copper salt solutions. In certain instances, the natural hair pigments are bleached. Cheap and mass-produced furs are dyed to imitate more valuable furs. For example, rabbit is dyed to imitate sable, fur seal, and mink, and lambskin to resemble polecat, otter, and blue hare. Mink, silver fox, arctic fox, and black Karakul pelts are dyed to improve or intensify their natural color. Skins are immersed in a dye solution (dipping), or the solution (lime paste) is applied with brushes (tip dyeing, or stenciling) or paint sprays (the airbrush method). Sometimes both methods are used. The dyed skins are washed, dried, and mechanically treated. Particular attention is paid to finishing the pelt and to completely removing dye that is not fast to prevent the color from rubbing off. Finishing processes include combing, shearing, unhairing, and plucking. Sheepskin is finished with thermomechanical and chemical treatments that straighten the hairs and make them more lustrous.

For the most part, the production of raw fur has been mechanized. Drums and vats are used to treat the skins in solutions, and mechanical operations are done on fleshing, staking, shaving, kicking, splitting, and glazing machines. Pelts are finished on shearing, carding, scutching, unhairing, and ironing machines, and skins are dried in dry rooms, on frames, or in revolving drums.

In evaluating the quality of semifinished fur products the thickness, depth, luster, colorfastness, softness, and color of the hair and the softness, elasticity, and tensile strength of the leather are considered, as well as any defects. An important indication of the caliber of a fur is how well it wears (see Table 1). Otter is the most durable fur (100 points; 20 seasons of wear before major repairs).

Table 1. Durability of fur goods
Semifinished productsPointsSeasons
Otter .......10020
European beaver ........9018
Fur seal ........8515
Sable ........8012
Mink ........7010
Arctic fox ........607
Marten ........607
Karakul ........506
Lamb ........506
Fox ........455.5
Muskrat ........455.5
Lynx ........455.5
Nutria ........405
Squirrel ........304
Sheared rabbit ........304
Marmot ........253.5
Large-toothed suslik ........203
Long-haired rabbit ........102
Hare ........50.8

Fur pieces are made from individual skins or parts of them. They are dampened, stretched to shape on patterns, dried, and attached to the articles to be trimmed (linings and insulating materials) to make a finished product. Fur goods are produced on conveyor lines equipped with machines for sewing the fur, seaming the textile materials, and shaping and drying the products.


Spravochnik po mekhovoi i ovchinnoshubnoi promyshlennosti, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1954–59. (Second ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1970.)
Stefanovich, I. P. Tekhnologiia mekha, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Kedrin, E. A., A. V. Pavlin, and B. F. Tserevitinov. Tovarovedenie kozhevenno-obuvnykh i pushno-mekhovykh tovarov. Moscow, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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