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How to Preserve a Turkey Fan


The procedure is quite simple, and with relatively few supplies, anyone can do it. You will need at least one cup of uniodized salt, a cup of 20 Mule Team Borax, a stiff wire brush, and a hacksaw blade. A good skinning knife, preferably with a muskrat blade, is also necessary to clean your fan. In addition, the project requires a piece of scrap board (3x4 feet or larger) to dry your fan on, a 10-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil plus two smaller pieces (about the size of index cards), and a few finishing nails. For mounting, you will need a mounting board (I use driftwood I find along the river), a few wood screws, and another small piece of wood cut in the shape and size of the fan base.

The Preparation Process
Before you dress your gobbler, cut off the meaty part of the tail that holds the feathers together. Skin this out, removing the meat and fat from around the quills. Be careful not to cut the quills away from the skin. When you have exposed the quills, use your knife to remove any remaining fat from around and in between them. After you have gotten all that you can with your knife, remove any remaining flesh or fat with the wire brush. When finished, your quills should be shiny and white.
Tack the piece of foil onto your drying board with a couple of finishing nails. Leave enough foil free to fold up to create a leakproof pocket around your fan base. Mix together one cup each of salt and borax, and sprinkle a generous amount onto the foil. Place the fan base onto this, and secure it to the board with a few more finishing nails.
Spread the tail feathers into a complete fan and tack into place with the rest of the nails. It is best to work from the center outward to the edges of the fan. When you have arranged your fan satisfactorily, cover the base with your salt-borax mixture. Be sure that you get plenty of the mixture in between and around the quills. Fold the free section of the foil up over the base to make your leakproof pocket.
Cut the beard from the turkey's breast. Clean away any fat from the base; use the wire brush to get it thoroughly cleaned. On a small piece of foil, put about a tablespoon of the salt-borax mixture. Place the base of the beard in this and wrap. Saw the spurs from the legs with the hacksaw blade, and put some more of the mixture onto another small piece of foil. Be sure to get the base of the spurs in this and wrap. I suggest you tack the beard and spurs to the board with your fan to keep everything together.
The Finishing Touches
Place everything in a cool and dry place when you are done. Your fan should be located where it will not be exposed to excessive heat or cold while drying. Drying time will vary, but it should take between three weeks and two months. I have let fans dry for up to a year because I was busy and did not have time to mount them.
When your mounting board is prepared the way you want it (e.g., sanded or varnished), and your fan is dry, clean away the salt-borax mixture from everything. Coat the fan base, and the base of the beard and the spurs, with a thin layer of pure borax. Attach the fan to your board with two or three wood screws. Then tack the beard and spurs to the small cover board, and fasten this over the fan base with additional wood screws. On a couple of fans, I have glued the empty shell casing to the cover board as well. You can place a few acorns or artificial leaves around the base cover, too, for a decorative effect.
It's best to dust your mounted fan regularly. Occasionally you may want to brush out the feathers with a soft brush. With proper cleaning and maintenance, your fan will last forever.

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