Day four was straight onto the grading floor learning about ‘hair length’ which fits into a number of different categories: Velvet (inc Velvet 1/2/3), Classic and Long hair. We also learned that most Danish Mahogany Mink fit into the Velvet category, whereas, most cross colours are Classic hair length.
Fur Colour was a very interesting topic to see how many different shades each mink Type is grading into from ‘3X Dark’ through to ‘3X Pale’ not including the obvious full ‘Black’ and full ‘White’ at either end of the colour graduation spectrum. For different mink types, it was interesting to learn that you grade for this on different areas of the body.
For the rest of the day we barrelled on through an introduction to ‘Clarity’, ‘Surface’ and ‘Wool’ assessment.
The computerised grading machines can sort Type/Sex/Colour/Clarity/Hair Length. The machines are the future but they have been in development for 15 years and they can’t yet achieve ‘Quality’ assessment. Therefore, the key aspects of ‘Quality’ which are; Hair Direction, Wool and Surface must still be done by an experienced grader.
In the afternoon, we were paired up and were set our first grading test! We had to circuit the workstations and grade over 30 bundles of varying mink types and qualities for specific criteria set by our tutors. This was by far the hardest challenge so far as we had to gain consensus with our partner as well as trying to match what our own ‘interpretation’ of the KF quality criteria were. It was an eye-opening task as it showed how subjective it can be and the need to ‘quality control’ each other’s work as graders to ensure consistency of lots for the KF customer. It was very hard to select the exact right order for the skins as there are so many criteria to assess all in one go and with the exceptional quality of KF skins it was sometimes almost impossible to see the differences. I look forward to seeing how I’ve improved at our next big test in a weeks’ time where we will have added even more criteria to grade by!
Key impressions of the day:
- The morning sessions are always the toughest – trying to get your ‘eye back in’ looking for the correct criteria. I’m not so confident in the morning sessions and the best way to tackle this is to concentrate on finding the best and the worst skin in a bundle and then you can set to grading the skins in between.
- The last part of the mink’s coat to change from summer to winter coat is the ‘hip’ so if the hip area is good the rest of the pelt will be good. If the hip fur is flat and hollow then they have their summer coat here with no under wool. When they start to change from summer to winter coat they get ‘glasses’ around the eyes as the wool develops from the head first.
- The importance of Quality Controlling each other’s work, even for experienced graders, to ensure consistency of lots for the KF customer.