NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

Preserving a Hide with the Fur On
Contributed by Cynthia Senicka

If the hide is hard and dry, soak the hide in warm water to soften it. Be careful to take the hide out as soon as the hide is wet throughout and pliable. It should be readily squeezable and flexible. If it is stiff, it is still too dry in the inner layers. If you soak it too long the hair will pull out easily with the end result looking mangy.

Use the wet scrape technique for the smoothest hide... Use a piece of spring steel bar about 1 1/2 inches wide by 1/4 inch deep by 1 1/2 to 2 feet long. Wrap the ends with some kind of padding and tape well. The bar is not sharp at all. It just has to have a 90 degree UNNICKED edge. Nicks will tear the hide.

Place the hide fur down over a smooth fleshing beam placing the neck end toward you and the tail end toward the bottom. To clean the hide, use both hands on the spring steel bar and push downward. Scrape the flesh off and peel off the inner lining to expose the dermis. You will get quite a shoulder & upper arm workout! Sprinkle water on the hide as needed to keep it from drying out.

Rub brains thoroughly into the flesh side of the hide and soak in the warm water bucket for a bit (15 minutes or so) using a rock to keep it under water if needed. Squeeze out the hide as well as you can (old wringer washers are good for that) saving the water, brain it again, soak a bit longer in the water & wring it out as tight as you can manage. The fur holds lots of water. roll the hide longways and put it around a sturdy pole or heavy duty rope. unwrap the ends just enough to overlap them & roll them together forming a ring around the pole. Insert a sturdy ax handle or baseball bat & carefully twist it as tight as you can wringing out as much water as you can.

Work the hide till dry by pulling the flesh side against a strong rope or pole or whatever is handy till dry. If it dries without being worked, it will be stiff. You can wrap it in plastic & stick it in the fridge for awhile if you want a break.

You can try an alternate method of stretching the hide in a frame & use a canoe paddle to continuously press against the flesh side here & there until dry. You may have to wet the edges if they dry too quickly. If the hide feels cool it is wet. If you stretch it in a frame, put the fur side towards the sun while you work it to dry out the fur otherwise the hide will stay wet. You have to be careful stretching the hide since some hides will shred just because they want to.

If you do not smoke the hide, Do not let it get wet or you will have to stretch it till dry again.

Items you will need:

Grubby clothes you don't care about or a long plastic apron of some kind.
Smooth log or pvc pipe to use as a fleshing beam:
    Minimum of 1 foot in diameter and 5 feet long.
    Prop the log/pipe securely at an angle so that the high end is waist high.
    Trim the high end so it is smooth and mostly vertical to the ground and pad it.
    You will be leaning and putting weight on the high end so make it comfortable.

 ~ thank you Cindy

Return to Tanning & the Preservation of Other Animal Parts

Return to NativeTech's Main Leather & Clothes Menu

Leather & Clothes Bibliography and Books to Buy On-Line

Go To NativeTech's Home Page

© 1994-1999 Tara Prindle.