Processing sinew

Discussion in 'Other Skills' started by Bitterroot Native, Jul 26, 2018.

  1. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    Hello BCUSA! I have been working on processing a coyote pelt I harvested some time ago and at the last minute I realized that I have been wasting a resource, the sinew! Sinew is an amazing natural material with countless uses for the bushcrafter on the go :14:. As far as I know any mammals sinew is able to be used but larger animals produce more workable material by far. In my experience all sinews can be dried and processed the same way.

    I processed this coyote really quickly while I was in the woods and cut off the majority of the carcass, leaving the head/neck and legs (I cut from the inside, keeping the pelt intact) to lighten the load. Had I have been thinking I would have harvested the sinew from the back of the animal but we were in a hurry to get out of the area with our kill due to our all too recent encounter with 2 bears.

    I had some sections of legs to work with and took what I thought would be the best sinew. I used a combination of a metal scalpel blade and an obsidian flake to compare the two. They both cut great but the steel being thinner made for better and more precise cuts. I should have used a smaller and thinner flake but it was fun none the less!

    Removing the sinew is pretty easy. Make a cut and get one end of the tendon lifted up then cut away the connective tissues while constantly pulling upward. I cut this one with obsidian.
    20180725_214545.jpg

    20180725_213419.jpg
    Ideally you would remove all the meat and tissues still connected to the tendon to speed drying (maybe they're ligaments not exactly sure) but I have found that a small amount will just dry up and flake off later during processing.

    I cut off several choice pieces and left them outside on a table to dry for a day or so. In this heat they dried very quickly and turned to an opaque amber color with a consistency almost like a plastic. Once dried they can be stored like this indefinitely.
    20180726_111022.jpg

    With the sinew dried I pounded out a couple pieces with a rounded rock. This separates the fibers and removes the remaining bits of unwanted flesh.
    20180726_111839.jpg
    Once it's flattened out a bit I remove the remaining unwanted bits and set them aside. I'm going to use the scraps in the future for making glue.

    They are now ready to be used for all sorts of tasks! These being leg sinews from a coyote they are rather short but still useful for many things. I'm going to store them for use later in sewing the same coyotes fur into a hat.
    20180726_112018.jpg

    I took a couple strips and did a 2ply twist to make some cordage. I didn't want to use too much of the sinew so I just twisted up a couple inches of it to check it out. It was incredibly strong! After some light chewing and wetting with saliva twisting it into cordage was easy. The once stiff fibers became very soft and pliable with moisture.

    Sinew broken down in stages leading up to the fine cordage
    20180726_113213.jpg

    Better pic of the cordage, it was very fine and almost clear like monofilament. Can see the tag still on the cordage from where I spliced in a new section. The natural glue of the sinew made splicing new pieces very easy and strong. I later cleaned it up and cut the tag off.
    20180726_114105.jpg

    I thought the hardest part of all of this was peeling off evenly sized strips of sinew. The grain isn't exactly straight.
    20180726_114435.jpg

    Sinew is a lot of fun to work with and more importantly incredibly useful! It shrinks when it dries and has natural glues to hold it in place. The possibilities for its use in the bush are almost endless and its particularly useful for primitive archery. It's only downside is water tends to make it loosen up and lose its glues. This problem can be solved by coating it with pitch or various glues.

    Drying and processing it is incredibly easy! Just dry and pound it into strips with a rock, thats it in a nutshell :D. I think its worth a little effort to harvest it and really make the most out of an animal. Being able to make and use sinew is an underrated and not often thought of skill to practice or use. I'll make another post about processing the coyote pelt once I'm done with it.

    Hope you guys enjoyed the read :dblthumb:
     
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  2. Skruffy

    Skruffy Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    This is great stuff. Looking forward to seeing the completed coyote hat. :)
     
  3. Brew-Jitsu

    Brew-Jitsu Mora Tribe #100 Supporter

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    ^ what he said
     
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  4. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Bushmaster

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  5. atlastrekker

    atlastrekker Supporter Supporter Bushclass III Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Has anyone tried using this as cordage for a bow drill fire? Hmmm.

    Excellent writeup @Bitterroot Native!
     
  6. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    I'm really excited to make it! Final step in a long process haha.

    Thanks :D

    Glad you enjoyed it! A bow drill was actually one of the first things that came to mind as I was twisting the cordage up. Bear season is coming up and if I kill one I'll make a longer piece of cordage and try it with a bow drill.
     
  7. Primordial

    Primordial MOA #40 Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Sinew!

    Hopefully you'll kill an elk this year and then you'll have sinew for days! Great write up. I agree that it's an underused resource most people just toss. I'm glad to see you using it!
     
  8. VtBlackDog

    VtBlackDog Guide Bushclass I

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    Nice report!
     
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  9. OrienM

    OrienM Guide

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    Good stuff! I agree sinew is kind of under-appreciated. it's a real wonder material, incredibly strong...a friend of mine made a sinew bowstring that held up for years, it's under 1/8" dia. for a 50# bow.

    I've mostly used sinew for backing bows, gluing the fibers down with Knox gelatin (hide glue). If you have a lot of leg sinew to shred up, a pair of pliers makes it lots easier.

    Be warned, sinew is just a different flavor of jerky treat to dogs and other pets :p...I always had to dry sinew in a locked room, or my dog would attempt to break in and eat it all.
     
  10. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie

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    Thanks! I hope I kill an elk too. I'm going to try as hard as I can to make it happen :16:. I seen where you used a bit of sinew in your primitive skills TR, was super stoked to see you chewing on some too :D!

    Wow under 1/8th for a 50# bow, amazing that the bow string has held up to that kind of use especially being so thin! I'll give some pliers a shot next time I harvest some leg sinew, save my fingers a bit.

    Lol it's a different flavor jerky treat to me too! The only thing that stopped me from eating some is the fact that it came from a coyote and after my last taste test of coyote I swore I'd never eat any again :dblthumb:. All sinews I have chewed on always have a salty flavor to them lol. Thanks for the heads up about the animals, I didn't think of that. I got lucky drying it outside considering all the cats hanging around.

    @VtBlackDog thanks! :4:
     
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  11. OrienM

    OrienM Guide

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    Glad to hear other people chew on the stuff too, lol. :p I'll chew sinew fibers to prepare them when I just need a few, like for hafting a stone point. Salty tasting for sure...I can see why critters like it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2018
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