Tanning Hides -post yours

Discussion in 'Other Skills' started by Red Yeti, Aug 17, 2018.

  1. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Hey Bushcraft folks!

    Hoping maybe we can get a little discussion and sharing on tanning going here...

    I have been working on some hides that I got from a fellow a while back and I thought I would post some info about the process as I go along. If there are any others out there with some tanning experience to share- please join in with your info here.

    I'm most familiar with dry scrape brain tanning, so that's what I'm going to do here. I've done a few hides this way, but I am far from expert.

    I started off with making some new scrapers, forged from old files. A regular two handed one and a small one for edges and tough spots.

    scrapers 1.jpg

    scrapers 2.jpg

    Here's the two hides I'm working. I got them as dried raw hides, so first I soaked them in a trash can for a couple days with a small amount of bleach in the water. This was just to loosen them up to allow me to stretch them onto these frames. These are mule deer hides, both with the hair on.

    hides 2.jpg

    The flesh side of one of the hides on the frame
    rawhide 1.jpg

    Part of my reason for doing this now was to take them to a historical camp and do some demonstration about making buckskin, hopefully get a little help with the scaping process... Visitors were pretty interested in the process.

    scaper dude.jpg

    The scraping goes pretty slow. This particular hide seemed to go very slowly but I made progress. It takes me about 3-5 hours to get all the hair off.
    scraping fur.jpg

    Back home, Logan showed a good bit of interest in the project. Smelled just like some of his dog treats only more gamey...
    hide and dog.jpg


    I do most of the scraping from head to tail, but the last bit I tend to scrape crosswise with the frame laid sideways.
    hair scrape 2.jpg

    Next I flip the frame over and scrape the flesh side. The idea is to remove the membrane that is stuck to this side so the tanning agent can get into the fibers of the hide and do their work.
    Flesh scaping.jpg

    I'll post some more as I go along. The end result will hopefully be some nice brain tan buckskin. This will take some time. I have used animal brains before, but this time I think I am going to try using soy lecithin for the tanning. Anybody got experience with that??

    More to come.

    Feel free to post your tanning projects here!
     
  2. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2017
    Messages:
    1,996
    Likes Received:
    9,080
    Location:
    Quakertown, PA
    Very cool! I’ve sadly never had the opportunity to tan anything except myself (in the sun). But I’m following this thread to learn! I’ve always wanted to tan leather/furs.

    How do you tie them on to the frames?
     
  3. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest

    Thanks friend, I guess I skipped over that part. Its kind of a wet step and I didn't think to take pictures. Basically after the hide is nice and pliable, either from soaking or because it is fresh, I make a bunch of little slits along the sides using a small pocket knife blade. The slits are about 1/2 inch form the edge and about 3/8 inches wide ans 2-4 inches apart. Use a narrow blade like a pen knife to keep the holes small. A bigger blade can slip and make a big hole and that will often stretch and tear. Then cut some 2-3 foot pieces of cord ( used binders twine here) and tie them into the holes with a larks head know in the center of the cord so you have 2 equal length strands coming off. Then to tie the hide on the frame, start with a couple strings on the head end, then a couple on either side and the two on the tail end. Pull them tight and this will roughly stretch out the whole hide. Then go around and secure the other cords through the holes and onto the frame, stretching out the hide as you go. The let it sit in a warm dry place for a few days to dry, these took about 5 days to dry in some 80 degree weather.


    I'll add some close up pics of the holes and lacing when I get a chance.
     
    MTplainsman, halo2, colter and 8 others like this.
  4. scottmm2012

    scottmm2012 Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2018
    Messages:
    1,036
    Likes Received:
    6,535
    Location:
    Susquehannock State Forest
    Watching with interest. I've been wanting to make my own buckskin hides to make a period ensemble for PA's flintlock season. Though I would like to do with hair on for its insulation value.
     
  5. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks @scottmm2012,

    I have not tried to tan deer with the hair on, my understanding is that it is hard to keep that from shedding since the deer hair is a little brittle wears off fairly easily.
     
  6. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Here's a close up of the holes for attaching the hide to the frame. The hide shrinks as it dries and the resulting stretching puts a good deal of stress on the holes. You need to make those cuts parallel to the edge of the hide, not pointing towards the edge, so that they have less chance of ripping out. The straight slits get elongated to round holes from the stretching.

    IMG_20180817_083916698.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2018
    A Seedy Lot, colter, OrienM and 11 others like this.
  7. Primordial

    Primordial MOA #40 Supporter Bushcraft Friend

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2017
    Messages:
    3,506
    Likes Received:
    26,604
    Location:
    Upper Great Lakes
    VERY COOL! I will enjoy this thread immensely! Thanks for taking the time to do this. I know how hard and long this process can be.
     
  8. Torrin

    Torrin Pan Supporter

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2018
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    309
    Location:
    Central Oklahoma
    I'm interested in the Soy method, I haven't done it myself. Your motivating me to dig out the 6 or 7 hides I have waiting and get to work on them.

    Love the scrapers, awesome!
     
  9. JC1

    JC1 Guide

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2011
    Messages:
    1,251
    Likes Received:
    837
    Location:
    Alaska
    Watching another thread
     
  10. stillman

    stillman Guide Bushclass I

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2009
    Messages:
    3,119
    Likes Received:
    2,619
    Location:
    Notlanta
    I'm watching this because I hope to turn at least one of my potential 2018-19 season deer hides into leather.

    Thanks for the thread and info so far.
     
  11. yohan

    yohan Tracker

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2018
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    240
    Location:
    Ozarks, MO
    Great post. I have done some hide tanning and still have the scrapers that I made. Your tools look real useful. Thanks for posting.

    Yohan

    In His service
     
    NevadaBlue and Red Yeti like this.
  12. Seeker

    Seeker Woods Bum Supporter Bushclass I

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    16,866
    Likes Received:
    20,270
    Location:
    In the woods
    Watching this with much interest. I've tried 3x to do this, and ended up ruining each one... learned something every time though, so I guess that's less bad... still feel bad for not using the whole deer though.
     
  13. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    Messages:
    6,081
    Likes Received:
    38,203
    Location:
    Under the Blue Nevada Sky
    Watching from here too. Have you made any rawhide?

    Is Logan an Akita? He is a beauty.
     
    Winterhorse likes this.
  14. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks for the interest folks-

    @Seeker, do you recall what you tried that didn't work?
     
    Winterhorse and NevadaBlue like this.
  15. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    The hides as they are right now are rawhides. If you were to get them wet, they will dry hard and stiff. The tanning process is to make the rawhide into pliable leather that will not chabch much if if gets wet and dries.

    Logan is a red siberian husky, he's been part of the family for 8yrs. Current passion: rabbits.

    :38:
     
    NWPrimate, GoKartz, Torrin and 2 others like this.
  16. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    Messages:
    6,081
    Likes Received:
    38,203
    Location:
    Under the Blue Nevada Sky
  17. randyt

    randyt Guide

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    May 31, 2009
    Messages:
    2,695
    Likes Received:
    1,451
    awesome thread. Dry scrape is my preferred method. I've done freeze dried scrape too. Freeze dry works great for fleshing too, sting the hide up and the flesh will freeze hard. The scraper fleshes it well at that point.
     
    Red Yeti, NWPrimate and Winterhorse like this.
  18. Seeker

    Seeker Woods Bum Supporter Bushclass I

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    16,866
    Likes Received:
    20,270
    Location:
    In the woods
    Oh yeah... (smh). I'm not proud of this, but we're here to learn from other's mistakes... guess it's my turn to share.

    First one was a medium sized hide. I soaked it in the lime solution to remove the hair, which worked fine... I had done a good job skinning and there wasn't an excess of flesh, which made that part (fleshing) pretty easy. but I didn't understand the graining part, and i'd read that you can push about as hard as you want, the grain will come off and the skin will 'teach' you as you go... well, not exactly true. i cut some holes through the hide in several place while attempting to figure that out. you can repair them, i've heard, but after the 4th or 5th one, i had tattered it beyond help.

    The second one was a very small hide, and I accidentally soaked it in the lime solution too long... pretty much ate the whole skin and turned it to mush... previous hide had soaked about 3-4 days... this one was ruined in 3 days... I should have set that small skin in the brew on Thursday, and would have been able to be more attentive to what was happening to it by checking more often on Fri afternoon, and had all day Sat/Sun to check frequently... I think I put it in on a Monday, and it just got away from me.

    The third I tried dry scraping without a frame... just on a work table. It wasn't skinned well, leaving a lot of flesh and again, I ended up tearing through the hide in a lot of places, getting physically exhausted/frustrated and gave up.

    I think the majority of my problem is that i never had enough time to dedicate to the process at one time, or the physical strength to work at it all day... when you get tired and frustrated, nothing good comes of it (and you end up tearing skins), or you don't have the time to check a small skin soaking 2x a day because you're late for work.
     
  19. randyt

    randyt Guide

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    May 31, 2009
    Messages:
    2,695
    Likes Received:
    1,451
    the nice thing about dry scrape for me is that once the hide is strung on a frame and dried it can be worked on at odd times. with my dry scrape I don't soak in lime or such.
     
  20. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2015
    Messages:
    7,974
    Likes Received:
    62,831
    Location:
    The Wet Side of WA
    Great thread idea and write-up @Red Yeti ! I will be watching this one with interest. I think @cockeyedhunter has some cool photos and methods to share here when time allows.
     
  21. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, I've poked my share of holes in hides too. It is a learning process, but a fairly costly one when you consider how much work it takes to get to that point. I don'r have any magic on this, but it does seem to me to be one of those tasks where maintaining a good edge on the scraper is essential. I keep a file handy ( the scrapers are tool steel, but not hardened so they sharpen easily with a file) and whenever I pause, I touch up the edge quickly. I do this every 5-10 mins of so when scraping. I like it to have a little bit of a sharp bur on the cutting edge. This scrapes cleanly with less pressure and hopefully less chance of cutting a hole. This is definitely a job that takes patience and persistence.

    You can sew up holes and keep going, but I've had a few that just seemed to make finishing pointless. Those pieces still do make good rawhide lacing even if they are not good for a full tanned buckskin.

    I started off on my very first hide with lime and other chemicals. Once I learned about dry scrape form a book I have just used that method. If you remove the hair with lime, it seems to me you still need to scrape it to get the epidermis off so it will be like flannel when it is done. So if you need to scrape the skin anyway, why not scrape the hair and the epidermis off at the same time?

    @randyt hit it on the head. one of the best aspects of dry scrape is that you can just stop the process at almost any point and pick it back up again later. I have hides in various stages that have been stored for decades and are just fine to move on to the next steps for tanning.

    Again, there are lots of methods to do this and I'm sure there are folks who know much much more about this than me. Just posting my own experience and thoughts here.
     
  22. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Closing in on completion of scaping the flesh side on the first hide. The little peels are the membrane comming off the flesh side.

    IMG_20180818_131119846.jpg

    One thing I didn't stress before. For dry scraping it really works best when it is very dry. Seems obvious, but worth mentioning. Even the difference between a hide that is setting out in the cool evening vs one that is in the midday sun is noticable. The drier it is, the harder the hide and that helps with the scraping.
     
  23. colter

    colter Still Learnin' Supporter

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2012
    Messages:
    419
    Likes Received:
    1,944
    Location:
    Wake Forest, NC
    I do wetscrape process. Use old dulled down planer blades as my fleshing tool. Wrap the ends with foam and duct tape for handles. Instead of brains, I'm using egg yolks as a tannin, seem to work just as well. My beam is a log leaned up on two legs with part of a 5 gallon bucket cut up and screwed on to the log, I scrape on it's surface. Here's a hide that's already seen a few "brain" processes, needs a few more. 15350436518555661570700437288742.jpg

    Usually I'll offer to skin and clean friends deer if I can, in exchange for keeping the skin, sinew, bones, etc. That way you can be careful about getting a nice skin, without a bunch of holes. I also get roadkill if I can. Hides get wrapped in garbage bags and go in the freezer until it's time to tan them. I know there's people you can buy salted hides from if you don't have access to fresh kills.

    Just the way I learned, tried the dryscrape once, but had trouble getting it tied in right on the frame. I guess you really do need it to be super dry.
     
  24. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks for posting your experience with this. In the wet scrape process, do you go straight from the scaping to the tanning with eggs? Do you do multiple sessions of tanning the hide with eggs/brain and then breaking it?
     
  25. colter

    colter Still Learnin' Supporter

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2012
    Messages:
    419
    Likes Received:
    1,944
    Location:
    Wake Forest, NC
    Yes, I go straight from scraping into the "braining" process. Then I soak in the "brain" mixture and wring it out to completely dry multiple times depending on size of hide. 4-7 times depending. Then i work the hide by running it around a cable and pulling back and forth to break up the fibers. I usually try to set aside a few days and knock out several skins at once.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2018
  26. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks @colter!

    It's been a while since I have taken a hide through the whole process start to finish, but when I brained the hides a few years ago, I think I only soaked them once fora day or so. I used a few pig brains from a commercial source for 2 deer hides if memory serves. It seems logical that more exposure like you describe should get more tanning happening. I think I'll try that this time around when I try the soy based approach.

    I wonder if the dry scrape method draws more tanning into the hide more readily since there is no moisture in the hide when you introduce the brain solution. All the hydration in the hide then comes from the tanning stuff. Hmmmm....
     
    Winterhorse and colter like this.
  27. colter

    colter Still Learnin' Supporter

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2012
    Messages:
    419
    Likes Received:
    1,944
    Location:
    Wake Forest, NC
    For anyone interested, I tend to use 10-15 egg yolks with 4 parts water for my "brain" solution. Egg yolks have lecithin in them which is the natural tannin that occurs in the animals brains. I put them in a tub with the skin and use my hands to rub the mixture into the skin so it soaks it up. Started using eggs because it's been difficult finding pig brains in grocery stores around here, and I can't tell any difference between the brain and egg tanned skins. @Red Yeti
     
    CowboyJesus, Winterhorse and Red Yeti like this.
  28. cockeyedhunter

    cockeyedhunter Guide Lifetime Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2011
    Messages:
    1,447
    Likes Received:
    4,242
    Location:
    South West Washington
  29. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    That's some serious awesome work @cockeyedhunter ! Is that the moose hide?
     
    cockeyedhunter likes this.
  30. cockeyedhunter

    cockeyedhunter Guide Lifetime Supporter Hardwoodsman Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2011
    Messages:
    1,447
    Likes Received:
    4,242
    Location:
    South West Washington
    @Red Yeti the pictures above are deer hides. This is the moose. I decided to try bark tanning on the moose but had to cut it into thirds to be able to work it. I use braintan.com for most of my tanning information on bark tanning.

    image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg image.jpeg
     
  31. A Seedy Lot

    A Seedy Lot Scout

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2017
    Messages:
    612
    Likes Received:
    2,813
    Location:
    NW Montana
    colter, Red Yeti and Winterhorse like this.
  32. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks @A Seedy Lot , that is an awesome thread! Going to do a close read on that a little later. Fantastic Post!

    :38:
     
    A Seedy Lot and Winterhorse like this.
  33. MTplainsman

    MTplainsman Bushcrafter from the "naked" land........... Supporter Bushcraft Friend

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2018
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    3,338
    Location:
    NE, Montana
    This is an incredibly awesome thread! I haven't read all the posts quite yet, but I just wanted to say, that I have used Sani-Flush toilet bowl crystals for many, many years to slip the hair. Use extreme caution with it's use though. Don't breath or get it on your skin or eyes... If I am going all traditional, I will sometimes soak in lye water made from water filtered through ash instead. I used file scrapers too, but I also have smaller ones made from pieces cut from a hand saw blade. Thanks for the great topic!:dblthumb:
     
    colter, Winterhorse and Red Yeti like this.
  34. Red Yeti

    Red Yeti Mostly Harmless Hobbyist Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

    Blog Posts:
    0
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2017
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    10,513
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Hey @cockeyedhunter, those are awesome pictures of the moose! I think it would be really hard to cut up that amazing hide into thirds to tan it, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

    Ok folks, here's where I'm at currently. I have these two hides fully scraped on both sides:


    scraped hides.jpg
    here's a closer view of one of them

    scraped hide 1.jpg


    This is a close up of what the hair side looks like when the scraping is done. A few bits of epidermis remaining as the dark spots.

    flesh side cu.jpg


    This is a close up of what the flesh side looks like when the scraping is done

    hairside cu.jpg


    After the scraping is done, I cut the skins off the frames. Then I work on cleaning up the edges of the hides with the little scraper and a sharp knife. I remove any remaining hair and trip off some of the edge that is not going to be usable. I like to sand both sides to smooth them out and remove any epidermis and break up any remaining membrane on the flesh side. I use a 60 grit piece of paper at my workbench and go over the whole hide, both sides. I think this also helps raise us a little bit of the knap, so the finished product has the feel of soft flannel.

    sanding hides.jpg

    More to come...
     

Share This Page