Getting Grease off of Hides
by Tom Brown Jr.
|I have received
many letters from students stating that one of the most difficult
processes of tanning a hide is getting the grease burns out of the hide.
Grease burns usually occur because the hide was poorly skinned and
improperly prepared before the tanning process. Once you buy a hide you
are subject to the abuse of those people that have skinned the animal and
have taken care of it before you received it.
|An animal hide that has a lot of
fat left on it or has been salted with fat left on it and left to dry is
usually badly grease burned. When you soak it and remove the hair, flesh
and fat, and before you begin to dry scrape it, you may find areas of the
hide that are completely transparent -- areas where you cannot get the
grease out. There is a simple solution to this problem, though it is not
very Native American or neanderthal because we use some store-bought
products. The simplest and most effective way of removing the grease from
the hide is to simply wash it. Take the scraped hide and soak and
manipulate it in a bucket of warm, soapy water and allow it to sit for an
hour. Take it out, rinse it well, re-rack it and continue the tanning
process. I caution you, though, not to leave the hide in the soap solution
for more than an hour. Otherwise some damage will occur. If you would like
to use a more natural soap base, simply use yucca root that has been
pounded, bouncing bette flowers, or even meadow sweet flowers will make
Another question that is usually asked is how to get the hair off of
exceedingly stubborn hides. That is easily solved by soaking the hide for more
than 24 hours. In fact, sometimes before a class I will soak a hide up to four
days to make the hair easy to remove. Remember, all hides have different
personalities. Some are easily scraped while others you feel you have to
sandblast the hair off. If you find you have one of these tenacious hides,
simply soak the hide in a mixture of water and wood ash for the last five hours
of the soaking. Wood ash should sufficiently loosen the hair.
Another problem students seem to have during the soaking of the hide is that
they tend to get a very smelly type of water solution in their bucket, not
noticeable especially if soaking in a running stream. This can be remedied and
many of the little parasites cut down by taking some boiled acorns or boiled
cedar bark and adding a cup of the tannic acid to the beginning soak.
From The Tracker magazine, Summer 1982,
published by the Tracker School.
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