Tanning Tips Q&A
by Frank Sherwood
People frequently write asking about problems they have had when brain
tanning hides. There are some questions that come up again and again. I have
collected a few of the most common questions and answered them below.
Q: My Deer hide has developed funny ridges on it
as I was dry scraping. What is this from and how can I get rid of it?
A: This is called washboarding and it comes from
scraping with a dull or loose bladed scraper, or scraping a hide when it is
damp. Check your scraper for sharpness and sharpen it if needed. Make sure the
hide is dry. If you have these washboard ridges, they can be removed by scraping
with a sharp blade parallel to the ridges.
Q: I just scraped the flesh side of my hide and
now, as it is drying, these clear spots are appearing around the edges. What is
this and what should 1 do?
A: These are grease burns that result from fat and
grease being left on the hide when it was fleshed. It means the hide was not
scraped thoroughly. Simply wash and rinse the hide using a grease cutting dish
soap. This should get rid of most of the grease, but it may also make the
affected area tear more easily, so use caution when scraping this area.
Q: After spending long hours on my first attempt
at brain tanning, my hide turned out as stiff as a board. Is there any hope?
A: The most common causes of a hide turning out
stiff are: not pushing hard enough while staking, or quitting before the hide
was completely dry. You can dampen the stiff areas of the hide and restake until
thoroughly dry. Remember, hides are pretty tough, so push firmly and stretch
that hide to soften the fibers. Running out of time in the middle of staking is
not good. However, if you are unable to stake the hide until it is dry, you can
unrack the hide, wring out any moisture, and place it in a plastic bag. If you
will be able to finish in a day or two, just put it in the refrigerator.
Otherwise, freeze the hide until it can be finished. Good luck!
From True Tracks, Winter-Spring 1996, published by the
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