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Photographs of hides being processed
Also some notes about tanning & dyeing (at the bottom)

Hides being prepared by Alexis Burnett
Photos by Walter Muma except as noted. Hide work by Alexis Burnett

Freshly skinned deer hide.

Photo by Alexis Burnett

After it is removed from the animal, the hide has to be prepared for use.  All of the fat and meat scraps must be scraped off from the inside of the hide. As well, the innermost layer of the hide must be scraped off as well.

If the hide is going to be tanned "hair-off", then the hair must be scraped off from the external side of the hide as well.

A deer hide on a rack, scraped and ready for tanning.

This hide has had both sides scraped clean.

Generally speaking, deer hide is better used with the hair off. Deer hair is fragile and breaks easily.



Detail of how the hide is attached to the rack.

Small holes are pierced along the edge of the hide, and string (cordage) is run through the holes and around nails (in this case) hammered into the frame. The cordage is pulled very tight. There is usually little chance of tearing the hide by doing this...deer hide is very tough.


Photo by Alexis Burnett

Pulling the hair off the hide, getting it ready for tanning. This hide has been soaked to loosen the hair.

A hide can be soaked in water for a few days to loosen the hairs. But be careful that it doesn't start to rot. Adding cold ashes from a fire will accelerate the process.



Photo of a moose hide on a rack. Moose hides are much thicker and tougher than deer hides. They are therefore more work to tan.



Hides being prepared by Allan "Bow" Beauchamp
Photo and hide work by Allan "Bow" Beauchamp


Here's Allan working a moose hide.

He has small used birch trees for the frame.


The completed moose hide.
Another view of the finished hide.

Fleshing a hide using a beam.

Simply lean a fallen tree up against another and away you go.



Photo by Rob Bicevskis

A fox hide being smoked. Smoking a hide is necessary if you want to be able to use it in wet conditions (rain).

Photo by Rob Bicevskis

A deer hide being scraped.

Just lean a post or smooth log up against a tree and away you go.



Here are some brief notes on tanning and dyeing methods from the Advanced Skills Class of June 2003 at the Tracker School, contributed by K.P.

This is straight out of my notebook. I have not yet tried theses. I'm sharing these because I believe they have to be shared. I hope some of you will try these and share the results.

To degrease a greasy hide like wild pig, coon or goat put the hide in a steaming apparatus. Save the drippings for tallow.

Yucca Soap Prep
Shred root
Cover shreds with water
Twist grind
Soak mash 24 hours
Twist Grind
Heat again
Filter (liquid soap)

Save fibers for scrub brush. Add wood ash powder to liquid for stronger cleaner. Make paste of wood ash, Yucca liquid and pour into soap bar mold. *Replace brains with concentrated yucca soap paste for yucca tan. Softer than brain tan. Rinse before stretching. Highly resistant to insect infestation (mold, mosquitoes).

The Yucca tan is supposed to be softer than braintan (and waterproof?). I'll speculate that if the tallow makes it waterproof, than maybe adding tallow to brains can make a braintan waterproof.

Osage Orange Dye Prep.
Medium dye, add more wood for bone. Soak wood fibers/sawdust and heat to simmer. Let soak for 24 hours. Heat again and twist grind. Heat again and let soak for 24 hours. Heat again and filter. Basic dye solution is now ready.
Note: Add 1 oz of neetsfoot oil to 1 qt of osage orange dye.
Soak hide 48 hours. Finish off as brain tan (Osage tan).
Lightly oil and heat to drive in dye. For bone, soak in dye for
24 hrs, dry, heat solution and let dry...gets darker.

The osage tan is supposed to impart a beautiful orange color that is ideal for camouflage in fall foliage. Sorry if it is a bit confusing; part of it describes dyeing wood and bone. I remember we used about a gallon of woodchips and sawdust for the dye at the class.

Other Dye or Tanning Solutions
Prep as Osage: acorn, oak root, walnut and root, blueberry, cranberry, pine nut and root, inner bark pine, cedar bark and root, ashroot, butternut, sweetgum and sphagnum.
Tanning elements (as in brain tan): liver, kidneys, urine, small intestine, testicular, mucus, fish oil, nut oils, neetsfoot oils, tallow tan, pancreas and tobacco.