Adventures in home-tanning

In 1996 I decided to try brain-tanning a deerhide. I got a salted and frozen hide from Don Sarrazin in Innisville, Ontario. It came with the fur on it and lots of yucky meaty bits too. The first thing to do was to thaw it and soak all the salt out of the hide so I left it in the laundry tub in the basement for a day or too and changed the water frequently to get rid of the salt. The next step was to remove all the meat and gristle from the inside of the hide (the non-furry side).
Here I am removing meat from the hide using a draw knife, a kind of 2-handled knife. I have the hide draped over a log and braced against my stomach. I am pushing the knife away from me to scrape off any meat and gristle. 

Scraping the meat off is very hard work. It took hours and hours and my back got very sore. I think I would sharpen the knife more next time but I was afraid to cut the skin. One thing I learned though was that hide is very tough.

Here's another shot where you can see the knife better. It's got bent handles at each side. It takes a lot of strength and pressure to push on the knife and scrape the meat off.

Since it was winter time I started doing this in the basement but I discovered that it is very messy so after this I worked outside and got cold instead.  I also replaced the log with a 5 ft piece of PVC tubing from the hardware store. It comes in different diameters, mine is 4 inches I think. It makes a nice smooth surface to scrape against. 

Here I have almost finished scraping the inside of the hide and it looks white and clean. I am using an Inuit ulu knife to scrape the edges of the hide. 

I'm working outside in my back yard in Ottawa in January. I had to wait for a warm spell to work on the hide because it was frozen solid. At least it didn't smell and there were no flies to worry about.


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Copyright © 1997, Judy Kavanagh -- All rights reserved
Last updated October 22, 1997