tanning: deer hide to buckskin

i have finally tanned my first buckskin. i've been slowly working on my hide-processing skills since 2007, but for the first few years faced setbacks like not being in my own place (read: having a say in whether smelly dead body parts could be on the kitchen table, etc), not having appropriate storage conditions, traveling, and foul weather. the Last few years my excuse has been that i'm building a homestead and thrift store clothes are SO cheap.

the upshot is that i've gotten very skilled at Salting hides well and keeping them protected from heat, bugs, and other critters. i have scraped some, and ended up with some stiff furs. but finally, over the past week or so, i started with a fur-on, salted and somewhat cured, deer hide, and have ended up with supple, deliciously soft buckskin that i am turning into shorts. here you go.

scraping the flesh side of the hide, with it staked to the ground. using the simple scraper that jon the blacksmith made for me back in 2012.

this is some of the fat and meat bits that i'm having to scrape off.

this is what it starts to look like when it's nicely scraped.

'graining' or scraping down through the grain layer on the fur side. shitty, impermanent setup. made my arms extra sore.

graining - slightly better setup. mostly done.

soaking the hide in a dressing of eggs and hot water.

wringing out the dressed hide before softening.

freshly wrung hide. looks very different.

sewing holes in the hide before softening so they won't pucker as it dries. this felt as creepy as it looks. like sewing flesh.

softening/stretching the hide over my knees and the back of a chair. also used a cable. very exciting.

fully softened/stretched and dry hide. it feels INCREDIBLE. seriously. softer than a bunny rabbit. i will never wear normal clothes again.

looks more like normal fabric-like substances now, too.

smoking the hide over a coals and punky wood fire. looks blurry, but it's actually just smoke seeping out of the tiny holes along the edges of the sewed up hide.

smoking continues. it was raining outside, so i set up in my outdoor kitchen area with friend Ashly helping out.

hide is officially done, smoked, dry, ready to be made into things. the next day i soaked it in water and laid it out flat to dry, which helps pull out a bit of the intense woodsmoke aroma. also trimmed the stiff bits off the edges, and started laying out pieces to make shorts out of it.

hooray! i'm not sure i had ever actually felt real buckskin before. it is incredible. and so worth the work. it was not as difficult as i thought - the main impediment for me is slight boredom during some of the steps, and the careful timing. long, complex processes offer me many chances for making mistakes. but at last i have my first buckskin, and now there is no turning back. i have a whole broken down cart full of salted hides just waiting to be processed. new wardrobe? yes. get the fuck rid of all the factory-made clothes i've been wearing? Hell yes.


Anonymous said…
Wow!!!!! Amazing work !