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Thread: Fleshing a hide

  1. #1

    Default Fleshing a hide

    I have a caribou hide that I have had frozen for a few months. I thawed it yesterday and last night and started to try to flesh it tonight. This is my first try, so I just got the hide from a buddy who was going to discard it so I could practice on it.

    I am wondering if anyone has tips for the membrane on the skin itself. I can get the meaty chunks off easily with my fleshing tool, but for the membrane I have just had to scrape, carefully cut, and rip with my hands to pull the thing off. Is there a better way to do it or am i doing it right? Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
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    the membrane isnt a big deal usually...just make sure to get all the fat and meat off..what are you using for a tool? a good sharp ulu will flesh better than anything.....



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  3. #3

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    I am using one of those curved tools made for fleshing - picked it up at Alaska Range Trapping Supply. It has a beveled edge so it works well. I have an ulu also, so if need be, I will go to that. Like I said, no problem with the meat and fat, but I want to get all the blood and veins off, and they are in that membrane. If I don't remove the membrane, won't that matter when I actually tan the thing?

  4. #4

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    Are you going to tan it........yourself or have it tanned.....? I would suggest you go to any taxidermist in your area and they will be happy to show you what it needs to look like.

  5. #5

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    I am going to do it myself. Like I said, if I screw it up, no big deal...I will gain valuable knowledge, but I'd like to do it as well as I can. I just seem to think leaving the membrane will cause it to be stained all over either yellowish where the membrane is or blackish-red where the veins and blood are.

  6. #6

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    Flesh it, salt dry it, and then send it to a tannery. The valuable knowledge that you will gain by trying it yourself is this.... tanning a hide the right way is ton of work, and trying to "wing it" will achieve less than desirable results. There is a lot of literature out there on how to tan hides. Try to locate some and absorb all of the info you can before you try it. ---BUT, fleshing and salting are excellent skills to practice on an old caribou hide!----those skills will benefit your future hunting adventures. Just bein real, good luck.

  7. #7

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    Well sending it off is not an option. It is a useless practice hide for a reason - to PRACTICE on. I have everything needed to tan it, just needed help with the membrane fleshing part.

  8. #8
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    AK Ex...first of all....Great to hear that you are testing your skills on a "practice hide". I have often told friends and forum members that anybody can learn to properly skin, flesh, and salt a hide themselves prior to having a tannery process the skin. So, again, great for you.
    Just take your time removing all the flesh and fat, and then rub salt into it. I would still suggest that you take it to your favorite taxidermist and explain your goal. Tell 'em you are simply practicing now, to prepare for the next big caribou or moose kill. And that taxidermisat will probably take a few minutes and "train you up" some more. Then check back with that taxidermist in early May when some roadside bears start coming in so you can learn the proper bear skinning cuts and facial feature caping.

    ...much easier to learn as you are doing, as opposed to learning on a dall sheep cape 20 miles from an airplane pick-up in eight days with 78 degree temps!

    dennis

  9. #9

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    Thanks, and well, I am going to have to wait for the next hide to come along because I screwed this one up. I didn't have tome last night to do the whole thing, and not knowing what to do, I wet it down and left it for today. Well I get back to it today and it is dried out. The parts where I got the membrane off was nice and white, as expected, and the rest was a yellowish-tan color. Anyway, it was stiff as a board and I couldn't flesh it anymore because it was all dry, so I think it is ruined. If there is any way to rehydrate it, let me know as I just bagged it up to be thrown out.

    Also, when trying to flesh it on the beam, is there a trick to keeping it from falling off sideways? I just put a thick rag over it and clamped it up top so when I pulled on it the top wouldn't fall off. Don't know if that is how to do it, but it worked! LOL

  10. #10
    Member dkwarthog's Avatar
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    For future reference, what you could have done, was put the hide outside and let it freeze if you ran out of time. Wouldnt hurt a thing. Probably it will still be alright, just rehydrate the parts that need fleshing and keep working it. You have nothing to loose since youre only practicing anyway, right?

    If you hang the hide over the end of the beam and lean into it with your leg or pelvis, you can flesh away from you and keep the hide from slipping. Hmm, hard to describe that...basically, you pinch the hide between the board and your body and flesh away from yourself...

  11. #11

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    Thanks, Warthog. That makes sense. I was doing that, but trying to go both directions was the problem. I will just try going away next time. And thanks for the freezing tip. Should have done that and let it thaw. Oh well, I didn't know what I was gonna do with the hide anyway since it sheds everywhere!

  12. #12
    Member ninefoot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK Explorer View Post
    Thanks, Warthog. That makes sense. I was doing that, but trying to go both directions was the problem. I will just try going away next time. And thanks for the freezing tip. Should have done that and let it thaw. Oh well, I didn't know what I was gonna do with the hide anyway since it sheds everywhere!
    hides proly shedding because its been thawed and worked on too long in the warmth...as a hide starts to deteriorate it will "slip" hmmmm...i do sometimes upwards of twenty bears a year (i flesh alot of the bears that come into our camp whether i guided for them or not...being a trapper and knowing how to work hides has its drawbacks

    a few tips on how i handle hides...

    first keep practicing, though tanning is not, fleshing and preparing a hide to go to the taxi or be made into usefull garments is in my opinion a very basic skill that outdoorsmen ought to know...and shows a little appreciation for the whole deal, right down to the finished product. as in everything a little pride in what your doing and a little know how go a long way...

    if the hair is slipping on your hide then it is proly a goner unless you have a desire to make use of the leather...

    i like a two handled fleshing knife (draw knife) made in england...for the life of me i cant remember the name, sheffield possibly, but it's two sided and it's about as wide as a lawnmower blade...i put an deep angled very sharp "rough" edge on one side with a file and keep one side rough and a little duller, though not near as dull as your average draw knife comes...

    the sharp knife is the trick to the membrane, and what i do, is position the hide on the beam, lean against it and flesh down about a foot...then i proceed to tie the hide off at the neck of the beam (the part you just got done fleshing) with whatever is handy...ideally something that you can take on and off quickly but thats not necessary, just tie it tight and then lean back against the hide with your body and start fleshing. i bring hides all the way down to the base of the root hair...in fact i can see most of the root hairs of a hide when i'm done...you'll read in some books that this is too close...thats garbage...the fleshing machine they put it in at the tannery gets it closer in to the roots than you did, and i've never had one fail...never. this method takes virtually all of the membrane off.

    move your knife in strokes going side to side as you push it down...your cutting the membrane and flesh off, not scraping it off. scraping it off is rediculously slow and the wrong way to use a drawknife.

    so as you draw your knife across and down (it will take some time to get the feel for this and you'll cut some hides with a sharp knife...learn how to use dental floss and a needle next ) make even strokes in a regular pattern and work the beam systematically...ie: start at the edge of last stroke you made...this will help speed the process up a bit and in reality your knife will only be making one fresh cut on every stroke as opposed to starting a new cut in random places during the process...systematcally..this is extremely helpfull to me.

    i'll sharpen a drawknife on a brown bear sometimes five or six times..depending on size. i sharpen the knife just like you would a lawnmower blade, a scythe, or any such tool... with a ******* (**** they wont even let me use that word in its other meaning...)file while the knife is in a vise. cut towards the belly of the knife with your file, not towards the edge.

    after you get done with the side on the beam, untie your knot, shift the hide and retie...then get back to work
    you imediately notice the difference in the membrane and the "flesh" after you get the hang of it, and try to get down to the roots of the hairs.

    i've saved some trapped hides that were a getting a little green and a brown bear hide that wasnt taken care of properly by a fellow guide in warm weather (hair was starting to "slip")...by using borax...the old kind with the granules and no soap in it. ...rub it in like you would salt, and lay it out in a dry area overnight...it'll make the pores holding the hair tighten up...sometimes saving the hide. another technique i learned from trapping and trappers...

    if you gotta quit on the hide before its done and your worried about it, freeze it or salt it. salted hides flesh just as well, (though the salt kinda sux in all the little cuts you'll get on your hands...borax smarts a bit too.

    as far as the actual tanning process? cant help much there. sounds like you got that figured out.

    keep at it. its just like everything...you WONT get proficient at it without doing it as much as possible. it mainly just amounts to work, and theres better ways to treat your back, but to me its just a step in the hunting process...and i'm known for being a bit disgusted at hunters who dont take the time or care enough to learn the basics of hide care...i see it alot in guides beleive it or not, and that's just plain ol' malpractice...anyway...thats what i got.

    hope some of that ramble was helpfull

    zack
    Last edited by ninefoot; 02-24-2011 at 21:14. Reason: left some stuff out

  13. #13

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    Thanks, Zack. Very informative. I plan in just making sure I have a full day to work on a hide before starting to flesh it...but if need be, I can always re-freeze it and go again. Hopefully not. I have never tanned one yet, but I have two sets of materials to use to try different methods, so I am looking forward to that. I was hoping to have a few hare by now to do, but I only got one and I don't want to waste the whole batch on one hide, so it is waiting patiently for more.

    I agree that people should utilize the hides more. I would think they could at least keep them and donate them to someone like me who would try to do something with them. I am practicing because I want to know how to do it before I get my first bear. If I screw up a caribou, oh well, but if I screw up a bear, I am gonna be pissed off, no to mention it would just be irresponsible.

    As for the membrane/skin difference, it was apparent in the areas I had already gotten the membrane off of. I did cut through the skin once, but I was using a sharp filet knife to cut the membrane away as I pulled on it. When it dried out, those areas were nice and white whereas the membrane left on turned a yellowish-tan color. All in all, I wouldn't mind the tan coloring if it were even, but the blood stains are not coming out if the membrane is left on there.

    I have a lot of salt here. How do you go about salting it after you fleshed it? Just rub tons of salt on the skin and leave it laying fur down until dry, or do you salt both sides? And do you think I should put some Borax in with the salt or just use the salt if the hair isn't slipping?

  14. #14
    Member ninefoot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK Explorer View Post
    Thanks, Zack. Very informative. I plan in just making sure I have a full day to work on a hide before starting to flesh it...but if need be, I can always re-freeze it and go again. Hopefully not. I have never tanned one yet, but I have two sets of materials to use to try different methods, so I am looking forward to that. I was hoping to have a few hare by now to do, but I only got one and I don't want to waste the whole batch on one hide, so it is waiting patiently for more.

    I agree that people should utilize the hides more. I would think they could at least keep them and donate them to someone like me who would try to do something with them. I am practicing because I want to know how to do it before I get my first bear. If I screw up a caribou, oh well, but if I screw up a bear, I am gonna be pissed off, no to mention it would just be irresponsible.

    As for the membrane/skin difference, it was apparent in the areas I had already gotten the membrane off of. I did cut through the skin once, but I was using a sharp filet knife to cut the membrane away as I pulled on it. When it dried out, those areas were nice and white whereas the membrane left on turned a yellowish-tan color. All in all, I wouldn't mind the tan coloring if it were even, but the blood stains are not coming out if the membrane is left on there.

    I have a lot of salt here. How do you go about salting it after you fleshed it? Just rub tons of salt on the skin and leave it laying fur down until dry, or do you salt both sides? And do you think I should put some Borax in with the salt or just use the salt if the hair isn't slipping?
    no borax if the hair isnt slipping

    ...i use salt pretty liberally, its cheap and insurance that the hide is cured...first remember that salt can only penetrate one 1/4 inch(supposedly)...thats all...and i think its less than that...hence the reason one needs to turn ears, lips, nose and eylids.

    i usually salt a hide, and lay it down hair side down in a dry place over night without rolling it. this starts to pull the moisture from the hide and you can literally see it form ponds of liquid the next morning.

    i then re salt the hide and roll it four ways, very tight, just like i'd rolld a bear hide to put on my pack...

    leave it over night again in the same dry place, this will start to form a sort of brine and will help preserve it.

    i then usually freeze it till i have the chance to flesh it, or send it to the taxi like that (not often)...but realize i only salt the hide if i dont have time to do the work in the same day....my situations a tad different just because i'm usually doing a lot of hides and i end up not finishing one towards the end of the day....

    if you do need to salt the hide, again, use liberally, you cannot in any way over salt it.

    remeber that this will noticeably decrease the size of the hide...it will have to be dampened again at some point or tacked out if you want to maintain the exact measurements...and still its hard to do, and you'll lose some square footage in the tanning process as well...this is normal.

    since your doing the tanning yourself...i would reccomend tacking a bear hide to a wood floor or stretch it on a seal hoope or something to keep the integrity of the hide...i've never personally used a hoop ( i dont even hoop beavers, i use plywood) but i've seen some crazy big hides put on hoops in more traditional methods and anything to keep the hide taut as the salt tries to shrink it...

    heres a note...any hide can be washed at pretty much any stage...common for sheep and goat capes, and i know of trappers who wash ALL there pelts in preparation for the market...wash it in your washing machine even (long as you dont have a wife or girlfriend ) but blood stains and such can be easily cleaned from hides...just dry them thoroughly afterwards and prepare them the same way you would otherwise.


    hides are pretty tough man, just remember to keep it simple and realize your working with a pretty durable fabric...its tough, and it's fairly tolerant of error as long as you get the stuff off that makes it rot...the flesh, oils and blood...

    good luck and good questions...

    zack

    oh yeah, and no need to salt the fur side of anything, jsut the flsh side salt is just to tighten up the hide, and preserve it a little...thats all. so if you dont need it, dont use it...ie on fresh hides that can be handled immediately. salt is far more usefull in the field to prevent the hide from spoiling before you can get it to somewhere to work, the preference is to work a hide that has not been salted, but this isnt always available as an option.

    also noteworthy is that the technique you were using with your fillet knife is the exact way lots of guys flesh bears in the field...its adequate, just really slow.

  15. #15

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    Thanks, man. Very helpful. I thought I was supposed to salt it AFTER I fleshed it, but apparently not. So next time I will freeze it until I am ready, flesh it until I am done, and then immediately either re-freeze it or, preferably, wash it and then stick it in the tanning solution. I didn't get a draw permit, so it looks like I will only have moose and hopefully bear to work on this year. Well, and smaller stuff.

  16. #16
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Sheffield fleshing knives... YouTube fleshing tips...

    Quote Originally Posted by ninefoot View Post
    ...i like a two handled fleshing knife (draw knife) made in england...for the life of me i cant remember the name, sheffield possibly, but it's two sided and it's about as wide as a lawnmower blade...i put an deep angled very sharp "rough" edge on one side with a file and keep one side rough and a little duller, though not near as dull as your average draw knife comes...zack
    Ninefoot: Sheffield brand draw knives were also mentiioned in another thread -http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/showthread.php/70589-Fleshing-knife - which includes some links for ordering them: http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...Fleshing-knife

    AK Explorer: I've been using YouTube lately - viewing taxidermy tips, esp fleshing. Here are links to the ones I thought best on fleshing and how they use the fleshing beam so far:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1k3Jj-_rCE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv7q5Dlrf2o
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C95HXZ8hAQ
    http://wyomingtaxidermy.blogspot.com...eshing-to.html
    http://taxidermybroker.com/taxidermy...eshing-part-1/

    We could use some more video of taxidermy tips for Alaska species in general... for those with talents in this area.

  17. #17
    Member ninefoot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post
    Ninefoot: Sheffield brand draw knives were also mentiioned in another thread -http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/showthread.php/70589-Fleshing-knife - which includes some links for ordering them: http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...Fleshing-knife

    AK Explorer: I've been using YouTube lately - viewing taxidermy tips, esp fleshing. Here are links to the ones I thought best on fleshing and how they use the fleshing beam so far:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1k3Jj-_rCE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv7q5Dlrf2o
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C95HXZ8hAQ
    http://wyomingtaxidermy.blogspot.com...eshing-to.html
    http://taxidermybroker.com/taxidermy...eshing-part-1/

    We could use some more video of taxidermy tips for Alaska species in general... for those with talents in this area.
    right on, good stuff there leech...thats the exact knife i was talking about, and your time to add the links oughta help explorer out much more than written words. you tube is truly amazing these days...i always seem to forget there's just about anything you wanna know about on that place, and a taxidermists or tannery worker is by far the type of professional to talk to about this subject...my job stops after the preperation for the taxi is completed....

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    Default THANKYOU ZACK for your advice on fleshing !

    I am trying to do a bear hide, fur-on, (brain-tanned and smoked) without anybody to teach me, (it's not like doing a deer-hide)
    and when I was fleshing the big thing, I was so slow that there were times that I thought I'd lose the battle and thought that I was taking so long that I started thinking the hair was going to fall out...I was so determined but so frustrated and starting to despair. So for lack of finding anyone to advise me down here on Vancouver Is., BC, I went on-line and found your advice. As soon as I tried the technique with my draw-knife that you described, I started making wonderful progress and I felt like crying I was so grateful for the help. (I just wanted to give you that feed-back Zack...don't stop sharing the knowledge that you have ! It's important to some of us that want to keep these old skills alive.)

    So I fleshed it, and salted it and put it on plywood sloped down-hill to drain overnight, and then the next day gave it a fast and vigorous sudsy/bubbly-bath in a barrel outside in Dawn dish-soap, and a good rinse with the garden hose, and dried it with lots of old towels...and then let it dry quite a bit in the summer shade and breeze under a big-tree for the day...dry enough to be able to absorb the brains next. I had obtained the brains out of the skull with my tomahawk and put them in an empty plastic yogurt container mixed around WITH a light green moss that grows on the trees around here called Usnea in Latin. (Usnea kills bad bacteria but not the good bacteria and I discovered a precious piece of knowledge...that some native people would mix the brains in Usnea and make a rectangle shaped cake from it and set it by the fire to set and dry if they couldn't do the brain-tanning right away..and it preserved the brains !) (I make medicinal tinctures for sore throat etc with Usnea so I tried mixing the brains with the Usnea and a few days later when I opened the container there was absolutely NO odour whatsoever of them 'going down-hill').

    So I let the hide dry enough to receive the brains, worked the brains (mixed well with warm water) in well by hand, and left the hide in our cool workshop absorbing the brains for the night.

    Yesterday I got my tipi set up inside with four cross-pieces of skinned branches secured with rope on the tipi poles,in a square shape, over the fire-pit and got a fire going to get some coals. Then put the bear, hide side to the smoke and fur-side away and put on some green aldar to make lots of smoke, buttoned up the tipi and closed the flaps tight, and tended it for hours.

    There are three spots on the hide that are bothering me. I'm loathe to stop, go backwards and do something about them.

    1. One is the head ...the hide there is thicker..really thick ...and I didn't go down to the blue, but then also near the lips it was (grosse, lol,) VERY thin and I didn't get all the flesh off I don't think, for fear of tearing it. It's think there but looks kind of too pink-flesh colored.

    2. Another spot on the hide, about fist sized , looks greasier than the rest. (I have been smoking it anyway and ignoring it. I didn't want to wash it and dry it all over again, groan.)

    3. Thirdly there are some spots where I definitely didn't go down to the blue/hair follicles level.
    My deer hide that I fleshed and tanned and smoked, is fine after a year, without fleshing down that deep.

    What do you (or anybody) think ? After smoking the hide for hours yesterday, should I stop, and go back, and do something about those areas ? Am I taking a gamble on losing the hair in those spots ? So far it's fine if I pull hard on the hair in those spots.
    I'm gonna use it for a rug in my tipi.

    Thanks for any help,
    gumbootmama

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