Weather wise

This may have been my last above 35* day for many months, and would have been nice for smoking a couple skins, but the deer just isn’t ready.

That’s one of the things I like about this work: it forces me to slow down, to do things not at my will but in their due time.

I can’t control the weather to make a hide dry faster. I can bring them into my warm home, but the other side to that coin is that I don’t want them drying too quickly or they may lack suppleness.

If the snow that’s predicted to fall tonight sticks around, then I’ll just smoke hides in the snow. When they’re ready.

Meanwhile, I have been alternating scraping and stretching the deer hide in my workshop and my home.

Tonight’s pre-stretching pic

As always, the white parts are dry and the blue parts are still wet.

Last night’s work on the deer:

Deer skins, in my experience, dry faster and harder than sheep. I think this is because of the insulating factor of wool – even though it’s only on one side of the skin, I think it hampers air flow.

Another thing on my mind recently – how’s that for a transition – is that the colder weather will give me opportunities to harvest roadkill. There may be some buckskin or bark-tanned deer hides in my future. If I’m lucky, some nice winter furs from unlucky raccoons. And if I’m really lucky, a fox.

Short update

The deer hide got a bit of a scrape and stretch today. Then I decided to wash it in a bucket of cold water, since it was a balmy 40*.

After drip drying all afternoon, it’s now in my bathroom, because I guess I just don’t learn.

Post scrape, pre wash

I also opened up the egg dressed sheepskin.

Nice color, but it didn’t seem as soft and full in the skin as when I use soap and oil. I did a little scraping but it wasn’t quite ready, I don’t think.

Very… eggy.

I folded that bad boy back up for tomorrow.

Let’s try “egg tanning”

1:30pm, 32*F.

My soap tanning dressing did get a bit stiff on the hides last night – it went down to 10. The deerskin looked fine and I’ll leave it another night before I scrape again and start breaking.

The sheepskin, which was dressed after the solution had cooled considerably, was a bit stiffer and some of the dressing looked frozen.

It was just barely stuck together when I unfolded it, but since it shouldn’t be stuck at all I decided to scrape and redress it.

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Turkey day

5:30pm, 21*F

Recognized holidays mean my guy has off from work, which means I get some much deserved time off from baby care and can get in some serious hide work.

I’m sore. My hands were freezing even in my enclosed workshop. But I’m satisfied.

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27 degrees

You guys. It’s cold. But. I did hide work for a couple hours after dark today.

This bad boy, who is definitely getting split into 2 pelts after smoking, finally doesn’t have wet wool anymore.

I was getting a little worried about this one because the skin side felt a bit strange – like a little extra greasy from the tanning dressing maybe. I worried it wouldn’t soften or the leather dry correctly. But it’s acting just as I expect it to.

That’s just from hand stretching. Pulling on it, basically. Where it’s white, it’s done. Where it’s yellow- brown, it needs to be broken and softened. I used my hands and my ulu to work it tonight.

You can see the difference that softening makes. It really transforms it.

This sheepskin isn’t even dry in the leather yet, so I’ve got much more stretching and breaking to do. I’ll need to keep doing it – softening with hand and tool – until the leather is totally dry. Then it will (finally) be ready for smoking.

Final result for today

I also started dry membraning the custom deer skin.

Basically I just sat on the floor with it and scraped it with my dull tools. I needed to scrape off the stuck salt, and then get at the membrane. It’s not as dry as I thought it was (thanks weather!) so I didn’t get all the membrane off tonight.

Hopefully you can tell from the photos what the membrane is, if you’re not sure.

The membrane is that thin, papery layer. It lives between the flesh of the animal and the actual skin. If you think of the skin as an organ (because it is…) it makes sense that it would be encased in its own membrane. Almost like the skin’s skin. Technically you can tan with it on, but removing it yields a softer more supple result.

I’d really like to get it off before I tan this deer. I just don’t enjoy wet membraning as much, and the cold isn’t conducive to it.

Next time I’m able to get back to it, it’ll be even drier and I’ll get the rest of the membrane off. I have some pumice coming, which I’m excited to try and expecting to be a tremendous help.

Progress is happening, but for the sake of my purse I wish it was faster.


It’s 4:45 pm. I walk out my front door. The snow that fell the other day is a slushy wet mess, and I don’t have the heart for winter boots just yet, so my hiking shoes are damp already. I walk 100 feet to my garage and into my workshop. It isn’t warm. It’s less than 40 degrees, and I have to give myself a little pep talk to start this work as the sun is setting.

Laced and framed sheepskin
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