Tanning Spirit Notes and Updates
To remove the flesh, I use an eighteen-inch planer blade from a saw mill to which I've attached elk antler handles. A half round slab of pine, six inches in width, five to six feet in length, is smoothed with a draw knife and then rasped and sanded smooth for a fleshing board.
The quickest way to make the fleshing board functional is to lay it on the ground with rounded side up. Place one end of it several inches in front of - and perpendicular to - your truck tire, then drive up on the board. Lift the board up and place either a rock or a piece of 2"x4" under it so the board slants from the tire upwards. It should be waist high, just above your belt.
The starting position for fleshing is to drape the hide over the board with the neck down toward the tire. Pinch the hide between your stomach and the end of the board. Position the hide so you start peeling just in front of the shoulders, pushing away from you toward the neck. Once that is fleshed, turn the hide around with the neck at your stomach and continue to push the flesh toward the tail. Remove all pieces of meat and fat on the entire hide. If there are any areas that are bloodstained, they can be soaked clean in fresh water during the dehairing process
At this point you have two options: (1) continue with the tanning process of dehairing, or (2) store for a later time, which can be done by air drying the hide. Simply spread the hide out, flesh side up, in an "out of the way" place, and by all means away from dogs. I have stored hides in this condition for years. Another way to store hides is in your freezer, rolled up as described previously.
New Notes on Fleshing
Instead of the fleshing board slanting down I now use it closer to horizontal. Years ago there was no problem using the fleshing board that is shown in "The Tanning Spirit" video. With the increased number of raw skins that I do each year for our own use and the ones that are for sale, it has required me to change the angle of the board. The new position makes for less strain on my back and neck.
The addition of PVC over the wooden fleshing beam makes for a smooth surface. Notice the hinges. The white one has a pin which can be removed allowing the fleshing beam to be taken off, folded up, and stored out of the way. That quickly allows the upright dehairing beam to be used.
The simple addition of a plastic barrel under the fleshing beam has saved hours of cleaning up the fat and meat; just remove the plastic bag. The slight rotting smell that eminates from the bag is just about right for coyote bait sets. This way nothing goes to waste.
Fleshing tools: Gone are the days that I used a planer blade with elk antler handles. It is necessary to purchase good tools that are designed for fleshing, that are sharp, have a curve to match the graining board and handles that are comfortable. The two-handle fleshing knives can be purchased from most trapping supplies web sites. The two fleshing knives in the pic I bought at trappers convention for $9.95 each. The blade is 8 inchs between the handles.
The left one is very dull and used for dehairing and graining. The other is used for fleshing, removing fat and meat before salting. I also flesh the salt and membrane off before rehydrating the hide for dehairing. It only takes a few minutes and the hide soaks the water from the flesh side. This extra fleshing removes most of the membrane and the rest will be removed when the hide is in the softening frame.
Storage: I have made one big change with all the hides that I skin. They are wet-salted and put away in airtight containers. After fleshing, the hide is laid on the salting table and covered with fine salt. Every inch must receive some salt. Salt is cheap so don't skimp. It is a preservative that has been around for thousands of years. Remove the hide to the draining rack which may have 8-10 hides. Just keep stacking them. Leave for 24 hours to drain most of the moisture off, then go back to the salting table. Add salt where necessary; fold sides into the middle, then fold one side on top of the other. Fold neck in about a foot or so, then roll from the rump to neck and place into an airtight contanier. Place the container out of the direct sunlight and the hides will keep for years.
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