Been awhile since I've had a chance to get on here. Been even longer since I have had an oppurtunity to ruin a hide. I know I have thrown away more hides than I really care to admit to. Thanks to alot of people willing to suffer my ignorace I have picked up on some key peices of info. They are as follows:
- The best rawhide comes from a skinny animal
- Regardless of your method of dehairing and drying the more fat that is in/on the hide the more interference you will have to the process.
- The chemist say that liming works from the flesh side. The lime penetrates through fat slowly, which if the fat and connective tissue isn't thouroughly removed will make for uneven hair removal. Or in some of my cases, a hide that was useless in some areas with hair firmly attached in others.
- If using hides from feeder steers/heifers it is best to flesh as soon as possible. The more body heat in the hide the better. If using a old cow, not to big of deal.
- If drying a hide to scrap the hair once dried the more even you can get the hide prior to complete dry down the better. Fleshing is important, some will take a sander to the hide
before completely dry to thin down some of the thicker areas to get a more even drying process. You will find if to much fat. or if the hide is thicker, that if not dryed evenly the hide will
dry with wrinkles in it making it very difficult to remove the hair without damaging the top grain of the hide. Winter hair on animals can be an issue if not clipped of prior to drying.
- Sodium Sulfide will slip hair very effectively. It is a mess. It smells horrible. Your wife may make you sleep in the barn for a night or two till the smell wears off of you. But, In 30
minutes to an hour you can have a hide that is as slick as a babies back side. (Thank you Rod and Denise)
- Red haired animals make the prettiest rawhide. Doesn't matter which method used. The farther away from black you can get the better looking the rawhide.
- Chiggers suck. Nothing worse than spending a bunch of time fleshing, stirring, slipping (sleeping in the barn) streching a hide to find that bugs and barb wire have had their way with
the best parts of your hide.
- If dry scraping a hide a solid peice of iron with 4 perfectly square and sharp edges can mean the difference between being able to get out of bed the next day on your own or needing a
crane to lift you out. Lay it over a barrel or post and sit on it. You can do it in the frame standing up but I'd rather sit and work whenever possible.
- The first lesson to learn in making rawhide is how to get and maintain a sharp edge on any tool you will be using. That tution is best paid with books and videos, not scars and stiches.
- The second lesson is temper. If it not tempered right don't work with it. To hard and blades will bend and break. To wet the hide will strech and look like crap once braided. Just right
the heavens will open and Dorrance himself will sit by your side and tell you stories of days gone by as you effortlessly cut the perfect strands. Perfect temper takes feel, the only way
to learn feel is to find out what feels bad and what feels good. If you are just getting started and have no one near by to learn from to feel what perfect is you are going to be throwing
away some hide. It's OK there are thousands of feet of rawhide being born everyday.
- Maintaining temper while working. Feel will tell you when you need to add water or let dry out a bit. You can't braid for 2 hours straight and not have a plan on how to maintain the
perfect temper. Spray bottles, plastic bags, soaps, potions, barrels, damp towels, humidors every one has its place depending on the current humidity of the day.
There are many more tips that can be added to this list and hopefully many of you will do so. If not for the advise I gleaned from those willing to share I would have given up on braiding altogether. I am a long way from being inducted into the TCAA, but some day I may get the perfect hide, not ruin it, have my tution payed in full, and be able to bring to bear the knowledge and skill of those willing to share and create something worthy of recognition by my peers.
Best of luck,