How to Scrape the Grain of a Hide for Tanning

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Ever wondered how to turn a raw hide into a smooth, high-quality material? Hide tanning is an ancient art that requires patience, precision, and physical strength. Since scraping the hide is a key part of the process, it can be tough, but with the right body mechanics and tools, you can get great results. In this guide, we’ll use renowned hide tanner Natalie Bogwalker’s technique to explain how to scrape a hide with ease. 

Preparing Your Body and Workspace

Before getting into the scraping process, it’s essential to prepare your body and set up your workspace correctly. Stand with your legs slightly bent, keep your stomach muscles tensed, and relax your shoulders. This posture helps prevent back strain and ensures you can work comfortably for extended periods. Lock your wrists to avoid strain and ensure the movement comes from your shoulders.

Setting Up the Scraping Beam

Position your scraping beam so that the top reaches just below your belly button. This height works well for most people, but you can adjust it based on your preference and body type. A higher position might be more suitable for individuals with a higher center of gravity and more upper body strength.

Scraping the Hide

  1. Positioning the Hide: Place the hide on the beam with the neck facing up. The hair should generally point towards the butt end of the animal.
  2. Scraping Technique: Use short, powerful strokes to scrape the hide. Start in the middle of the hide to get a feel for its texture and strength. Your goal is to remove both the hair and the underlying grain. The grain is often shiny, while the flesh underneath is rougher.
  3. Forming Triangles: As you scrape, form small triangles. This technique helps you manage the hide’s surface more effectively, ensuring you cover all areas thoroughly.

Identifying and Removing Grain

The grain can be tricky to remove. It’s essential to differentiate between the shiny grain and the rougher flesh underneath. If you’re unsure, scrape a bit more to see if any material comes off. The most effective way to ensure you’ve removed all the grain is to overlap your strokes significantly, much like mowing a lawn. This overlap prevents leaving strips of grain, which would make the tanning process much harder.

Special Considerations for the Neck and Edges

It’s worth noting that the neck is the toughest part of the hide to scrape. You may need to cut it shorter to manage it more easily. Always leave the neck for last, as it requires the most energy and precision. For the edges, turn the hide so they run perpendicular to the beam. This position makes it easier to scrape without gouging into the hide.

Handling Different Hides

Not all hides are the same. Each one will have unique characteristics, much like human skin. Some hides may need bucking – soaking in an alkaline solution – to make the grain easier to remove. While this method can reduce odor and create a more consistent scraping experience, it also requires careful handling to avoid chemical burns.

Final Steps and Storage

Once you’ve finished scraping, you have a couple of options:

  • Immediate Tanning: Soak the hide in water to prepare for the next step.
  • Storage: Clean the hide and let it dry on a flat surface like a car hood. This method makes the hide easier to store and prevents it from drying in an awkward shape.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that scraping a hide is a physically demanding task that requires practice and proper technique. By following these steps and maintaining good posture, you can efficiently remove hair and grain, preparing the hide for tanning. Whether you choose to proceed with the next steps immediately or store the hide for later, you’ll have a well-prepared hide ready for the final stages of tanning. Happy tanning!

Learn More

For those of you who would like to further explore the art of hide tanning, join renowned hide tanner Natalie Bogwalker in her comprehensive masterclass. Learn how to turn a deer (or other animal hide) into soft, durable, beautiful buckskin. Bonus chapters include sewing with buckskin, making a skirt, and crafting a possibles bag. Plus, get exclusive access to our popular Pelt Tanning class as a bonus! Don’t miss out on this deal – enroll now!

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Anchored Outdoors

Anchored Outdoors is an ever-growing network of fly fishing experts who’ve been brought together by podcaster and fellow outdoorswoman, April Vokey.

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