Hide tanning season 2017-2018 - in which i receive 19 deer hides from local hunters

this is the first ‘tanning season’ in which i’ve actually gotten unwanted hides from local hunters to work on. i’m pretty stoked about it, & will update here as things progress. i’ve been traveling, & am just now getting to my photos from the end of october (when i got started). since i broke my collarbone a few weeks ago i’m out of commission for a bit (in terms of the heavier work of tanning), but will keep sharing as i’m able to work on things.

blog post: Impromptu Hide Scraping Beam

(p.s. how do you get those super nice link/post previews to show up???)


I hope to see your finished work. This next season I plan on more focus in hide tanning. I only have two now I’m working on but have spoken to several area hunters and should have plenty come next season.


I have some rabbit furs laying around in the freezer waiting for tanning. Also, one hunter will be giving me whole animals (roes, deer, etc). Definitely interested to see your progress.


fleshing a poorly-skinned hide on my makeshift scraping beam. luckily, much of the meat & fat on the hides was still fresh enough to share with my dog :heart:


finished fleshing yet another hide. they look so much nicer when they’re all clean. also, note to future self: fleshing during storm season in ketchikan is ridiculous. this photo is from november 2nd, some 5 or 6 days into my hide processing marathon.


november 7, 2017:
i started processing a bunch of the fat from my freshly scraped hides… and then got busy, threw it back and forth from freezer to fridge while house-sitting, expecting to get around to rendering it… and totally failed. it went bad. into the trash. so sad. i fail at this sh*t about as often as i succeed when there’s ‘normal’ civilized job/life stuff in the way.

november 14, 2017:
this is what our boat looked like while i was fleshing all these hides. they were everywhere. i had bought a trash can to use for bucking by this point, but still didn’t have sufficient container space to get them all going right away, & so was spreading them out to attempt to dry in the wind… unfortunately, in ketchikan wind seldom visits without rain. so i was laying them out, then hurriedly shoving them under our tarp ‘porch’ area on the boat, then hauling them back out again when the rain stopped… fun times. i go to excessive lengths to attempt to tan hides sometimes.

here’s a nice close up showing a bucked hide with the fur slipping off beautifully (leaving the grain layer intact). i think my bucking solution was a bit on the weak side, though, as some of the hides i had to work too hard to scrape the fur off (they’ll go back in for longer). this is the first time i’ve used chemical lye crystals, which is a bit different feeling than using wood ashes.

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december 2017:
so, yeah. a family emergency prompted an unplanned trip to california to spend some time with my brother. this meant all the hides had to be stashed, so we rented an upright freezer, bagged & labeled them, and managed to get them all stuffed in there. i ended up only holding on to 16 out of the 19 at this point, as 3 had been a bit… aged… when they reached me, and i didn’t flesh them right away, and i decided they were a bit too far gone to put time into.

so hides are now frozen. while i was visiting my brother, this happened (as mentioned above & elsewhere) - i shattered my collarbone. letting that heal occupied the rest of december, january, february, and part of march. in april, i started working full time, and in may added on a part time job as well. but we’re paying to rent that freezer monthly, so have been on the lookout for a used freezer for sale so we can at least get rid of that bill. more on that to come…

Good thread. Nice idea on a collapsible fleshing bean. Good for us restless types. Cool boat too.

may 30:

we scored a 9+ cubic feet used chest freezer for $100, so i have space for all the hides at home now. & we’ve moved off our boat & into an apartment for the season, since we’re both working full time & want to maintain some sanity while doing the whole job thing. so i have a porch & stoop area to work in that’s a bit more visually private than the docks were.

we had a pretty serious freezer issue when i put the hides in back in november - i went off to see my brother, & after about a month or so Jon went to check on the hides, and they STANK. apparently the freezer had been set on ‘low’, and the hides were not frozen, just cold. those that had been taking the longest to buck & weren’t quite bacteriologically stable yet, began to rot.

in order to get all the hides safely out of the rented freezer (without pissing off the owner of the rental place & wrecking their equipment), we had to turn the freezer off for a day, come back the next day, remove what hides we could, spray the whole thing down with bleach, wait another day, & then come back for the last stubborn hides that had sort of melted down in between the rungs of the shelving & refrozen there. we decked the truck out like it was being used for hazmat to transport the hides, because the ones that were most at-risk when everything thawed back in november had Dripped onto the bags below, and made everything pretty seriously stanky.

may 31:

i then gave the freezer a severe, bleach-heavy cleaning. moments like those are why i very strongly prefer dirt floored huts & places with permafrost. i’d rather not deal with the whole ‘getting fancy civilized things messy’ problem. Jon was nearly dry heaving from the smell of the hides, while I was gagging over the bleach. in the end, i got the freezer plenty clean.

so - hides that were frozen wet got put into a trash can until they thawed enough to be pulled out of their bags & put into a bucking solution. dried hides just got new, clean bags & were stashed under the porch.

june 3:

as everything thawed, i was able to get a better sense of which hides had gotten compromised, & ended up trashing 2. there are 2 or 3 more that i’ll only salvage about half of by the time i’m done, as portions of the hide were too weakened to save.

above is the nice fresh batch of bucking solution with stinky, stinky hides in it as they lose the rest of their fur. there are 6 hides in there, some of which had already been ~80% stripped of fur.

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june 4:

trash can hides are now fully bucked & ready to have the fur removed. i’m leaving the grain on all of these, so it’s just a matter of spreading them out on a tarp, pushing the fur off, wringing them out a bit, and tucking them into bags in the freezer.

note: it is unwise to use a diagonal railing for wringing hides. i don’t for the life of me remember how i got my hides in the interior to be all nicely folded when i was wringing between two sticks with one propped behind the crotch of a tree. but this diagonal railing was almost my undoing. the hides were Sloppy wet & did not want to wring properly.

so the hides are not exceptionally well wrung. but they are less moist than they were before, and more importantly, will fit in freezer bags now.

success. now i can deal with them one at a time, the few rotten ones are out of the picture, and i can clean out this rank trash can before the neighbors start complaining.

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june 6:

i make a nice, clean, un-smelly batch of bucking solution going in the trash can, and add two hides that had just been fleshed and dried. they’re in great shape. it feels like a wonderful treat to deal with non-rotten hides.

so satisfying. now to wait until the fur slips nicely from the skin.

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june 18:

doing an initial round of fur scraping on the two hides that have been bucking. they come out pretty well, though both have a stubborn patch that needs to soak longer. see the link at the bottom for an instagram post with two brief videos of scraping.

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july 1:

getting the last stubborn patches off those two hides that have bucking for SO long. then they get rinsed in a few changes of plain water and then a soak in vinegar water for a few hours or overnight.

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