According to Tom Brown, the steps to making buckskin are:
- Soaking (optional, hair off only)
- De-Hairing (optional, hair off only)
Fleshing the hide must be done to remove all remaining meat, tissue, and fat remaining on the skin side of the hide. This tissue will rot if left on the hide. I have a few different pieces of equipment to use for this - fleshing knife, large pine log, and a smaller 4" diameter log. I use the logs as a fleshing beam, although the are commercially available models. The flesh side is done first because the hair will protect the hide from accidental puncture. Of course, if you intend to keep the hair on the hide, you should be careful to scrape head to tail to avoid ripping hair out. There is a membrane under the meat and tissue that should be removed. If it is not removed during this step, you will have to remove it in step 6, scraping. As near as I can tell, this is the whole wet vs. dry scrape controversy - I am simply following the steps that have been presented as I have no personal bias.
Again, note that I perform this step after I de-hair the hide. Racking the hide is simply stretching it on a frame and letting it dry. It will dry hard. This is really the goal, to allow you to scrape off the membranes on both the flesh and fur sides of the hide. The frame must be very sturdy because the hide will shrink as it dries - I have tried lashing logs together and I have screwed 2x4s together. The 2x4s seem to be a bit easier to work with.
The idea is to rack the hide and pluck the hair from the hide before it dries. As I've said, I use the fleshing knife and fleshing beam to scrape the hiar off when I am done fleshing the hide. I have found that sometimes the hair folicles are not scraped off enough, which translates to more scraping when I get to that step.
So, we've gotten to the point where we are ready to scrape. I should tell you that I have found steps 6 and 8 the most labor intensive. This could be because I have not adequately fleshed or de-haired the hide. I still have many hides with which to more closely follow the steps as outlined in the book. Regardless, I realized today, I have quite a lot left to learn about tanning hides, on this my MooseBoots journey, in spite of the fact that I have now gone through the first six steps a few times and all of the previous experience with rabbit hides. I do find that I tend to lose myself in the work and it is very grounding - therapeutic. It is a opportunity to form a real connectionto nature and I find myself expressing my appreciation and gratitude to the hides for all of the gifts I have been given.