TANNING—DEER SKIN—Please give me the Indian method of deer skin tanning.
I once saw an article telling how the Indians tanned a deerskin. It stated that the skin was cut to the proper thickness with a draw knife. It was then given a layer of a preparation of salt and alum. As for the salt, the Indians could get that from the salt licks, but I don’t think the Indians had either a draw knife or alum. Mr. Belden, who lived a great many years among the Indians, and is an authority on such subjects, does not agree with this method. He gives a method that the Indians use which is as follows: The skin is first chipped with a rude piece of bone somewhat like a hoe; it was then rubbed with a piece of sandstone until smooth. It is then soaked in brain and fat until it is saturated. After that it is dried thoroughly and then washed and rewashed until clean. After that is done the process is complete.
You overlooked the fact that conditions have changed greatly since the date of Belden s life among the Indians. Today the Indians can get anything of that nature that they wish and I do not doubt that the method given by the party referred to is used to some extent. I am inclined to think that Mr. linden did not tell it all for the process is not complete after the final washing. The Indian “brain tan” requires that the skin he pulled worked and twisted continually while drying or it will dry as hard as sole leather. After it is dry it must be thoroughly smoked or it will dry hard again after wetted; properly done, it is all O. K.
The skin is not dressed down to a “proper thickness” but the flesh is carefully cleaned from the flesh side and the grain, the hair and scarf skin is scraped from the other side if it is for buckskin. This must always be done before tanning for leather.
Harding, A.R.. 3001 Questions and Answers. Columbus, Oh: A.R. Harding, 1913.
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