Caffeine: the most potent artificial intelligence drink!

Caffeine: the most potent artificial intelligence drink!
Deep in the Lair of the Perpetually Curious Fox

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Processing White tail hide into (part III) ... grain off bark tanned leather!

Well folks, after a long while ... I'd say I've finished with the WT hide! Sorry or the long wait, ladies and gents ... spring kinda sprung unexpectedly here and I got busy starting seeds for the vegetable patch!

After about 60-ish days in the tea (I've also added some spruce bark tea to get the more golden highlights and the preservative qualities) the hide was taken out, washed in mild soap (in a washing machine, if you must know!) and rinsed.

Dove body soap (1/3 cupful) with a squirt of betadine surgical scrub.
 Let the hide drip off the excess water, and in the meantime, make yourself some leather mayo. Again, I'm using 1/3 liquid soap and 2/3 olive oil to make 1 cup of leather mayo emulsion.                                    

Just so it can cover the hide, I've diluted it in half a litre of WARM (not hot) water. Work, agitate, pummel, massage, rub, stir, etc for 30 minutes. Kinda wring it the best you can, let it drip off excess dressing, then repeat the work/agitate/pummel again. Then let it sit in the dressing for an hour.

After an hour, take it out of the dressing and let it drip off the excess overnight.

After dressing the hide, I folded it and plonked it in the freezer overnight. Took it out the next day, let thaw outside (8 deg C in the sun that day) let it dry off excess moisture from drippy slippery hide to just damp, and let it freeze outside at night, and prepare to work it the next day.

Even with all the holes and missed grain patches, it looks pretty darn good.
After letting it freeze dry overnight, it still contained a fair amount of water in it. Think of a bath towel after a trip to the swimming pool. Not sopping wet, but it is heavy with moisture. Here's where you'll need a fair amount of OCD ... softening a hide can take upwards of 8 to 12 hours of working it! Of course, you don't have to do it all in one sitting --- roll it up and put in a plastic baggie and into the freezer when you're done for the session.

The hide contains just enough moisture that it WON'T freeze solid - more like a very stiff pair of un-broken jeans. For working the hide, I lashed a canoe paddle onto the deck's steps and used the edge. You can also lace the hide onto a frame and work it with a paddle in your hands -- but I like to be able to rub n' fluff the hide in my palm in between edge working. Plus a hide on a frame won't fit in a freezer all that well .....

Just so I have a quantifiable way to determine the "dryness" of a hide, I weighed it before working, and after working. Once the weight stabilised, it is truly dry! I cannot emphasise how important it is to work the hide till it's completely dry -- most people stop working the hide too soon, and as the fibres dry out (without movement) it'll harden into stiff, plank-like quality! Good rule of thumb is to continue working for another hour when you think you're done ... or until the weight stays constant.

After 2 hours of working ... 1.362 kg

After 6 hours of working .... 0.743kg. Nearly half of it's original weight was water!
After 8 hours of working ... only 3g difference. Yup it's dry. Bear in mind that you also scrape a heck
of a lot of membrane off the hide when you work it ... so you'll lose maybe 2-3 grams of fibres per 2 hours.

Once it's dry, I change technique ... and used a deer scapula for finishing. The way I do it is to sit on half of the hide, lift the edge with my left hand until you have a bit of tension, then use the scapula in my right hand to scrape/fluff the stubborn areas like the back, neck and edges into the softness I want - in this case as soft as a broken in denim fabric feel, as I'm thinking of making a quiver and bow case.

It's funny how well the deer scapula fits in my hand and works so well to fluff up the fibres!  

Once you've got the degree of softness you want (of course, if it's still not soft enough, you can always use a spray bottle to re-dampen it and rework), it's time to finish off the flesh side with a pumice stone. Working on an edge kinda make the fibres a bit rough on the flesh side ... so to make it smoother out comes the pumice stone. Drape the hide on your thigh (flesh side up) and rub lightly with pumice stone until it's smooth. Don't over pumice - or you'll make a hole in the hide!

Rough un-pumiced on the top half, smooth silky suedey pumiced on the bottom half.
Yeaa ... I kinda fail at graining the hide because I used a kukri (hence the holes) and missed a few patches on the grain side, but these patches just scrapes off easily with your fingernails after softening ... and kinda adds an interesting character of light coloured patches.

Grain side. Nice golden brown with the odd light tan patches from bad graining.

However, the flesh side looks amazing! Maybe I should finish off the grain side with the pumice stone, too, to even the surface a bit more.

Silky suede smooth!

Soft enough to sew without pre-punching with an awl, yet stiff enough to hold it's shape once sewn into ...
dunno yet. Quiver and bowcase, maybe?
The trimmings are not wasted either. They'll make fantastic ammo or coin pouches. Maybe a deery something for my niece.

So my verdict? For my First Ever Hair Off, Grain Off, Non-Commercial Chemicals Involved Tea Tanning ... definitely do it again. Need a bit more practice in degraining (a proper drawknife would help!) to stop poking so many holes in it ... but yup, B+ for this hide!

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