Tanning Leather from Raw Cowhide

Here at the sporting physicians’ main call room we are interested in reviving old methods of cradle to grave subsistence. I don’t know anyone who tans leather on a small scale, but it seemed like a useful skill. There are also a myriad of uses for leather. About a year ago, I bought some books to learn how to make my own knives. Of course every knife needs a sheath, so why not make custom leather sheaths from self-tanned leather. But I digress…

Fortunately, this Sporting Physician’s best man, frequent partner-in-crime, handsome med student in his own right, Ben Schellhase has a healthy herd of black Angus that he and his family call their own. Enter the beggar.
SP: “Hey Ben, when are your parents slaughtering another cow?”
Ben: “I think they are going to take one in on the 28th”
SP: “Can I have the hide?”
Ben: *prolonged pause* “Should I even ask?”
SP: “No, and please don’t tell my wife.”
Ben: “Ok, I’ll see what I can do.”

See that is the mark of a true friend. No probing questions, just action.
Unfortunately, the wife found out. Fortunately, Ben only provided a small chunk of cowhide (as usual, I was biting off more than I could chew.

Having no experience in this matter, I turned to the google and found this handy resource. Tanning Guide
Step 1 is to remove excess tissue and fat, and in this case “cow patties”


I used a piece of plywood and finishing nails to fix the hide to the board hair side down. The scraping was onerous to say the least. It took an hour longer than I anticipated, dulled my knife, and made us late for dinner. But, 3 pounds of salt and a few cinder blocks later, I have my salted hide curing on a slight incline to promote drainage. The baby pool is to stop any rain water and the other cinder block is to deter curious woodland creatures.


More to follow.

This entry was posted in Homestead Activity and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s