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”

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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.

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More to follow.

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