Tanning a Moose Hide

I recently have undertaken the super difficult-but-fun task of tanning a moose hide. This is my first hide ever that I am fully tanning, and it is probably one of the more difficult and lengthy projects i’ve ever taken on. The hide was so massive and almost too big to manage, so luckily I got my friend Carrie and my known accomplice Jamie to take half of it to work on. Mind you, half of this moose hide is the size of huge buck and probably more than twice as thick.

My process:

1. FLESHING- It took a few days to scrape the flesh off of the hide (it was super thick), and even when I thought all of the flesh was off I ran my scraper over it one last time just to make sure. Also, because I was scraping outside in freezing and snow conditions, it helped to have a hot pot of water near me to pour over parts when they got too cold and frozen.

2. SOAKING- Then I soaked it for a whopping 10 days. And I experimented a little by soaking it in shredded Ivory soap instead of soft wood ash or lime (which I have used before). It worked! the Ivory soap got the grain good and swollen.

3. GRAINING- The grain on the moose was very thick, and so for this I used a sharp draw knife. It took three good days of scraping to get it off. Because of how thick the grain was and dark in color, it was very easy to see if it was coming off all the way or not (lucky me)–there was always a nice distinct line between the dark grain the whitish-pink underneath. Again, even after I thought I got it all off, I scraped it quickly one last time just to make sure.

4. SOAKING- now that the grain has been scraped, I let the hide soak in a combination of shredded Ivory soap and olive oil. As I put the hide in I massaged it, worked the mixture into the hide a bit, and really made sure that all parts were covered. I then let it soak for two days before I attempted my first softening.

5. SOFTENING- I wrung out the hide as best I could and stretched it onto the frame (picture below). For the next 6 hours it was poked and massaged with a large stick, and for 3 hours after that softened on a cable that I have fastened to the secured wooden ladder in my room. In the end it was not as soft as I would have liked, so it went it for another round of soaking–It needed it though.

6. ROUND 2 of SOAKING and SOFTENING: worked! If I wasn’t going to make boots and wanted something softer, I would probably have soaked it again. But for boots I wanted something a little stiffer.

7. Now all that is left is to smoke the hide! Yay! I can’t wait until It is all ready-to-go for making boots!

The picture below is from when I had it stretched on the frame for softening.


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