Braintan mooshide

torink1
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torink1
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1:08 AM - Apr 01, 2018 #1

So a couple years ago a friend of mine shot a nice bull moose and I received the hide from him at the cost of tanning a deer and coyote for him, I was very new to tanning at this point, I didn't even have proper equipment but realy wanted to do the moose anyway, so I fleshed away at the thing for hours and hours then hung it on a frame that the hunter made for me and dried it and lightly salted it as well to aid in the drying proses. The plan was to tan it hair on but at this point he hair was slipping out so I decided to do it hair off, I had never even done a hair off deer hide yet and was very inexperienced. So I soaked it in the lime water and went to work scraping that darn grain layer off, again hours and hours of scraping later and it's ready to be rinsed then dried. Which brings me tho where I am now with it, this massive 30+ square food peice of raw hide moose waiting to be tanned. This is a HUGE project for me and could use all the help and suggestions I can get! Any and all input is much appreciated as I tackle this beast. I need to brain it soften it and smoke it yet. Thanks!
Torin



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bill austin
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9:31 AM - Apr 01, 2018 #2

torink1 wrote: So a couple years ago a friend of mine shot a nice bull moose and I received the hide from him at the cost of tanning a deer and coyote for him, I was very new to tanning at this point, I didn't even have proper equipment but realy wanted to do the moose anyway, so I fleshed away at the thing for hours and hours then hung it on a frame that the hunter made for me and dried it and lightly salted it as well to aid in the drying proses. The plan was to tan it hair on but at this point he hair was slipping out so I decided to do it hair off, I had never even done a hair off deer hide yet and was very inexperienced. So I soaked it in the lime water and went to work scraping that darn grain layer off, again hours and hours of scraping later and it's ready to be rinsed then dried. Which brings me tho where I am now with it, this massive 30+ square food peice of raw hide moose waiting to be tanned. This is a HUGE project for me and could use all the help and suggestions I can get! Any and all input is much appreciated as I tackle this beast. I need to brain it soften it and smoke it yet. Thanks!
Torin



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beardedhorse
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8:48 PM - Apr 07, 2018 #3

bill austin wrote:
torink1 wrote: So a couple years ago a friend of mine shot a nice bull moose and I received the hide from him at the cost of tanning a deer and coyote for him, I was very new to tanning at this point, I didn't even have proper equipment but realy wanted to do the moose anyway, so I fleshed away at the thing for hours and hours then hung it on a frame that the hunter made for me and dried it and lightly salted it as well to aid in the drying proses. The plan was to tan it hair on but at this point he hair was slipping out so I decided to do it hair off, I had never even done a hair off deer hide yet and was very inexperienced. So I soaked it in the lime water and went to work scraping that darn grain layer off, again hours and hours of scraping later and it's ready to be rinsed then dried. Which brings me tho where I am now with it, this massive 30+ square food peice of raw hide moose waiting to be tanned. This is a HUGE project for me and could use all the help and suggestions I can get! Any and all input is much appreciated as I tackle this beast. I need to brain it soften it and smoke it yet. Thanks!
Torin



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http://www.braintan.com/articles/bighides/metcalf1.htm
Torin,  Before making suggestions we need to know how you did all the scraping.  Was it with a sharp edged steel blade on a handle or on a beam with a draw knife or flesher.   One is usually done dry (dry scrape) and the other a wet scrape.   Unless you are sure you got all the hair, epidermis off the hair side and the flesh on the flesh side, I would re soak the hide to rinse out all the lime, neutralize with vinegar-water solution and then rinse with clean water.  .  On a hide as big and thick as elk or moose or bison you are gonna punish yourself if you try to do wet scrape.   Make sure your frame is sturdy - 4 x 4 lumber or (2) 2 x 4's screwed or nailed together with diagonal cross braces at each corner.  I use a half lap or overlapping joint as it is strongest.  Leave a foot of overlap between the four beams.   Good strong 550 paracord is used to lace the hide to the frame through small holes pierced around the perimeter of the hide.   If you have a dirt floor or are working outside, stake the bottom of the frame to the ground and tie the top to a building, tree, fence or other backstop to keep the whole mess from shrinking and twisting.   The goal is a flat, stretched hide in a single plane..   With a step stool or ladder, scrape from neck to tail, top to bottom.   You might have to un stake and untie the frame to rotate it ninety degrees depending on how big the frame and how tall the tanner is.  Scrape both hair and flesh sides of the hide and save the shavings for hide glue or Jello.   Keep the blade razor sharp and avoid wash boarding and popping through.   Beginners should file the far edges of the blade smooth or dull so as to not slice the hide by accident.   Rough sandpaper  (60 grit) can be used to level off the top of wash board and clean up any connective tissue missed on the flesh side.  What you now have is good rawhide for projects, drums, snow shoe lacing, parfleche, etc.   To get to dressed buckskin you need to brain it next.   Some folks slowly soak the hide in a brain slurry solution.   Feed it  gradually and carefully like spaghetti into water - don't force or crumple it.  Some tanners simmer the brains in enough water to cover (for moose I would go with a couple pounds) ,  let cool slightly and then pick up the not too hot brains and rub it into both sides of the hide.   I find that if I wet a rawhide, wring it out and then brain it before it gets dry that my brain solution penetrates deeper.   So folks let the rubbed in brains dry completely and let the sun, heat, sort of melt the grease in before re hydrating in warm clean water.  .  If you use a slurry or "brain shake"  you will need something bigger than a five gallon plastic bucket to soak it in.   The hide in the slurry, once limp needs to be dunked, pulled up, twisted and worked in the solution.   Pull it to make sure it is stretching and absorbing all the dressing (brains).   If weather is not too hot, soak overnight.  If warm, soak at least a couple of hours.  I use a galvanized steel pipe tied to T-posts as a wringing post (like a hitching post).   I drape the hide over the post one third of the length down, fold the other up and then roll the side from one end to the other side.    This forms a doughnut around the hitching post.  Slip in a smooth wringing bar - once again I use steel and twist to squee gee the brain solution out.  Put a catch basin to save the solution.   Twist clockwise and then counter clockwise.   Loosen the wringing bar and rotate the doughnut 120 or 180 degrees and re twist.   You can put a lot of pressure on a thick elk or moose.   Unroll the wrung hide and open it up over a clean tarp or canvas.  Stretch the fibers and see where it is still damp or starting to lighten up.   Damp area will be the tawny brown of wet rawhide and cool to the touch when placed against your face. .  Where it is wet, the next soaking of brains won't take in as much brains..   Even brain penetration will save you staking and pulling the hide a 2nd, 3rd and 4th times.   Take your time leisurely stretching until parts start to look like rawhide.   I drape my big hides over the hitching post and gently pull down and out.   Now re heat the brain solution until it is warm but not enough to hurt your wrist or cook the hide.   Soak again.  Totally hydrate, dunk, stretch.   Re-wring.  Re stretch.   Repeat until all the solution is absorbed.   Frame up the hide and stretch with a bar with an edge that grabs or canoe paddle or axe handle or dull bladed scraper (elk antler handled scrapers are called Wahintke in Lakota.  I take the hide off the frame before the edges dry and finish on a snare cable (stainless steel) tied to a tree ( head and ankle heights).  If you wnt to do it all on the frame be systematic and don't "lose" a section of the hide by letting it dry without stretching.    Canvas gripping pliers (art painters use them to stretch canvas on frames), smooth jawed pliers or a bullet casting scissor mold without the cavity machined yet (used to get from dixie Gun Works) can be used to stretch the edges of the frame hide near the lacing holes to soften without taking the hide off the frame.   Sorry this is so complicated.   Running out of computer time at library here.   Other tanners can give you their recommended brain to water, vingear to water ratios for slurries, brain shakes and neutralizing recipes.   Jim Riggs has an excellent pamphlet on dry scraping called Blue Mountain Buckskin.  A little less complete how to dry scrape pamphlets are Ed Belitz's  Brain Tanning the Sioux Method and  John McPherson's series on Naked into the Wilderness.   I can't recall all the others I've looked at but  do not neglect all the good books on Wet Scrape brain tanning which are very helpful on the braining and pulling and smoking aspects.    Tamara Wilder and Steven Edholm's book on wet scrape brain tanning and  Matt Richard's Deerskin to Buckskins,  Melvin Beattie's Video on Wet Scrape Brain tanning.     Lots of luck with the lots of work ahead.
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torink1
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8:54 PM - Apr 08, 2018 #4

Thanks man that really helps allot! I wet scraped it but I am a little concerned I did not get all the grain layer off in some areas I used a not very sharp mental draw knife, it looks like a log skinner, I now have a much better fleshing knife now, will left over grain layer come off if I soak it in water again? Or is it best taken off on a frame dry scraped ?For large hides like elk and moose is it best to do it all on the frame? I can put allot more pressure on it when it is on the frame because I can lay it horizontal and it will support all my weight walking on it.
I was doing a bit of dry scraping for spots I misses wet scraping


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Quillsnkiko
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11:46 PM - Apr 08, 2018 #5

You cannot dry scrape really.... off the frame. Yes to scraping it dry...or frozen with the tool your using there in the picture. I would shorten the handle a bit so the rear end is not dragging. I was hoping to get a friend from Quebec to post how he does braintan moose. But so far...hes incognito. He does a fair amount of Moose.Quills
" You can't stop the waves .... but, you can learn to surf."
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beardedhorse
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12:15 AM - Apr 10, 2018 #6

The frame itself looks stout enough.   For just the dry scraping part I would lean it up almost vertically and use a step stool if you have to.  Rather than threading the cordage through holes, you can put duplex (double "head") nails every 3 or 4 inches along the edge of the lumber and drape the cordage around it.   It saves a lot of cordage and time until you brain it and try to frame soften.  In that case you definitely need to wrap the cordage around the frame as the hide will stretch and loosen.   You can make a serviceable wahintke blade by breaking a file in a vise and then carefully grind a bevel less than 45 degrees on it.   Keep it cool by dipping in ice water and don't make the  cutting part of the blade straight across but a very shallow C shape.  With my hand forged blades of O-1 tool steel I haft them to my elk antler handle with radiator hose clamps.   I keep a ceramic sharpening stick to touch it up and keep extra blades in a blade wallet.   The blade itself is hafted at 90 degrees or MORE to the handle, never less (acute angle).                                 Quills had a good suggestion on shortening your handle.  I'd  trim it to a couple inches above where your left thumb is on the photo.  It would be a chore but I would re soak and re lace the hide on the frame, quite a bit tighter than what I am seeing on the photo.   Loose rawhide on a frame will lead to wash boarding and poppinig through.   The way you are squatting over the hide on the frame is very similar to how Plains Indian women would flesh a buffalo hide but the perimeter is staked into the ground with chokecherry stakes.   There are paintings by  Georgfe Catlin of Lakota and other tribes using an upright frame.          If the wahintke blade is good steel and tempered right and sharpened to a razor edge you can start at the neck on thick hides with the tool and scrape all the way to the tail taking off a continuous, thin strip of hide like peeling an apple.  Only try that on the thick middle of the hide and with a razor sharp blade.                          A big correction and apologies to LARRY Belitz.  His first name IS Larry and NOT Ed.    Walked away from an almost head on collision two Mondays ago that rolled my truck 720 degrees and totaled it.   Brain jumbled a bit so not remembering stuff that wouldn't be any problem pre-accident.   That's why I didn't give you ratio on mixing vinegar to water for neutralizing lime or lye or later for acidifying a brain solution.  Or brain to water ratio for brain shake or slurry.  Those are things you  can look up or other forum chatters can advise on..  It is wise on your part to go back over the hide and remove any missed epidermis and hair.   Around the neck you may not be able to remove the black spots or five o'clock shadow where the hair follicles penetrate deep into the hide.   This is obviously on the hair side.  But if the epidermis and papillary (paper-y) layer are removed it should accept brains.  It takes a lot longer for a moose to grow such a hide than it takes to tan it.   Do the spirit of the animal proud and make good brain tan from it.  
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torink1
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7:11 AM - Jul 13, 2018 #7



So I re-hydrated it for a couple days after it has been sitting in rawhide form for a year and a half now and put it up on my frame, I noticed it did not seem to stretch out as much as it did when it was framed before with the hair on could this be from improper ph levels or just being rawhide for so long, it was dried in an awkward position, vertically it was fine but horizontally it was kind of shrivelled up. So I got this thing good and tight on that frame and after two and a half days of drying, snap, there goes the frame. I'm more impressed than disappointed as it was an easy fix but it did require me to take the moose hide off. I was amazed that the frame gave way before the hide started shrinking or the thin cheep nylon string I was using slipped. It was obvious there was allot of torque on the frame as it was drying as it was bowed at the top and bottom.
I shortened the scraper Handel like you suggested, gave it as sharp as an edge as I can on a piece of scrap metal and it works tremendously nice long thick pieces of leftover grain and membrane are coming off with ease, which are being saved of course. I don't expect to beat any time records on this one as I just want it done very well.
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Lazy Stitch
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7:17 PM - Jul 14, 2018 #8

Ditto to everything that has been said, especially the comments from beardedhorse.  It looks like you are well on your way to figuring it out.  The key to good brain tanning is proper surface prep, so go the extra mile at every step of the process.  These big hides will take a LOT of water to get them rinsed, so your best bet will be a clean, fast-running stream.  A hide this large will likely take several days of rinsing.  You'll know it's right when the hide gets that nice silky feeling throughout.  Neutralizing in the vinegar solution after you've rinsed will also be key.  I do half a cup of vinegar per 5 gallons of water for mule deer hides up to 15 square feet, so you'll need to scale up accordingly.  You'll get better uptake if you wring the hide before putting it in the vinegar solution (think about putting a sponge into water.  Which one draws more water: the dryish one or the soaked one?)  Let the hide soak for a while (I'd guess 20-30 minutes) and work it while it's in the solution.  Wring it before you brain it (that sponge thing again). 

The key to the braining step is not to scrimp on the brains.  Brains are cheap, and a weak brain solution will only make more work, so pour it on, and make it concentrated.  You gotta bring the heat for this sort of hide, and if I was doing this hide, I wouldn't use less than 4-5 pounds of brains.  Don't mess around: Put it to it.  You can also give the brain solution a good squeeze of something like Dawn dishwashing detergent, which will help with getting the brain lipids (i.e.: oils) into solution.  I heat my brain solution, as this improves the uptake, so re-heat your solution between brainings, and use a big container so that you can work the hide as it soaks.  The rule of thumb when heating the brains is "too hot for your hand is too hot for your hide."  I am a firm believer in preparing the brains using a blender; otherwise, it can be hard to get all of the lipids fully released and homogenized. The chatter about how blenderizing is bad for the brains is hogwash.  I was a biochemist in a previous life, and my research was on cellular lipids.  Brain tissue is loaded with lipids, and lipids live in cell membranes.  So in order to get them fully homogenized and into solution, you have to break the cellular membranes.  Whisking and mashing work (well, sort of....), but the mechanical shearing action of a blender is by far the more efficient way, and it has no effect on the efficacy of the lipids.  In fact - it improves their efficacy, so, blend away!

A strong, warm brain solution is the way to go, so just use enough water to submerge the hide.  How long you leave it in the brains will be dependent on your surface prep and how well the hide absorbs the lipids.  You can't hurt it by leaving it in for long stretches, but the coating action of the lipids onto the hides fibers is a physical reaction that happens quickly, especially if you help it along by working the hide while it's in the brain solution. Regardless, you'll almost certainly need to brain and wring this hide multiple times, so get ready for some very arduous labor. The hide will tell you what it needs as you're braining it, and after multiple brainings, it ought to open up more and more easily after wringing.

To soften a hide of this size, your best option is to frame it, just like you've been doing, and stretch it with tools that will give you leverage (think ax handle and the like).  It will be a long process, but you can unlace the hide and store it in the freezer between sessions.  If you go too slowly and sections get dry and stiff before you can get them soft, you can sometimes save them by spritzing them thoroughly with warm water or the braining solution.  If things go too far south, it's best to unlace the hide and repeat the braining.  If you decide to rebrain, then you can save whatever progress you've made by smoking the hide before putting it back into the brains.   
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Beadman
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10:34 PM - Oct 10, 2018 #9

torink1...A story in relation to the size factor your dealing with.Many years ago I had a notion to brain tan buffalo hair on hides.I acquired some nice 1 and 1/2 year old late fall killed hides.Believe they were cow buffalos.Big enough I thought for a robe but still not too overpowering size and thickness wise.After doing many deer hides I thought I was ready to try this.Your frame work stretching frame is made from 1" by 6" material?I made the mistake of using a 2" by 4" frame for stretching and fleshing and drying the buffalo hides..It bowed that frame pretty bad drying in the sun.I was impressed myself too.
I learned to pick the least knotty wood  or good clear wood for my frames then.I also went to 2" by 6" frames also.All in all I got them brained and softened and smoked.Still use them to this day.Your moose hide will be nice when finished.Hope you enjoy the many things that can be made from it for years to come.
I am and have been for many years in the same camp of procedure as Lazy stitch is as far as brain tanning hides.
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northernsubsistence
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5:16 PM - Oct 15, 2018 #10

Torin 

I would just emphasize that since its a bull moose you should thin the crap out of it. Especially the neck, all down the spine, the rump  and the shoulders. thin from the hair side until it is all even in thickness. this is definitely the biggest takeaway i have had in brain tanning  moose. If it was a pregnant cow or a calf moose then you wouldn't have to thin it. If you don't thin it enough it will probably kick your but during softening and end up stiff in the middle. Heck its going to be a good piece of work even if it softens like a dream. I would assume that since you have moose you also have winter. if its cold enough you could freeze scrape it (same as dry scraping just frozen instead) to thin it and then let it freeze dry which opens it up and makes re hydration in brains easier.  
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Beadman
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6:13 PM - Oct 15, 2018 #11

Good advice from northernsubsistence.
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