The buck’s skins are now buckskins!
This is part five of a multi-series how-to project. In real time, I am making a buckskin shirt from two deer I shot earlier in November. To re-cap I shot the deer, skinned and fleshed the hides and soaked them in a solution made with hydrated lime and water. Then I removed the hair and membrane, rinsed the hide until it was neutralized (three days) then mixed up a dressing made from deer brains and water and soaked the hides for two days.
This week I turned the raw hides into buckskin. This process was laborious. That is a fancy way of saying it was really hard and required a lot of physical effort. I removed the hides from the dressing which stunk pretty bad. Next I wrung the hides out by hanging and folding them individually in a circle pattern like I did during part 4 to remove the water and using an old shovel handle spun the hide to remove every drop of dressing that I could.
I stretched the hide open by pulling and rubbing it over my fleshing beam. Using a small needle and artificial sinew I sewed the arrow holes together using a whipping stitch. I was worried that my sew job wouldn’t withstand the softening step but every stitch held up fine.
I fastened a 1/8” inch steel cable to a tree and lit a fire in my fire pit. The steel cable was for pulling the hide across to dry and soften, the fire was for aesthetics and to warm my hands up once in a while.
By pulling and working the hide over the cable and then pulling and stretching the hide over the beam for about four hours the hide began to get soft and supple, perfect for a buckskin shirt. Parts of one hide came out a little stiff which is probably the effect of me quitting before the interior of the hide was completely dry.
So I’ll have to re-dress the stiff hide and stretch and work it loose all the way to completion. The glues inside the hide are drying as the hide is worked and they must be continuously worked until they are dry otherwise the hide will get stiff as parts of mine did. Live and learn.
Learned: stretch the hide indoors where its warm for the final stages of softening, it makes the hide dry faster and the buckskin comes out very nice when it’s dried properly.
With Hides that actually look like buckskin with soft and loose characteristics I can’t help but thinking I might have a buckskin shirt soon! For more information on the steps I’ve completed up until now check out the following links and feel free to contact me with questions!