Brain tanning Elk, Moose and other BIG hides: page 3
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Softening BIG Hides


Round 1

I left it in the brains over night and took it out in the morning. I wrung it out to try to get as much water out as I could and laced it into a frame. I laced the hide tight but after going over the whole hide with my trappers trowel it had loosened up some. I left it this way until it got so baggy that I couldn't really work it right. This is how I soften my deer hides too. I can get those fibers moving around a lot better with the hide loose than if I keep re-tightening it. 

For some reason no matter what the weather has been like up until then if I want to soften a Moose it turns cold and rainy the day I'm doing it. So I had to be indoors. I put a fan on it and things were looking good for getting it done by bedtime, but like I said before, a thick hide can look good on the surface when it's not there yet in the middle. So after getting started by nine that morning, I finally had to go to bed at 1 a.m. and the hide wasn't dry yet. I had a fan blowing on it all day but the cool rainy weather had really slowed things down.

This wasn't constant working. I smoked some hides, fleshed a deer hide and grained another, went to town and worked on my new porch that day too. Stretching the hide with the trappers trowel when it started to stiffen a little, then leaving it to dry some more between stretchings. I stapled plastic on both sides of the frame and went to bed.

The next day I took the plastic off and continued working the hide. By that afternoon it was dry and had come totally soft except for the hump. Moose have a hump like a Buffalo and it is the toughest part to soften. That's why I thought maybe I could've left it to buck longer. I don't know if that would have made the hump soften the first time or not. It seemed as though the brains had not penetrated well enough there. Even when it was still wet there was no stretch in that hump area. (Editor's note: when I've done Moose the hump has been super hard to get soft too). 

Round 2

A couple of days later I sewed the hide up into a bag and smoked it. I had the brains heated up and put the hide straight into the brains after smoking. I took the hide out after an hour or so and cabled the parts that weren't soft enough until there was white foam coming out, then put it back in the brains. The next day I wrung it out and laced it back in the frame and let it start drying. Only when it seemed to be drying enough to start to stiffen did I go over it with my trappers trowel. I paid close attention to the hump because this was the area I really wanted to get soft. The rest of the hide was soft enough from the first softening. The hide took all day to dry with the fan blowing on it again but this time the hump came soft. I now have a very soft, with no stiff spots, 25 sq. ft brain tanned, smoked Moose hide.

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