Smokin' Hides in a Smoke House    page 1
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Smokin' Hides in a Smoke House

Text provided by Mac Maness, Richard, Rod & Jane
(edited by Matt Richards)
Recently at the braintan.com online forum (the Hide Out), there was a 'smokin' good conversation about using smoke boxes for smoking hides. It was so good that we decided to convert it into an article....

Mac Maness' describes his smoke box:

Ours is built of ½" plywood with 2x4 framing. It is 4" square and 6" high. The firebox is an old cast iron stove located about 10" feet away and an 8" pipe connecting it to the box. The box is raised allowing the pipe to go straight to the box and then elbowed up and enters the box in the bottom center. We had an in-line fan in the pipe but it died due to creosote buildup. Now we use a small fan mounted inside the box over the smoke inlet. The first fan was on a rheostat but the new one is wired straight to the power. Seems to work just as well. The fan is very important! It pulls smoke from the firebox and circulates it among the hides...ever so gently...not a tornadic blow. It aids in maintaining a draft for the firebox. Without the fan, the smoke settles on the hides at any folds and at the tops. The penetration is about 3x as fast.

The box has 10 lengths of ¼" threaded rod mounted on the top. The hides are hung by using open 'hog rings'. The threaded rod provides a rough surface for the rings and the hides don't slide to the center. We are going to add a few nuts spaced along the rods to stop any slide that may occur with handling the hides while smoking.

One down side is the time it takes to smoke (two days average) but the process is less time consuming than smoking one or two at a time, especially when you keep it going all the time and remove hides from it as they reach the desired color and replace them with fresh unsmoked ones. Another advantage is that you can smoke odd sizes and re-smoke previously made articles. Did I mention making jerky at the same time??!!

The following photos of the interior of Mac's smokebox, were shot one after another and show how the fan really helps move the smoke into and around the smoke box.

Click on any of the photos for a full size view.
fan quickly forces smoke up into smoker fan keeps the air moving so that smoke doesn't settle in folds of hides and cause uneven coloring
Photo 1: The fan is located in the box at the bottom center of the smoker, right where the stove pipe enters. The hides are hung from hog rings on threaded rods, so the hides will stay spread open. The hide on the left has already been smoked quite a bit. Photo 2: The fan quickly forces the smoke up into the smoker. Photo 3: The fan continues to move the smoke around the smokehouse, not allowing it to settle and cause uneven coloring.
Matt Richards' question to Mac:
All the hides I've seen come out of smoke houses have been really lightly smoked and uneven. Is that how yours come out?

Mac:
We get very evenly smoked hides. But the secret (now its out)...is a used $6 fan purchased from Northern Hydraulics (its mail order...available everywhere) to circulate the smoke. Adding that made a WORLD of difference! Because it keeps the air moving, the smoke doesn't settle on the tops, folds etc. As far as deep browns, we get a nice golden (like you saw at the Rivercane Rendezvous) but we have been using oak sawdust/shavings. I think we will use green pine needles soon which give a nice dark color. It is risky using needles with a pit below the hides since they WILL flame up!

Mac Maness brain tans and teaches brain tanning for a living.
You can email him at: skillsalive@carolina.net

 
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