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How to Tan Animal Hides
and How to Make
High Quality Buckskin Clothing

Copyright May 1, 2012 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.

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ISBN: 978-0-9850358-0-8
Type of Book: Paperback
Book Size: 8.5 inches by 11 inches
Number of Pages: 166
Number of Black and White Pictures: 18
Number of Sketches and Illustrations in Black and White: 162
Normal Retail Price: $16.95

Approximately ten pages of the information in this book are on my web site. The other 156 pages of information are not on my web site.

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Book Description on Amazon.com

This book contains complete and detailed instructions on how to skin and butcher a wild animal.

It also describes the process of creating delicious smoked meat that has a normal shelf life of approximately one year. The meat can be smoked over a normal fire but instructions and illustrations are also included on how to build a simple efficient smokehouse.

You will then be guided through the entire hide tanning process, step by step.

Next you will be shown how to take specific measurements at exact locations on the human body so you can create your own clothing patterns at home.

You will then be shown how to combine your own homemade clothing patterns with your own tanned animal hides so that you can make your own high quality underwear, shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, jackets, ponchos, caps, and moccasins.

This book also contains instructions on how to make ropes, whips, slings, and arrows.

Also included are detailed instructions on how to make parchment, homemade ink, and a feather pen.

In summary, this book will show you how to use almost every part of a wild game animal so that nothing of any real practical value is wasted.

If you are a hunter and you do not currently save and process the hides of the wild game animals that your family eats, then this book will clearly explain how to accomplish this task so that you can begin to strategically use a part of the animals that you have been throwing away.

If you are currently experiencing hard times and you are eating a lot of wild game meat, then this book will explain how to convert the hides of those animals into soft smooth buckskins that can be used to make high quality clothing for your family that will last for many, many years.

In my opinion, every one of the practical skills that are described in this book could be of timeless value to you and to your descendants.

Preface to
How to Tan Animal Hides and
How to Make High Quality Buckskin Clothing

There are a variety of different ways to make high quality clothing from scratch, such as:
  1. Cotton Clothing: Acquire some land to grow cotton. Plow the land. Buy some cotton seeds. Plant the seeds. Fertilize the plants. Water the plants when it doesn't rain. During the growing season frequently remove the weeds and spray for insect pests. When the cotton is mature harvest the cotton without destroying your hands. Separate the cotton from the stuff you don't need. Card and comb the cotton. Spin the cotton into thread. Weave the thread into fabric. Now you are ready to make some clothing.

  2. Wool Clothing: Acquire some land to raise sheep. Buy some sheep. Make sure the sheep have adequate water, feed, and veterinary care. Protect the sheep from predatory animals. Sheer the wool off the sheep at the proper time. Clean and dry the wool. Card and comb the wool to align the fibers. Spin the wool fibers into thread. Weave the thread into fabric. Now you are ready to make clothing.

  3. Buckskin Clothing: Acquire a wild deer (trapping, archery, or firearms). Skin and butcher the deer. Eat the deer meat. Tan the deer hide. Now you are ready to make clothing.
During really hard times which of the above three clothing production methods would you prefer to invest your time in? If you selected the third option above then this book will probably be of interest to you.

This book clearly explains how to tan animal hides and how to make high quality buckskin clothing. It also explains how to smoke meat to significantly extend its shelf life. It is not possible to survive without food and clothing so a prudent person should know how to provide these basic necessities from nature.

The time to start collecting animal hides is before you desperately need them. At the beginning of hard times most families will need food more than they will need clothing so they will butcher an animal and remove all its edible meat and fat, and then discard the animal hide because they have no immediate use for it. A better strategy would be to tan those animal hides and then put them away for a future date when your clothing wears out and you must make your own. If you were smart at the beginning of the hard times then you should have a really nice collection of tanned animal hides to select from to create almost any article of clothing that a member of your family might need in the future.

Although the process of tanning animal hides is thousands of years old there is no universal agreement on the best way to actually do this task. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of animal hides are processed each year using industrial equipment and chemicals. Only an insignificant number of hides are processed each year using the traditional methods of our ancestors. Although tanners share their knowledge relatively freely with one another, each tanner emphasizes the techniques that he or she has been using most of his or her life. Therefore, although each tanner is aware of other ways to do the same task, each tanner is pretty much set in his or her ways. And there is nothing wrong with this because each of the different methods achieves the same basic finished product, which is a soft flexible buckskin. The steps to get to that finished product may vary from tanner to tanner but the finished products are all very similar.

Some tanners may omit some steps and other tanners may add additional steps. And the order in which each of the necessary steps are done can vary from tanner to tanner, such as whether to scrape the hair side of the hide first or scrape the flesh side of the hide first. Both have to be done but different tanners have different opinions on which side of the hide should be scraped first. When you consider all the different necessary steps and the legitimate number of different ways that those steps could be done in a different order, then there are approximately 41,472 different ways to convert an animal hide into a nice buckskin by doing all the tasks that must be done but doing those tasks in a different sequence. Therefore most people will tan their first hide using the method that is taught to them by an experienced tanner or using a method that he or she learns from a book. But sooner or later a person will begin to experiment by doing things in a slightly different order, or adding a step, or deleting a step. This process continues during the entire career of the hide tanner and the process the tanner uses on the last hide that he or she tans will be noticeably different than the process he or she used on the first hide that he or she tanned. This is how the learning process works.

Since there are at least 41,472 or more different ways to convert an animal hide into a buckskin, it is not possible for any person (including myself) to experiment with all of these different options during his or her lifetime and then compare all the results in an unbiased manner. However, it is possible to discuss all the different options that are available at each of the fifteen major steps in the hide tanning process and list the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This will give you the opportunity to carefully consider exactly how you wish to do each of the fifteen tasks based on the most likely outcome of each of the options for doing that task.

In this book a specific recommendation will be made for each of the fifteen major steps in the hide tanning process. But there is no reason why you could not achieve the same final results if you decide to use one of the other options for a specific step in the process. As time passes you will probably decide to experiment with a variety of different options and you will gradually settle on the combination of procedures that you prefer. However, for your first tanning project I suggest you follow the recommended procedures in each chapter in this book so that you will have a finished buckskin to use as a comparison when you experiment with some of the different procedures that are explained in each chapter. This will give you a benchmark, or a point of reference, with which to compare your final results so you can determine if the alternate procedure that you experimented with actually yielded a better buckskin, or an inferior buckskin, or a buckskin that is essentially no different from your benchmark buckskin.

The easiest way to get your first animal hide is from an animal that has been killed by a moving vehicle and that is lying dead on the side of the road (if it is legal in your state to remove road killed animals from the highway). The meat from this animal will probably not be fit for human consumption for a variety of reasons but its hide will usually be in almost perfect condition without any arrow holes or bullet holes. And since the animal is already dead a person who respects all forms of life should not have any moral problems salvaging the hide and the brain of the dead animal. The brains of all animals are big enough to properly tan the animal's hide. The only exception to this rule would probably be my tiny inferior brain (this is a joke).

Why should you be interested in my opinion on how to tan animal hides when there are already several good books available on this topic? The answer is simple. Those books do not agree on what should be done or the order in which things should be done. This book is not any different and the recommendations in this book do not match any of the other books that have been written on this topic. The reason my suggestions are different is due to my educational background as an Industrial Engineer. An Industrial Engineer's primary job is to determine the most efficient, the most practical, and the easiest way to make a product (or provide a service) while simultaneously achieving the highest possible quality. I have invested 40 years of my life working as an Industrial Engineer and I have now applied my years of experience to the task of converting an animal hide into a high quality buckskin using the minimum amount of manual labor along with the most practical tools and pieces of equipment that are available, or using tools you can make yourself. In other words, if you follow the hide tanning advice in this book then you will be able to produce a high quality buckskin with the least amount of work and effort because you will be using the methods and tools that an Industrial Engineer would recommend and you will be doing each of the steps in the hide tanning process in the most logical and efficient manner possible, from an Industrial Engineering perspective.

I also have six years of hands-on experience in the apparel and textile industries and I have shared my apparel knowledge in this book so you can easily and efficiently convert your buckskins into practical high quality articles of clothing for your entire family.

In conclusion, if you wish to create a high quality buckskin using the most practical tools and procedures while investing the minimum amount of physical labor then you should follow the recommendations in this book. This book will also explain how to convert buckskins into clothing, how to create delicious smoked meat, how to make buckskin ropes and primitive weapons, and how to make parchment, ink, and a quill pen. In my opinion, every one of these practical skills could be of timeless value to you and to your descendants.

May 1, 2012

Below are the First Few Paragraphs from Chapter One:
"The History of Hide Tanning and Buckskin Clothing"

In the Holy Bible in the book of Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 21, it says, "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them."

What does this one short sentence tell us? It tells us that God made the first clothes for Adam and Eve and that God made those clothes from the skins of animals. After God made Adam and Eve their first clothes there is no mention of God replacing those clothes when those clothes wore out. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that Adam and Eve eventually made their own clothes, and the clothes for their children, using animal skins. In order for Adam and Eve to be successfully at this task it is reasonable to assume that God allowed Adam and Eve to watch Him as He made clothes from animal skins for them to wear.

What else can be deduced from this one sentence in the Holy Bible? This one sentence tells us that God Almighty was the first butcher, skinner, tanner, tailor, and teacher. If God Himself skinned animals, tanned their hides, sewed those hides together into clothing, and showed Adam and Eve how to do these tasks, then it would be not be appropriate to criticize anyone who performs these same tasks today. Therefore the tasks of teacher, tailor, butcher, and tanner are honorable professions and any person engaged in any of these tasks should not be ashamed of following in the footsteps of God Almighty.

(Note: From a religious perspective that one sentence also tells us that God sacrificed the life of an animal and that its death and its blood temporarily covered the sins of Adam and Eve.)

Genesis 9:3-4 - "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it."

In the above scripture from the Holy Bible it says that God gave mankind permission to eat animals and fish and birds. Therefore there is no valid religious reason for a person to be a vegetarian. Anyone who is not allergic to meat has the right to eat meat without being condemned by other people.

The purpose of this book is to describe how to skin animals and how to covert their hides into soft useful buckskins that can be made into practical articles of clothing for your entire family. This book will also describe how to build a simple efficient smokehouse and how to smoke meat to extend its shelf life.

Table of Contents

Chapter Page
1 The History of Hide Tanning and Buckskin Clothing 1
2 The Fifteen Basic Tanning Steps and the Minimum Equipment Required 4
3 Hide and Meat Acquisition and Meat Processing 7
4 Skinning and Butchering a Wild Game Animal 11
5 Introduction to Scraping: Dry Scrape or Wet Scrape? Scrape Flesh or Hair First? 19
6 First Water Soak Before Scraping the Flesh Side of an Animal Hide 21
7 Scraping Techniques and Equipment 24
8 Scraping the Flesh Side of an Animal Hide 31
9 Second Water Soak Before Scraping the Hair Side of an Animal Hide 32
10 Scraping the Hair Side of an Animal Hide 35
11 Aging a Hide 39
12 Third Water Soak in Clean Water or in a Solution of Vinegar and Water 40
13 Scraping the Residual Membrane from the Flesh Side of an Animal Hide 42
14 Dyeing a Hide a Different Color (Optional) 43
15 Wringing Most of the Water out of an Animal Hide 44
16 Repairing a Hide Before Tanning and Smoking 46
17 Tanning a Hide using Brains, or Eggs, or Oil and Soap, or Acorns 50
18 Softening, Stretching, and Sanding - Part 1: How to Use a Rope or Cable 56
19 Softening, Stretching, and Sanding - Part 2: How to Use a Stretching Frame 60
20 Softening, Stretching, and Sanding - Part 3: How to Use a Rock or Sandpaper 70
21 Introduction to Smoking 71
22 Smoking an Animal Hide 74
23 Final Hide Inspection and Deciding How the Hide Should be Used 80
24 Introduction to Homemade Buckskin Clothing and Animal Sinew 81
25 How to Make Your Own Clothing Patterns 86
26 Needles, Hems, Seams, and Stitches 90
27 Buttons, Buttonholes, Drawstrings, Suspenders, Belts, and Belt Loops 94
28 Darts, Pockets, Sleeves, Fringes, Tassels, and Yokes 98
29 Undergarments: Loincloths, Underwear, Halters, and Bras 104
30 Pants, Jeans, and Leggings 108
31 Shirts and Blouses 114
32 Skirts and Dresses 119
33 Ponchos, Robes, Jackets, Coats, and Blankets 124
34 Hoods, Caps, Ski Masks, Mittens, and Gloves 126
35 Moccasins 132
36 Buckskin Strips, Ropes, and Whips 138
37 A Buckskin Sling and How to Correctly Use a Sling for Hunting 140
38 Parchment, Homemade Ink, and a Feather Pen 141
39 A Simple but Extremely Practical Smokehouse 149
40 How to Smoke Meat 154
Index 156
About the Author 160

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