Dry Scraping Hides

I’ve been collecting and working hides for a while, mostly roadkill, but also some great big cowhides from cows my family raised and then had butchered for meat. I have many projects stuck in a particular stage. Except for the most ideal conditions, which I don’t really know how to recreate, I usually end up with a thin layer of membrane on the hide after I flesh it. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t seem to want to come off. So, I move onto stretching the hide on a wooden frame and it looks good and everything, but the membrane is still there, in many places. I discovered this when I thought I had succesfully fleshed a skunk hide and the went ahead to tan it, and smoke it. It turned out really nice looking and the yolk tan smelled kind of breakfeasty after the fresh oak smoking, but I noticed some little bits of fiber sticking up. I started pulling at them and realised that I had left behind a whole layer of fibers and beneath it was the main skin layer I was going for. Realising that I hadn’t actually removed all of that seriously halted my hide projects, because now I saw that there was actually a ton of work to do before I could tan or even make things out of rawhide. I started dry scraping, which has turned out to be some seriously grueling work. I have spent an hour before and probably only cleared 3 square inches and not even that well. My hands are getting stronger and my technique is improving, but it still takes a long time to get not that much done and a couple hours of dry scraping is enough to leave my hands and forearms hurting, so it would be hard to complete the work neccessary over a short period of time because I don’t know how to do it continuously and effectively. For tools I use a dullish knife and sometimes a dull rusty machete blade with handles made of duct tape(also what I use for fleshing which works pretty well for that).

I’ve yet to find ants that will eat this dry membrane layer, I don’t know if i’m offering how they like it or if I just have to physically set them on the hide. Either way I really need to find a way to remove this membrane. Maybe it just takes more patience, strength, and better technique then I have, but I’d really like to sit down with these hides and do something other than scrape on them because I can’t keep picking up dead animals if I can’t get many of them past the stretching part of the process.

Does anyone one have any suggestions for how to dry scrape and actually make decent progress? What tools to use? What kind of techniques work best? What to look for in the hide?


That kinda sucks! I’ve only dryscraped a few hides, and they were either furs or elk. Usually with dryscraping, you want a razor-sharp edge on your tool; dryscraping fleshes the hide by cutting into it, because dry hides have to be cut into a little when they’re fleshed dry.

I should also note that when you’re dryscraping, you want a combination of tension and the sharp tool. If you flesh the hide when it’s dry (only practical for cows and bigger animals most of the time) then you have to put it on a frame and let it dry out before you flesh it. If you use a small hide,like the skunk you talked about, the you should probably wet scrape it on a beam instead. For that you want a duller tool.

When you deyscrape a hide, it should usually get rid of the membrane if you do it efficiently. The best dryscraper I used consisted of a handle about 2 feet long and 1 and 1/2 inches thick, with a blade about 3 inches long and the same width as the handle. Remember, the edge needs to be unifacial! (that means that the bevel is only on one side) When scraping, the blade was held at a right angle to the hide and pulled down with both hands. Since this cuts into the hide you need to watch out so that you don’t either tear a hole in the hide or cut too far down.

Oh and to remove the membrane when wtscraping, I soak the hide in warm soapy water. I mainly tan deer hides for buckskin though, for furs you can just flesh them and then stretch them out like they’re already been brained! This only works if the animal dies in the winter though, because during the coldest months of the year (november to february) the furrier animals put on a lot of fat,and so the oils in the hide itself can tan the hide.

Best of luck! Remember, when dry scraping you need to put the hide on a frame and scrape it with a sharp tooL! I don’t have as mich dryscraping experience as I do with wtscraping, but I have some, and hopefully it’ll help you outa,

hi, How long do you soak your deer hide in soapy water to remove the membrane and how much soap do you use. Do you just soak it and then use a fleshing tool to remove the membrane?

Also I amazed that you dont need oil for deer in the winter months. Have you personally tried to tan deer with fur on in winter. I am curious because I am doing this now. Does it really work?

=Thanks for awesome post. Kindly reply back to me.