Rawhide Manufacture and Use - Outdoor Revitalization (2023)

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Pablo Pinkerton

Leather and furs have been used since the dawn of time. The earliest account of its use dates back to Genesis chapter 3, where God used animal skins to make clothing for Adam and Eve. Whether or not you believe the biblical account of creation, this is as far back in history as you can get. Leather still in use today would become even more important in a post-TEOTWAWKI world where the materials available to us would be limited.

However, tanning leather is a complex process and if you don't know how to do it correctly, the results will not be very effective. This problem was solved a long time ago with the invention of rawhide. Although many people refer to rawhide as leather, it really isn't, despite being made from the same raw materials. As it has not been tanned, it is not leather.

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Rawhide Manufacture and Use - Outdoor Revitalization (1)

Rawhide can be used in a variety of cases where the flexibility of leather is not required. In fact, it's harder than leather, though more brittle, and it doesn't hold up well when wet. However, leather doesn't work as well when it gets wet.

My father has an original Indian stone hatchet. It has a stone head attached to a handle and the handle is wrapped in rawhide. Although over 200 years old, rawhide still looks like new.

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Traditionally, rawhide was used by both Native Americans and pioneers who moved west for a variety of purposes. You'll find examples of uses in neckties, drumheads, tomahawks, moccasins, saddles, western furniture, and door hinges. Today it is still used in some tools, such as B. faces for sledgehammers, and is still used to make bows and saddles. However, the most common modern use seems to be as a chew toy for dogs.

make rawhide

Rawhide is exactly what its name suggests: a skin that has not been treated to turn it into leather. Even so, some treatment of the skin is essential to make it usable and prevent it from spoiling. The treatment of rawhide is not as complex as the manufacture of leather.

Rawhide Manufacture and Use - Outdoor Revitalization (3)

The most important part in rawhide production is the so-called "stripped skin". This is nothing more than removing all the meat and fat from inside. The sooner this happens the better, because the longer the meat and fat remain on the skin, the more damage it can do. Therefore, if it is not possible to skin the skin right away, it is better to freeze it.

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Of course, not many people would be happy to find a deerskin in their freezer; So if you can't skin the skin right away, consider dipping it. Basically, this is done with a combination of water and bleach.

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Instead of going to the hardware store and looking for bleach, the traditional way is to use wood ash. Ideally, you'll need a 50/50 mix of hardwood and softwood ash for this. Using only wood ash can pose a problem as the water is very alkaline. Using a combination balances the pH and prevents damage to the skin. You will need a few pots filled with ash mixed with about three gallons of water.

The fleshless skin can be placed in this mixture for soaking. Be sure to stir the mixture to ensure everything is moist and to remove any air bubbles. Then weigh it down with rocks to keep it from floating to the surface. Stir it every day unless you remove it to work on it.

You can always remove the skin from the water to give it body and wet it again, even if you haven't finished yet. Skinning the hide is usually done by throwing it over a fence rail, trestle, or even a large rock. Avoid sharp edges to avoid damaging it. Rinse water ash mixture before stripping. Pulping can be done with a blunt knife, drawing knife or a traditional periosteal stripper.

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The skin can be soaked in this way for several days. Whether you develop it right away or not, you should still soak it for about five days (longer in cold weather). The idea is to take it to the point where the hair comes out easily.

(Video) Rawhide Braiding

Once the meat and fat inside has been removed, turn it over and remove the hairs in the same way. The same tool can be used for this. In some cases, you can grab the hair and pull it out in handfuls.

When the skin is peeled off and the hair is removed, that's it. Soak for one more night, this time in water with a little baking soda mixed in to neutralize the caustic soda from the wood ashes. Once that's done, all you have to do is let it dry.

The traditional way to dry a skin is to make a frame out of thin, somewhat flexible twigs. I'm sure you've seen pictures of him. They must be flexible as the leather will shrink as it dries. If they are not flexible, the cord will pass through the skin and not dry completely. Another option is to nail the skin to a sheet of plywood or even to the outside wall of a shack. However you dry it, leave some slack to compensate for shrinkage.

rawhide use

Although rawhide can be dry cut, this is rarely the case. It is usually moistened for cutting, which greatly facilitates the work. We must remember that it expands when wet and contracts when dry. This can actually be an advantage if you are using it as a link - as it shrinks it becomes a very strong link.

Rawhide used for binding, twine, or lace is usually cut in a continuous spiral, using a whole skin rather than cutting it into strips. It is then rolled into a ball like yarn until needed. It can also be cut into wider strips to tie it tighter or used to wrap handles. The rawhide used to make my dad's hatchet is about half an inch wide.

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When you use rawhide like this (to tie things together or cover something like a handle) it stretches a bit when you wrap it. This allows it to mold itself to fit the contours of its surroundings, even with complex curves. Then when it dries it will fit into the nooks and crannies forming a very solid and secure bond.

Rawhide Manufacture and Use - Outdoor Revitalization (6)

There are times when rawhide is used on larger pieces instead of lace. I already mentioned the saddles. Rawhide is sometimes used for some of the hidden parts, most notably for attaching a saddle frame. These larger pieces are usually sewn with strong thread.

When rawhide is used to make cases or cases, it is formed over a mold. This usually requires multiple parts and multiple molds. The pieces are then sewn or tied together.

I have a few Mexican maracas made this way. The rawhide pieces were cut and sewn using an avocado as a shape. Once dried, the avocado was removed from the maracas, leaving a perfectly formed cavity. Dried beans were placed inside and handles were attached.


What is the manufacturing process of rawhide? ›

Process. The skin from buffalo, deer, elk or cattle from which most rawhide originates is prepared by removing all fur, meat and fat. The hide is then usually stretched over a frame before being dried. The resulting material is hard and translucent.

What chemicals are used to make rawhide? ›

Therefore rawhide is a by-product of the leather manufacturing industry. These hides are then treated with a variety of chemicals such as lime, sodium sulphide, or sodium hydrosulphide which removes the hair and fat to clean and further preserve them and expand the hide to make it easier to cut and split.

What is the difference between Beefhide and rawhide? ›

Rawhide is dehydrated animal skin that has not been exposed to tanning. The difference between beef hide and rawhide is that rawhide does not have to be made from cattle skin. Rawhide can also be made from the skin of horses, buffalo, or other animals.

Is rawhide made with glue and bleach? ›

Raw hide is not a product of the meat industry, it's a product of the leather industry! They bleach and glue raw hide to make these shapes. It isn't digestible, and can often go stringy meaning it can get stuck down your dogs throat. There are so many alternative chews that are long lasting.

How do you preserve rawhide? ›

Sufficient salt is required to completely saturate the skin so as to stop any bacterial growth. For this reason, the rawhide has to be salted with 40 - 50% salt in relation to the skin weight. This equates to more than one centimetre layer of salt on the flesh side of the skin.

What is a process to make the rawhide last longer? ›

These hides are then treated with a chemical bath to help “preserve” the product during transport to help prevent spoilage. Once at the tannery: the hides are soaked and treated with either an ash-lye solution or a highly toxic recipe of sodium sulfite liming.

Why is rawhide not good? ›

Digestive Distress & Intestinal Blockage: When dogs swallow rawhide the effects can be dangerous. Rawhide swells in stomachs and can swell up to 4x its original size! This swelling, combined with the inability to digest this material, can cause blockage and indigestion for pets.

What is the difference between rawhide and natural rawhide? ›

There is a lot of debate over which chew is better, Natural or Rawhide. Natural chews are made from dried animal byproducts. Rawhide chews are made from an animal product that has been processed to be shelf-stable. Natural chews typically come in shapes like bones and hooves, while rawhides usually come in strips.

Is there formaldehyde in rawhide? ›

Once rawhide chews have been made, they're preserved with various chemicals, which may include formaldehyde or chromium salts.

How are no hide chews made? ›

In a proprietary cooking process, the mixture is hand-rolled into its shape, hand-basted with a slurry of the protein flavor (chicken, beef, pork, venison, peanut butter or salmon) and individually air-dried to form the long lasting, tasty chew.

Why did they stop making rawhide? ›

When Fleming left Rawhide at the start of the eighth and final season, the cattle drive was over for all intents and purposes. The show sank (even more dramatically) in the ratings. The CBS boss supposedly hated the show so much without Fleming, that he axed the series after seeing a single episode without the star.

What is the difference between rawhide and leather? ›

A rawhide, by definition, is just that; a hide, or animal skin in its raw form. Leather is animal skin that has gone through the process of tanning, which, in return produces a more flexible and supple material. Leather and buckskin are generally used for anything that touches the skin or needs a degree of flexibility.

How are beef hides made? ›

What is beefhide made from? The animal's skin is split into inner and outer layers. The tough outer layer is used for leather shoes, garments, and upholstery. The soft inner layer is cut and formed into different shapes for dog chews.


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