A Tanner’s Lingo: Part 2 of our “Tanning Buffalo Hides” Series

Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD (ITBC)

An experienced tanner may breeze through the steps of processing any animal; however, for the students of the practice, there are some vocabulary words we may want to familiarize ourselves with first. These twelve terms, either new to you or known like the back of your hand, explain the process in brief.

1. Dressing or skinning – getting the hide of the animal

2. Framing – setting up a rack or frame to stretch the hide to be worked on

Hide and frame (Lanen, 2016)

3. Fleshing – removing the fat and epidermis while the hide is still fresh; this must be done using sharp tools before preserving the hide through freezing or salting (otherwise it will go rancid)

4. Preservation – freezing, salting, or applying another agent (which needs to be done if the hide needs to be worked at a later time)

Soaking the hide (Ecoffey, ITBC)

5. Rehydration or soaking – applying water if the hide has been preserved and is ready to be worked again (this method can be repeated throughout the hide-making process.

6. Scraping or thinning – taking off any remaining layers using dull tool

7. Dehairing – removing hair from the hide using lime, oil, or a prolonged soak in water

8. Tanning – applying a chemical agent such as brains, alum, etc.

Hair removal (Ecoffey, ITBC)

9. Graining – squeegee out excess water if the hide has been rehydrated

Cheyenne woman stretching hide (Klek, 2013).

10. Stretching – pulling the hide across the frame or sawhorse (which is repeated throughout the hide-making process to keep the hide pliable and taut across the frame)

11. Staking – using a old ax handle to poke the hide and slide downwards with pressure to flatten the hide and flex the fibers

12. Rubbing – softening and texturizing the hide by rubbing the hide across a rope or tree limb

13. Smoking – using a small pit fire to brown and smoke the hide for water and bacteria resistance, as well as fragrance


Smoking (Klek, 2013)

Ecoffey, T. (n.d.) Tanning Manual. InterTribal Buffalo Council.

Klek, Markus. (2013). The Work Process. Primitive Ways. Retrieved from https://www.primitiveways.com/buffalo_hide_continued.html

Lanen, V. (2016). Turning a Moose Hide Into Buckskin Brain-Tanning Alaska Big-Game Animal Skins at Home. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved from https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=791

Now, we hope you can breeze through tanner’s lingo if you weren’t already familiar. Stay tuned for our next blog series, “What Do You Need for Tanning”.



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2 thoughts on “A Tanner’s Lingo: Part 2 of our “Tanning Buffalo Hides” Series

  1. Hello,
    If your interested take a look at my Instagram page. @krise.daman I’m teaching myself how to tan the big hides.
    It’s for educational purposes and I’m glad to share information. I look forward to learning from your blog. Love the pictures that go along with your descriptions.

    1. Please delete my comment if it was inappropriate to post here. My goal is to connect with other tanners share and learn knowledge
      Thank you

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