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The Pre-Smoking Method:    page 4

Pre-stretching

Trimming

When you take the hide out of the water after soaking overnight, it should be rubbery feeling. It will again be a yellowish color. This is the point where I trim the hide and cut the lacing holes with the utility knife. I like for the hide to be the shape of a hide but not have all sorts of hanging down pieces on it. If the neck is exceptionally long I cut it down so it is nearly straight across at the shoulders. I cut the legs off rather short so they are not extending much beyond the shape of the body.

Preparing the Hide for the Rack

Now I cut the lacing holes. I make them about five inches apart and about 3/4 of an inch in, away from the edge of the hide. If they are too close to the edge they tend to break during the prestretching or softening process. I like the holes to be about an inch long so it is easy to lace them. Be sure to hit key points of the hide, or parts that stick out further than others.

Sewing Holes

It is during this time that I sew up any holes. I use a glovers needle and artificial sinew and a blanket stitch. I sew the holes up now so that there is no pucker in the hide at the end of the process. I also sew any scores that look to me will break through.

Lacing it in the Frame

Lace the hide onto the frame. It doesn't matter which end or which side is up, it is all personal preference and doesn't matter since the frame is reversed and turned all different ways. The idea behind this step is to stretch the fibers apart as much as possible and let the hide dry that way in preparation for the pre-smoking step which is next. I have found that the fibers pull apart best when stretched from side to side as opposed to lengthwise. I start lacing the hide onto the frame from the top end and then lace from one side and then the other, working my way down both sides of the hide so it does not get pulled towards one side or another. At this time I usually end up with a hide that is stretched very wide, and not very long.

Stretching

I use a tool we have made, with an axe head welded onto a pipe. But you can improvise by using a canoe paddle or something else. As you work the hide when it is wet, it will keep stretching, as it does so, keep taking up the slack by shortening the laces. Keep the hide tight and the fibers pulled apart and not allowed to shrink back together. When the hide has dried, it should be fuzzy on both sides, all the way to the edges. And white with no areas yellowish as when in the rawhide state.



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