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The Pre-Smoking Method:    page 5

Pre-smoking

Intro

This step is not done by most tanners. From what we have read and from some Native Americans we have talked to it seems it is an old method. Our smoker is built of four pieces of plywood with a top and a hinged door at the bottom of the front. We use a pot with a metal cover that has holes poked in it to allow air inside. It is quicker to sew the hide into a sort of sleeve and do them individually but we do so many hides, that it is not time effective for us.

How to do it

We found that the darker the hide is smoked, the easier it is to soften in the last step. Therefore we smoke several hides for two days to get them a nice yellow color. Joe says the best wood to smoke with is cedar. We use old juniper fence posts, cut into wafers with a bit of sawdust around them. If you can't get either of these, then any punky wood would work. Keep the fire smothered so it is cool and not a hot fire. It is possible to cook the hide in the smoker especially if it is hot outside.

There are many ways to build a smoker and most of them work just fine. We suspend the hides in a horizontal fashion, from ties at opposite corners of the smoker. The first hide is about three feet from the smoke pot and then about every foot and a half to the top.

How Pre-smoking Works

The best way we can figure to explain why the pre-smoking works, is to reason it with the fact that the tops of worn out hide tipis were used to make clothing, and were known to soften up readily when wet. The same thing occurs when the hide is pre-smoked and the smoke goes into the fibers of the pre-stretched hide, thus the necessity to pre-stretch well. The better the pre-stretching, the deeper the smoke is absorbed into the hide and coats the fibers, the easier the hide softens up. Also, by using the pre-smoke method, you are required to work the hide less during the softening process, a hide can be overworked resulting in a stiffer feeling hide.


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