Smokin' Hides in a Smokehouse:    page 2
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Richard describes his smokehouse:

My smokehouse is made of four full sheets (4' x 8') 1/2-inch exterior grade plywood. A fifth sheet is cut in half (4' x 4') for the top. Two by fours frame and reinforce the plywood sheet. The 2x4s also provide a solid nailing surface. A 2' x 2' door is cut and hinged into the front sheet to provide access to hang the hides and tend the fire. My first smokehouse was joined at the corners with drop-pin hinges for easy breakdown and transport. This is probably over-kill for most folks. My current smokehouse is simply nailed together.

Two by twos are nailed across the outside and serve as handles to move the smokehouse over the firepit. Nails are placed on the top inside 2x4s and strings are run from nail to nail to hang the hides on. Hog rings are used to hang the hides from the strings. The current set up can accommodate 10 hides per run. Occasionally some hides tend to slip toward the center. I plan to replace the strings with rods as Mac suggested (see previous page) prior to the next smoke.

One important construction detail. Don't make the smokehouse airtight. I leave several small gaps in the top to let the smoke circulate naturally. I have experienced no problems with streaking or uneven smoke.

When I'm ready to smoke a run of hides, I build a fire in a pre-dug 12" x 12" hole. While the fire is burning down to coals, I crawl through the smokehouse door (not as easy as it used to be!) and hang the hides from the strings. When a good bed of coals has been established, I set the smokehouse, with assistance, directly over the firepit. Punk pine is placed on the coals and a 15 gal. trash-can lid is placed over the fire. The lid has 1/2" holes to allow the smoke to escape into the smokehouse. The lid also effectively prevents flare-ups.

One final check and the door is closed and I'm off to tend to other chores. I keep an eye on the amount of smoke exiting through the small gaps in the top. I know it's time to refuel when only a small amount of smoke is noted. The door is opened (my door is hinged on top and swings up) and the lid is lifted carefully. Lift too fast and ash goes everywhere and there's a chance of flare-up with a sudden influx of oxygen. Be sure to use a glove or stick to lift the lid, it will be hot. Should a flare-up occur, I quickly replace the lid and stifle the flames. Three or four double handfuls of punk, the lid is replaced, the door is lowered, and it's good for another 45 minutes.

I generally smoke my hides for 10-12 hours and end up with a medium to dark brown. The color is dependent on the particular punk and of course how much smoke escapes. Once the smokehouse is built, I find it more efficient than smoking hides individually. However - there is a trade off - you spend less time per hide attending to smoking, but the smoking takes longer. For me, the fact that all the hides come out a matching color more than makes up for the extra time. This really helps with mix and match.

That's a description of my set-up. It's simple to build and operate. Try it, I think you'll be pleased with the results.


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