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drum head hides

updated tue 22 dec 98


John Rodgers on mon 21 dec 98

-- [ From: John Rodgers * EMC.Ver #2.5.02 ] --

My brother and I have been into the hide prep thing fro many years, but we
focus on deer hides and the making of buckskin. This is our process for
preparing a green hide. Works well. Indians used it for thousands of years.

Hope it works for drum builders.

Indian fleshing tool for raw hides. (5-quarter oak is 1-1/4 in" thick

\ | <===== 5-quarter oak
board cut to this shape.....adapt size to you hands
\ |_____________________| but should be about 12-
14 inches long from blade to butt of
\ || handle
| <-------Blade is three or four inch piece of steel 1-1/2 "
wide and 1/8" thick. A piece of industrial hacksaw blade is excellent. Grind
the teeth off the blade. On one end grind a curved edge like the smile on a
smiley face. ) Drill two holes in it and screw the steel to the back of
handle as shown.

The blade you grind on the steel should be ground with a bevel only on one
side. Attach the blade so the bevel is away from the handle. | |
| |
\ | ==========> handle
\ |

This is an excellent fleshing tool for any hide, and was used by the indian
for thousands of years. Of course they used stone for the blade and an elk
horn for the handle, but what is known as 5-quarter cut oak will work as
well, or any other adaptation, as long as it is in the L-shape. The hardness
and heaviness of oak or hickory is preferred. There is much to be said for
the proper "heft" of this tool.

The tool is worked by drawing the tool toward you with the blade at a slight
angle to the hide, handle up. With a little practice you will be able to
give a hide a good cleaning removing all meat and fat. There is a thin
filimentous connective tissue that will be under the meat and fat nest to
the hide, and that has to come off as well. Be careful not to cut through
the hide.

The hair on a hide is held by a membrane. After the hide has soaked two or
three days, it can be stretched by making tiny slits in the edge of the hide
and with rope through the slits it can be stretched over a frame. It can
also be nailed in place on a barn wall or something similar.

The membrane holding the hair can then be scraped off. With a little
practice you will be able to dehair in no time. The hide must be kept wet
while scraping.

Once done, the hide can be left to dry, then rolled, tied and stored. A
little salt and borax on it before rolling will keep the roaches and other
creepy-crawlies out.

My interest in hides has not been for drum heads but for rustic furniture,
stools and such. But the application principles are, I expect, the same. To
apply, I would think the drum hide would need to be wet, and stretched. When
strung on the drum, the drying process would really tighten up the hide,
much like a leather seat finish on a stool. Look to other drum info on how
to do that.

Good luck

John Rodgers
In Alabama