Bladders only need cleaning, inflation with air and drying to preserve them. They may then be made pliable by oiling. The paunches of animals, after cleaning, can be expanded with grass until dried. Such receptacles have many uses in wilderness camps, where bottles and cans are unobtainable; for example, to hold bear's oil, wild fioney, and other fluid or semi-fluid substances.
A very strong, pliable and durable sew^ ;ng thread is made from sinew. It splits into even threads, is easy to work with when damp, and, on drying, it shrinks tightly and becomes almost as hard as horn; hence it is better material than any vegetable fiber for certain kinds of sewing, particularly in sewing leather or buckskin, and for binding together any two parts, such as a tool and its handle, where the former has no eye. For bowstrings and heavy sewing, the Indians preferred the sinews of the buffalo or the moose, and then the elk, these being coarse in texture; for finer work they chose those of the deer, antelope, and bighorn. The sinew of the panther or mountain-lion was esteemed as the finest and most durable. The ligaments that extend from the head backwards along each side of the spinal process were preferred to those of the legs.
The aboriginal method of preparing and using sinew is thus described by Isham G. Allen: "The sinew is prepared for use by first removing all adhering flesh with the back of a knife; it is then stretched on a board or lodge-pole and left to dry for an hour or so, preparatory to the separation of the fibers or threads by twisting in the hands. By the same or similar twisting motion, and by pulling, the fiber can be extended to a reasonable length. [Dried sinews may readily be shredded by wetting, and, if necessary, by gentle hammering.] Cords or small ropes are made by twisting many fibers together between two forked sticks fastened in the ground, and, during the process, rubbing with thin skins of the elk or deer to soften them; the largest cord I have seen made in this manner was one-fourth of an inch in diameter. To prepare it for sewing, the sinew is wet, and, at the needle end, rolled on the knee with the palm of the hand to a fine, hard point, like that of a shoemaker's bristle. As suggested, the sinews are made sufficiently fine for use in fixing the guiding feathers, and fastening the iron or flint heads of arrowrs, and in wrapping of clubs, etc. Formerly the awl used in sewing was of bone taken from the leg of the eagle; this has been displaced by the common sailor's needle; the overstitch is that most commonly employed in aboriginal sewing".
To join two slippery strands of sinew, lay their ends side by side, as in Fig. 108, and then with this double strand tie a figure-of-eight knot (Fig. 101).
It may sometime happen that one wishes to prepare a sheet of parchment on which to write an important document; this can be done in the wilderness, if one can kill some animal that has a gall-bladder. Make the parchment like ordinary rawhide, from the thin skin of a medium-sized animal, say a fawn or a wildcat. Rub it down with a flat piece of sandstone or pumice-stone. Then get a smooth, water-worn pebble and with it rub every part of one surface, (hair side) of the skin, making it firm and smooth. Then give this a coat of gall diluted with water.
The old-fashioned way of making ox-gall was as follows: take the gall of a newly killed ox and after having allowed it to settle twelve or fifteen hours in a basin, pour the floating liquor oft the sediment into a small pan or cup, put the latter in a larger vessel that has a little boiling water in the bottom, and keep up a boiling heat until the liquor is somewhat thick; then spread this substance on a dish and place it before a fire till it becomes nearly dry. In this state it can be kept for years in a pot covered with paper, without undergoing any alteration. To use it, dissolve a piece the size of a pea in a tablespoonful of water. It makes ink or watercolors spread evenly on parchment, paper, or ivory. A coating of it sets lead-pencil or crayon marks so that they cannot be removed. It is also used for taking out spots of grease or oil.
Another method is to soak a thin skin of parchment in a strong lye of wood ashes, often wringing it out, until you find that it is partly transparent; then stretch it on a frame and let it dry. This will be improved and made rain-proof if, after it is dry, you coat it on both sides with a clear mastic varnish, made as directed below.
Unsized paper or a thin skin is made waterproof and translucent by applying lightly to both sides a varnish made by putting 1/4 ounce gum mastic in 6 ounces best spirits of turpentine, and shaking it up thoroughly, day by day, until dissolved. The bottle should be kept in a warm place while contents are dissolving.
Or, use equal parts Canada balsam (fir balsam) and turpentine: this dries slowly, but is flexible like map varnish.
Or, dissolve 1/2 ounce beeswax in 1/2 pint turpentine.