The method is similar to that of making buckskin, already described, except that the hide is fleshed without soaking enough to make the fur slip. Then the skin is stretched, the brain water rubbed into the flesh side, this is repeated several times, and then the pelt is suppled by thorough hand work.
One of my earliest recollections is of the cosy warmth and peculiar but not unpleasant scent of buffalo robes, as I lay comfortably under them in the big sled and rode over the shimmering white prairie in a temperature of twenty or thirty below zero. The following description of how those robes were prepared is quoted from Colonel Dodge. We have no more buffaloes to hunt, but we have caribou and reindeer, and the same workmanship can be used on their hides, though a white man would use a beam and fleshing knife instead of the ground and a squaw's adze:
"The skin of even the youngest and fattest cow is, in its natural condition, much too thick for use, being unwieldy and lacking pliability. This thickness must be reduced at least one-half and the skin at the same time made soft and pliable. When the stretched skin has become dry and hard from the action of the sun, the woman goes to work with a small implement shaped somewhat like a carpenter's adze: it has a short handle of wood or elkhorn, tie^ on with rawhide, and is used with one hand. With this tool the woman chips at the hardened skin, cutting off a thin shaving at every blow. The skill in the whole process consists in so directing and tempering the blows as to cut the skin, yet not cut too deep, and in finally obtaining a uniform thickness and perfectly smooth and even inner surface. To render the skin soft and pliable the chipping is stopped every little while and the chipped surface smeared with brains of buffalo, which are thoroughly rubbed in with a smooth stone. When very great care and delicacy are required the skin is stretched vertically on a frame of poles. It is claimed that the chipping process can be much more perfectly performed on a skin stretched in this way than on one stretched on the uneven and unyielding ground, but the latter is used for all common robes, because it is the easiest. When the thinning and softening process is completed, the robe is taken out of its frame, trimmed, and sometimes smoked. It is now ready for use. This is a long and tedious process and no one but an Indian would go through it".
Sometimes, after the fleshing of the hide was completed, a mixture of boiled brains, marrow grease, and pounded roast liver was thickly spread on the flesh side and allowed to dry in; then the hide was rubbed with fat, dampened with warm water, rolled up and laid away for a day. After this the hide was slowly dried in the sun or very carefully before a fire, being frequently and thoroughly rubbed over a riata while drying.
Slit the skin down the center of the under plates from head to tail. Work carefully with a rattlesnake's tail, as the skin from vent to rattle is thin and easily torn. If the skin cannot be tanned at once, rub fine salt into the flesh side, after scraping off foreign matter, roll it up and keep in a cool place. Otherwise apply the tanning pickle already mentioned, and tack the skin out on a board, in the shade, to dry. Afterward it can be softened with a little oil. For a short time after shedding, the skin is thin and tender.
To tan a snake's skin into flexible leather for a belt or similar article, the scales must first be scraped off; then tan, and polish the outer side with a smooth but not hot iron.
If you merely skin a fish, salt the skin or put it up in brine and ship it to a taxidermist, you will finally get from him a mounted thing, but it will be a mighty poor reminder of the beauty that you caught. Whoever mounts a fish should have an exact replica of its body to use as a foundation. This can be made on the spot with plaster of Paris in a sand mold, as described in Pray's Taxidermy (Outing Handbooks), provided you have the plaster. Since very few anglers will be so equipped, it is best to preserve the fish itself, and ship it to a taxidermist as soon as practicable. Mr. Pray has told, in Recreation, how to do this with common preservatives that can be procured in any village:
"To prepare a fish to ship a distance for mounting^ remove the entrails and red gills, slitting the belly open along the side to be against the panel when mounted. When the 'innards' are out, peel up the skin toward the back carefully and score the meat deeply lengthwise several times with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through the skin on the opposite side.
Now rub plenty of borax (use no salt on a fish to be mounted) into the head and belly and the knife cuts in the meat of the back and tail.
Lastly, put a teaspoonful of carbolic acid (as you buy it in the drug store) into a pint of water and wring a cloth out of this solution. Wrap the fish in this, laid out full length. Have enough cloth so that several thicknesses of cloth cover the fish. (If two or more fish are shipped together, wrap each separately in the damp cloth.) Wrap the whole at full length in a piece of thin, cheap oil-cloth, pack carefully in a box and send by either parcel post or express. (Always lay the fish out in approximate pose in relation to each other that you would like in the mount, so that you will open them on opposite sides, that they may hang front to front on the panel).
Always send fish for mounting in the meat, never skinned, as the ideal mounted fish is a cast portrait of itself with the skin skilfully applied over it".
Hoofs and horns are boiled down in water for many hours, until the water thickens, and this is cooled until it sets solid into glue. The oil skimmed from the pot in making glue is known as neat's foot oil, valuable in dressing leather.
To use the glue put the pan containing it into a small pot or pan partly filled with water, and heat this until the glue melts.