Drying calf hide for lace
We are no longer building saddle trees. We have two saddle fit videos available on our westernsaddlefit.com website. Western Saddle Fit - The Basics, aimed at riders, is available either on DVD or streaming on Vimeo while the six hour series Well Beyond the Basics, aimed more for professionals but understandable by anyone, is available by streaming on Vimeo. (We left this website up because we have had many requests to keep the information available.)
Normally we use deerhide for lacing our trees, but our hunter friends were more particular last fall and we didn't get many hides. So rather than risk running out, we asked our friends with cows for any young calves that might not make it so we could use their hides for lace. Unfortunately for one neighbour, between the coyote attacks and the scours wreck that happened as a result of the resulting stress, they lost a few calves this spring. Fortunately for us, they were kind enough to donate them to the cause. So Rod made rawhide from the skins.
After making the calf hide into rawhide and rinsing and soaking well for a couple of days, the hide is ready to stretch to dry Rod starts by making some small holes around the edges to put the string through to hold it to the stretching frame.
The frames are made of 2 x 6 and Rod can dry two hides at a time on them - one on each side. Starting at the top, he puts the strings through the holes he has made and loops it back over the frame.
He does this all the way around the hide, pulling it tight as he goes. It will tighten up more as it dries.
Then we left the drying frames out in the fresh air to dry. Since these were thin hides and the temperatures hit 30 degrees Celcius (well into the 80's Fahrenheit), it took less than 24 hours for them to dry, even in the shade. (By the way, Rod picked up the bull skull above the frame few years back off a community pasture where he was riding for the summer. They ran primarily Charolais bulls when we were there, but they had run Herefords in the past. This was one that met his sad demise a few years before then. It travelled from Saskatchewan with us 14 years ago and makes a nice shed ornament...)
When the hide is dry, it is almost transparent. It also sounds pretty drum-like when you hit it....
Unstringing it is the opposite of stringing it up, but it takes a lot less time.
And - TA DA!! - you have dried calf hide, ready to trim and cut and cut into lace, just like we do the deer hide. We know some makers who use calf hide exclusively, and others who prefer deer hide. I guess Rod will finally find out which he prefers.