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"Seamless" rawhide for Sakha style sheaths?


Aiden CC

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For a while I have wanted to emulate a particular type of sheath made from a wooden core wrapped in rawhide, often used to carry Sakha knives. I found one video about how these sheaths are made years ago, but unfortunately it no longer exists on youtube. Essentially, the skin from an oxtail is removed without making any lengthwise cut, basically unrolled from the tail. The tube is then stretched over the wooden core with the knife in it, sometimes a piece of birch bark is used around the exposed part of the handle, either to add some strength or a better contact surface for the wood. I have a few questions about trying to make this kind of sheath.

 

1) Does anyone know of a place I might be able to find rawhide tails meant for crafts like this?

2) Would dehydrated tails in the form of dog chews work if I were to soak them, then remove the hide, scrape it, and let it dry over the core?

3) Would a whole oxtail from a butcher have skin on it that would work or is something done during the preparation that would mean I couldn't use it for this? If that would work, what would need to be done to make proper rawhide out of skin from a cut of meat?

 

Thank you for reading, any advice is appreciated!

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Ooh, I hope you have success with this!  

 

1. No, I don't, sorry.

 

2. In theory, if you can find a dried oxtail chew toy.  I've only seen assorted rawhide, antler, bone, hooves, and ears as dog chews, but then I don't often look at them.  If you do find one, yes, all you'd need to do is soak it, get the hide off, put it over the core, and let dry.

 

3.  In general, the cuts of meat that butchers get from wholesalers is skin-off, so no luck there.  Try a slaughterhouse, aka meat processing plant.  I haven't made rawhide, but there's lots of info online.  Some is probably even good! :lol:  If you do this, I want to know about the look on the face of the guy you ask for whole cow tails, unskinned. 

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19 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

Ooh, I hope you have success with this!  

 

1. No, I don't, sorry.

 

2. In theory, if you can find a dried oxtail chew toy.  I've only seen assorted rawhide, antler, bone, hooves, and ears as dog chews, but then I don't often look at them.  If you do find one, yes, all you'd need to do is soak it, get the hide off, put it over the core, and let dry.

 

3.  In general, the cuts of meat that butchers get from wholesalers is skin-off, so no luck there.  Try a slaughterhouse, aka meat processing plant.  I haven't made rawhide, but there's lots of info online.  Some is probably even good! :lol:  If you do this, I want to know about the look on the face of the guy you ask for whole cow tails, unskinned. 

 

Thank you! That makes sense. I found some videos about cooking whole tails and it seems pretty involved (like burning off the hair) so it would make sense that butchers wouldn't have it. I did find a "whole animal" butcher near me, who I will call tomorrow when her shop is open along with a few processing plants nearby. I did find these chews, but they are advertised as al alternative to rawhide, so I'm not sure if they are skin-on:

 

https://www.sanchoandlola.com/products/new-ox-tail-chews?variant=43103942738141

 

17 hours ago, Ron Benson said:

Do you know any farmers/ranchers that butcher their own cattle? That might be worth a shot.

I don't have any immediate friends or family with cattle, but I will keep asking around. One of my grandfathers was a rancher and my step-grandfather had a farm and raised cattle a long time ago so I may be able to find a contact.

 

Also, by searching in Russian, I was able to find a few relevant videos that show how this process works:

 

 

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A hole in the tip is actually ok, many sheaths in this style are open tipped, possibly for a mix of ease of manufacture and drainage so the knife doesn’t freeze into the sheath. The main thing is having an intact tube and un-tanned hide. Someone suggested I ask about goat/lamb legs as well which seems like an interesting option, though I imagine the skin may be somewhat thinner. 

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Not sure where you're located, but a lot of folks are raising their own beef now. Most take it to a processor/butcher, but they each designate what parts are to be saved... tails, tongues, organs, etc.

 

See if you can find a small farmer that would help you. Not everybody is going to want the tail.

 

In the old days you could stop by a processor and ask them to save stuff like that for you (and femur bones). Now some three-letter bureaucracy won't let them sell or give away unwanted parts. That's what I was told.

 

The butcher shops have gone the way of scrap yards and junk yards.

 

 

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Rawhide is easy to make, and I have used  dog chews to make shields and drum heads. You just have to be patient and let it soak until its throughly softened. If you can find green tails ,   turn the tail wrong side out and clean all the fat and membrane off with a sharp scraper and a beam . A beam is a rounded log used to support hides while scraping .  fasten a barkless log  that you can slip the skin onto, on your work bench with enough hanging off the edge like a stake anvil . Once it's  scraped clean put it in a container of water that is just enough to cover it and add some good clean wood ash . Enough ash to make a slurry. in a few days you should be able to pull the hair out easily. De hair it , wash out the lye ( helps get the fat out too )  and you should have a white soggy tube of cow derm. If you want to thin the skin let it dry inside out over a stick big enough to fill it up , then take it to your belt grinder and slack sand it. you can almost treat it like wood at that stage.  Please be sure and share photos of your finished sheath. I have never heard of this type of sheath, but it makes good sense . On further thought, not sure about where you're at, but in WV deer legs are really easy to come by  in the fall, and any deer processing plant would give them away ( lower legs) they would be of similiar size to your oxtail and easier to work. 

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www.hoyfamily.net

Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.Lu 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Mr 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
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17 hours ago, Don Abbott said:

See if you can find a small farmer that would help you. Not everybody is going to want the tail.

That's a good idea. I called someone at a nearby smaller scale ranch and they said they would talk with their butcher and get back to me, so that may be a possibility. I'm located near Denver Colorado, so there are a decent number of farms and ranches around, some are just a bit of a drive away! I have a few more places to call today as well.

 

@Hoy's Forge thank you for the tips! I don't have much shop time for the next couple of weeks, so my current plan if I get a green tail is to take the skin off and then freeze it for when I have more time, since it seems best to have the knife and core ready when preparing the hide. Would something like hydrated lime work as a substitute for wood ash? Ash would have more of the "DIY" aspect I go for with these knives though.

 

Deer legs are another interesting option, though if they are mostly available in the fall it may not work too well for me as starting this August I will be away from the shop for quite some time. I also ordered some dog chews, we'll see if they have hide on them or not, as it is difficult to tell from the photos.

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A small update to this: I reached out to a number of processors and ranches and have one tentative yes with some discussion left around pricing and quantity. The place processes 5-10 animals a week and it seems like I will be able to get a batch in two weeks. The person on the phone was curious but un-phased :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Let me know if that falls through.  There are a lot of people in my area that raise their own beef, and I can probably get ahold of a tail with a little asking around.

 

My real job has centered around designing surgical tools for that last couple of decades.  We will use some strange animal parts as an analog for bench testing during development.  I have yet to shock a butcher with any of my requests.  My wife, however, still tells the story about opening up our home freezer only to find a cow udder...

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-Brian

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Thank you for the offer @Brian Dougherty, luckily I was able to pick up five tails today! I have some friends in biomedical engineering who have made some strange purchases for work, but I don’t think any of them have worked with udders!

 

I picked these up at a nearby ranch, they were very nice and asked that I send pictures of the finished product! For the squeamish folks out there, I kept them in the bag for the photo:

 

27072D9E-0AA8-4F05-9787-3B6FA8850917.jpegB98F42A0-62DF-4F7D-BFC5-6EC9D2DC6222.jpeg

These are frozen, and I need to work out how to thaw them, the forecast calls for 35 F overnight, so I may see how they are in the morning, or thaw them in a bin of water tonight. 

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Aiden, Hydrated lime I don't know about , however what you need is lye ( I think thats potassium hydroxide ) Drain cleaner . Wood ash and water make a lye ( strong base / alkaline) solution. So a diluted lye would do the same trick in slipping the hair off the hides. Unfortuantly I have no idea how much dilution you would need. Since Ive only ever used the wood ash tech.  Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes ! 

www.hoyfamily.net

Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.Lu 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Mr 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
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Thank you for the advice @Hoy's Forge, I made an ash solution this morning to try out and started working on one of the tails. I had it rigged up with two ropes for pulling off the skin, but about halfway down the tail, it got to a point where pulling on it with all my weight wasn't causing enough motion to cut more of the tissue holding on the hide. I ended up nicking the hide as well trying to cut under it, so I decided to just cut it off at that point. It turns out that the problem was that there was too much friction at the point where the skin was doubled back, since even after cutting through all the way around, I couldn't pull off the hide without first cutting through the tail. 

 

How much can I expect this to shrink? Right now, I have a piece which is long enough for a sheath, but is maybe 30-50% too large in diameter for the relatively slim sheaths. Will there be enough linear shrinkage for this to work out alright? I plan to trim the hair on the next one I try to hopefully avoid this problem. Hopefully I'll give it another go this evening.

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On 2/20/2023 at 5:50 PM, Aiden CC said:

... I have some friends in biomedical engineering who have made some strange purchases for work, but I don’t think any of them have worked with udders!

 

Oddly enough, we were working on a breast tool.

 

The udder was not at all what I expected one to look like.  It was basically a 30lb lump of fat covered in suede.  I sliced it up into usable sample coupons on my bandsaw at home.  For years, on hot summer days, that saw smelled like a cow.

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-Brian

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3 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

 

Oddly enough, we were working on a breast tool.

 

The udder was not at all what I expected one to look like.  It was basically a 30lb lump of fat covered in suede.  I sliced it up into usable sample coupons on my bandsaw at home.  For years, on hot summer days, that saw smelled like a cow.

I’m really hoping to avoid the cow smell! Originally I worked outside, but ended up going into the shop so I could hang the tails while I worked on them. Hopefully the drop cloth caught everything! It got down to single digits last night, so it may be a while before I can smell if I got everything :blink:

 

If anyone decides they have to try this, my method was to hang the tails from a rafter and make a sling I could kneel in with one knee to pull the hide off while using a knife to cut around it. Unfortunately no pictures of the setup, it was messy and hectic. At the point of most resistance I had to jump up and down to get any movement. I shaved the hair down to try and make it “unroll” better. 


A8D403A3-F53B-4BDD-B589-36F0E535EA3F.jpeg4C9495F2-4CC0-4020-8F71-3BC2A20B21EA.jpeg

Here they are. I’m trying out both an ash solution and hydrated lime mixed based on proportions I found a few places online, this is 5 Oz in 3-4 gallons of water. I imagine the weather is going to slow this down, so maybe a bit over a week? It should give me some time to get a de-hairing setup put together. Maybe a dowel that these fit over and a dulled draw knife?

 

I would have liked to get down to the smaller part of the tails, but in most cases, the tube ruptured once it got down to the small diameter area because of how much the skin had to stretch in order to double back on itself. There was a good amount of stretching of the ends, can I count on that being recovered before drying at all? It would make it much easier to keep things tidy if that is the case. 

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I 'm not sure what the shrink limit is on rawhide, most of my experience with it  has been tight while wet  drum heads , lacing, wrapping binding. I would assume you'd need a tube size a little smaller than you scabbard , or at the  least the same size. The hide will want shrink  more along it's length as opposed to its diameter.  I have never skinned a cows tail LOL so I can't say why the smaller part of the skin is tearing.  You might let them ripen a bit  and allow bacteria to  break down the connecting membrane between the skin and flesh. Skin is hard to decay, usually the last thing to rot on a carcass . I have worked deer hides that were left green in trash bags for weeks unrefridgerated, and the dermis of the skin was fine. I don't reccomend you go that extream, I was a lot more hard core as a kid. The smell is very discouraging  LOL but  yeah if the tails were frozen that seems to make skinning harder too.  try letting it  ripen a bit, or look into  getting  you  some deer , sheep or goat legs. Hope it works out ! 

www.hoyfamily.net

Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.Lu 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Mr 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
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