Preparing a hide for tanning is arguably the hardest step in the tanning process. I have seen some amazing skills as people wield a defleshing knife, but in my experience it is hard to use. By far, my favorite way is to prepare a hide using a pressure washer. Not only is using a pressure washer easy and fast, but it does a good job too.
The first step to prepare a hide using a pressure washer is to remove all large bits of fat and meat off the skin. (Be careful not to knick the skin as this becomes a weak point.)
Next, you want to clamp the hide down on a board or table. After the hide has gotten wet sometimes you can use the pressure washer without the clamps in place, but until then, you need the clamps so the hide won’t go for a ride when you start to spray. My pressure washer is 3100 psi; I started out by trying the different nozzles to figure out which one will work best. I began with the lightest nozzle on a small part of the hide and worked my way up to determine which nozzle was the most effective while still being gentle. For the alpaca hide, I ended up using the red nozzle.
A few key points to remember as you prepare to flesh a hide with a pressure washer:
Do not spray the pressure washer stream directly at the hide. A direct spray has the possibility of making a hole. You should spray from an angle.
I prefer to start on the inside and work my way out from the center, turning and adjusting the hide as I need along the way. Any wrinkles, folds, or dips in the hide will cause a direct stream of water and potentially cause a hole. Work around these areas carefully. If there is already a knick or tear in the hide it will most likely get bigger.
Do not spray yourself or any other living thing with the pressure washer. (It cuts through flesh. Ouch!)
Spray towards an area that is easy to clean up or else you are making your task harder than necessary.
Avoid spraying anything that has been painted or it could peel off.
Do not spray for too long in any one area even at an angle or you still have the potential to put a hole in your hide. I like to go back and forth as I spray just like I would with spray paint.
You may want to keep a knife nearby. When you get to the edges of the hide it is a little harder to get the flesh off. In these areas it is a lot easier to just cut it off. If there is any flapping of the hide at the edge this can also cause a direct hit and potential tearing. For me this wasn’t as important because I know I am only going to use the inside of the hide but clamping carefully at this point would help.
If you are tanning the hide immediately you can now start that process, but if you are waiting until later you will want to salt the hide at this point.
There are so many great projects to do with a hide and I really like the idea of using all of the animal. This technique makes this part of the tanning process so much easier. I can’t wait to get started on the next step. We tan the hide in this post: HOW TO TAN A HIDE WITH THE HAIR ON.
If you have any questions or comments list them below.