Video Series on Making Quality Hide Glue

hideglue header

Howdy folks.  I’ve been MIA on the Paleotechnics blog for a while.  I spent quite a bit of my time, thought and energy this last year focusing on recovering my health and on audio/visual stuff for making videos.  The good news is that my health has been considerably better and I’m getting pretty well set up for shooting decent quality videos, though I still have a lot of progress ahead of me in both goals.

I’m shooting a video series on making high grade hide glue.  At least that is the goal, we’ll see when I test the glue after it’s finished, or maybe have it tested.  The third video, on liming, is uploading to YouTube as I’m typing this.  The approach is a sort of learn as you follow along kind of thing, going through the process of turning a cattle hide from Tamara’s recent cattle processing class into hide glue.  Every time I go to work on the skin, I take some video and edit it down.  One section is sort of a lecture type deal with some chalkboard action, one is on fleshing and, aside from the liming one uploading now, the others will be de-hairing and de-liming, cooking and pouring, then finally cutting and drying.  Maybe at some point there will be one on testing the finished glue.

In the first video I got off to a rough start.  I had just done a shot the night before (LDI, Low Dose Immunotherapy, or LDA) that is something like an allergy shot for systemic autoimmune type issues (including lyme disease related things for you lymies out there).  I was pretty wonky from the initial immune reaction including a low grade fever for most of the day.  In spite of all that I had unusual energy and managed to flesh the entire skin and get it in the lime bath.  So, in the beginning I look kind of like a rat that was partially drowned and hung up overnight to dry and I’m fairly brain dead to boot, but I snap out of it pretty quick, so hang in there!  The LDA Shot seemed to work though!  I’m getting the next one soon and I’m hopeful that I will continue to feel increasingly better and able to bring you good content more often.

This hide glue series will be fairly long, but there are things in there to learn beyond making hide glue.  Little snippets about other stuff relating to tanning skins and such inevitably work their way in.  No process is an island after all.  So far these videos have been decidedly lacking in popularity and the total number of people that really get a lot out of this will probably not be that many.  But it will be there when people are ready for it, and that is most of the reason I do this stuff at this point, as a reference archive and so it doesn’t all die with me one day.  Personally, I think it’s really cool, even though I’ve so far mostly restrained myself from going on long tangents about multiple related processes and ideas.  Poking around looking at other hide glue videos on youtube, a lot (or most?) of them use rawhide chew toys cut up in pieces.  Nothing wrong with that in context I suppose, but that has never been what we, or the genesis of Paleotechnics, has ever been about.  I’m definitely bringing you something closer to the ground up version.

The link below goes to the main Playlist into which all videos in the series will be placed as they come out.  I think anyone with any kind of google account, like Gmail, can subscribe for updates.  My channel, for now, is a mixed bag of stuff I get up to.  I’m also currently also doing a series on amateur apple breeding, which will follow my progress over the years attempting to breed up some new red fleshed apples here at the Turkeysong experimental homestead.  For the hide glue series,  I’m in the dehairing/refleshing/deliming process now, so that one should be up soon.  When finished, I will probably sell the glue on Etsy.  If that works, maybe I’ll add artisan hide glue making to my list of little income sources.  Artisanal hide glue for artisanal artisans, you know instrument makers, fine artists who use traditional materials, fine woodworkers that want their furniture to be fully repairable in the future and the likes of them.  People who are keepin’ it real!  See ya…

 

 

 

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Seasoning Bones: How to avoid cracking in drying bones

bone seasoning header Bone is a beautiful and useful material, but if you pick up any random bone from the yard, or one that has been buried, it may very well be cracked.  That is because bones contain quite a bit of water and, like wood, when drying bone is subjected to stresses caused by shrinkage.  Something has to give if the stress is high, and the bone will start to come apart along the grain forming “checks”.  Rules similar to those for drying wood without checking can be applied to bone.

Typical cracking along the grain of the bone.  Bone, like wood, has a grain direction.

Typical cracking along the grain of the bone. Bone, like wood, has a grain direction.

Size matters:  Like a large piece of wood, a large bone is more liable to crack than a small one.  Small bones will often dry without cracking regardless of how they are dried.  If I bury a leg and dig it up a year later, none of the small toe bones will be cracked, but most of the larger leg bones will have checks in them. Speed matters:  Drying things fast causes more stress than drying things slow.  That is because when things dry they shrink.  As the outside, which is drying faster, shrinks, it has to shrink around the plumper, slower drying interior and cracks are liable to form in the outside.  It helps quite a bit that bones are hollow.  One way to decrease checking in wood is to bore a hole through the center.  But, see next… Bone is very dense:  Dense materials tend to check more easily than less dense materials.  Very heavy dense woods are more liable to cracking in general than light porous woods for instance.  So, even though bones generally have the advantage of being hollow, they still have a strong tendency to check if not dried in a controlled way.  If a bone was at thick as a tree or split piece of wood, I doubt there would be much that you could do to prevent checking, or at least it would take extreme measures. Control drying:  The best way to avoid checking is to control the speed of drying, and there are several ways to do this.       *Humid environment:  Drying in a humid environment slows moisture loss, and that’s what it’s all about.  If the moisture loss is gradual, moisture from the interior of the bone has time to redistribute throughout the bone, resulting in more even moisture loss, which translates to less stress on the bone’s structure.       *Slowing drying of the exterior with a coating:  Coating the bone with something to slow the drying of the exterior will also allow the whole bone to dry at a more even rate, greatly reducing the likelihood of checking.  Using animal fat is easy and effective.  Fat can also seep into the bone replacing some of the water. (more…)

Charcoal production and agave roasting

Some paleotechnics followers will probably  be interested in this turkeysong post about making charcoal for biochar in a simple pit, and then using the residual heat for roasting agave leaves to extract the fibers.

wood in pit burning before and afterroasted agave leavesagave fibers

Antler v.s. Bone: A contest of context.

By Steven Edholm

We like to see things as black and white, good or bad, better and worse.  It helps us function in daily life where we need to make fast judgements or live on cruise control without having to over analyze everything.  But it is also a trap that can limit us and cause us to do really dumb stuff.  It helps to look at things in context.  We can pit antler against bone to see which one is better for tools and such, but the victor will be dependent on circumstance and what it is that we are trying to accomplish, rather than on more arbitrary grounds.  Both Tamara and I have largely gravitated toward espousing and detailing the qualities of materials as a way to view paleotechnics.  While our feeble minds may gravitate toward one or the other as superior, redwood is not oak, soapstone is not jade, antler is not bone, and none is superior to the other except in the context of specific uses.  Bury an oak fencepost and it will probably fall over in 5 to 10 years, where redwood may last for 50 or much more.  Make a bow out of redwood heartwood, but in spite of your best design efforts, it’s just going to be kind of lame.

Some bone and anlter objects.  The hoop in the center is elk antler thinned by scraping with stone flakes.  Bottom is a bone handle for a dry hide scraper of chert stone.  top right is a handle for a stone scraper with relief carving.  top left, is an antler pressure flaker bound to a wooden handle.  All of these items are made with primitive processes.

Some bone and antler objects. The hoop in the center is a choker made of an elk antler section thinned by scraping with stone flakes.  It would not stay round because one end was from near the base where the antler is much more dense.  After thinning and boiling repeatedly, it finally lost it’s flexibility and broke, probably from loss of collagen.  Too bad, it was a really cool and a lot of work.  But then, you get to learn from my mistakes, which makes me happy.  Lessons learned, cut an item like this from antler of uniform character and don’t boil antler too much.  Bottom is a bone handle for a dry hide scraper of chert would be better differently shaped of elk antler.  Top right is a handle for a stone scraper with relief carving. top left, is an antler pressure stone flaking tool bound to a wooden handle.  middle right, an ulna bone awl and a bone arrowhead hafted to a wooden shaft.   All of these items are made with primitive processes.

Bone and antler are similar materials.  The qualities of both can vary quite a bit, but they are still very different.  bone can be more or less flexible depending on many factors, like what part of the animal, what species, age etc.. but antler is, by it’s nature, generally tougher and more flexible than bone.  Some uses of these two materials will overlap, while for others, one is clearly superior to the other.  Keep these thoughts in mind as I’m speaking in generalities here. (more…)

Bending Wood: what you need to know

By Steven Edholm

Bending wood is a useful, and sometimes necessary skill.  In this post I am going to present a few pieces of information which are key to successful wood bending of any kind, paleo or otherwise.  The most common need for bending wood in paleotechnology is for straightening wildcrafted shafting such as arrow shafts, hand drills and atlatl darts.  There are, however, many other uses for a straight stick.  There are also plenty of uses for curved sticks, such as in the making of hoops and basket rims.  Wood bending can be dropped neatly into the skill set of anyone who can internalize the following ideas.

*Wet (or green) wood bends more easily than dry wood.
Living wood requires a degree of flexibility to adapt to it’s environment, so green or wet wood is naturally flexible.  Also, if the wood is heated to assist in bending, the heat will spread more rapidly into moist wood than it will in dry wood.  Some items can be bent while green, or after soaking, without any heating.

Green wood bends easily as demonstrated in these heart shaped apple tree grafts.

Green wood bends easily as demonstrated in these heart shaped apple tree grafts at Turkeysong.

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Understanding Lime: an introduction to forms of lime and where they come from

burning shells light

By Steven Edholm

I used to be so confused about lime.  Some limes have more than one name and more than one use which can be difficult to keep sorted out in your head when you have no frame of reference.  Lime is super neat though, and worth understanding.  I’ll attempt here to present the types of lime and their uses in a way that is accessible to people without that frame of reference… or maybe offer an accessible frame of reference for understanding lime.  For more on lime burning and the lime cycle see The lime squad I and Lime Squad II posts on the Turkeysong blog.

First off, lime is cool, and so useful!  Understanding what uses there are for lime can help us understand the three basic forms of lime that we might have access to or make.  The basic use groups are these. (more…)

Better Sticks, Staves, Shafts and Withes: finding and encouraging straighter shoots

hand drill shafts lined up on table

Mule Fat hand drill shafts

By: Steven Edholm

Need straighter, longer, or more evenly tapered sticks?  Who doesn’t?  It’s not always easy to find a nice stick when you need one.  We might have plans for certain types of sticks, but nature has priorities other than providing us with them, and doesn’t necessarily have the same criteria for “better sticks” as we do.  Knowing where to look for straight wood, and how to manage plants for the production of such, is essential knowledge in the paleo arts.  Now that it’s winter, it’s time to harvest twigs and sticks for our baskets and hand drills and things like that, so I thought a post on the subject would be appropriate.

Many basketry styles require long  and relatively straight materials that are difficult to find a naturally occuring growth.

Many basketry styles require long and relatively straight materials that are difficult to find as naturally occurring growth.

What we’re looking for:  More uniform than average twigs, sticks and staves find many uses.  Arrows, hoops, spears, hand drill shafts, basketry elements and bowstaves are some classic examples.  There are several characteristics that we are commonly looking for in sticks for making stuff: (more…)

Deck the Halls With Beads of Berries: Paleo Holiday Decorating with Madrone!

madrone berry macro 2

The roots of our holiday symbols stretch far back into the past.  Greenery and red berries brought into the house are the primary symbols of the holiday season for western culture.  These symbols once meant more to people in a time when we need to celebrate, life, hope, warmth and renewal.  Madrone berry beads are a beautiful addition when moving towards a sort of holiday vernacular of the west coast region.  They are attractive, free, not only safe, but edible, and can be returned to the earth from whence they came when we are done with them.  They will last for at least several seasons if well made and cared for.

Paleotechnics usually sells madrone berry garlands and necklaces around the holidays.  After years of stringing and drying the berries, we have some tips on making your madrone beads look their best.  You may or may not be able to follow all of these tips on berry quality depending on what berries you have access to, but we all have to use what we are fortunate enough to find.  We are often asked how we get our garlands so uniform and beautiful.  The answer is attention to detail as in so many other pursuits in life.  So, here are those details and a few other tips. (more…)