small ones if four-stranded. Having removed the hair, stake the hides out on level ground, keeping them well stretched and constantly wetted so as not to harden; keep them pegged out two days. Cut up the hide in the manner of laces, the width of the strip not exceeding one-half inch; wet each strip, when cut, and wrap it around a stick; then fasten the strips to a tree and plait them to a uniform circumference and tightness of twist. Keep the strands and plaited portion wet; a Mexican fills his mouth with water which he squirts over the work and materials. When the rope is finished, stretch it thoroughly, and then grease it. To preserve its pliability, keep it continually greased.

Catgut.—The catgut of commerce is never made from cats, any more than chamois skin is made from chamois; but it can be made from the intestines of almost any good-sized animal. Thoroughly cleanse the intestine from all impurities, inside and out; this is more easily done while the gut is still warm from the animal. Wash it and then scrape it with a blunt knife to remove slime and grease; then steep it in running water for a day or two, so as to loosen both the inner and outer membranes, which are' then removed by scraping. To turn the gut inside out, double back a few inches of one end, invert this, take the bag thus formed between finger and thumb and dip water up into it till the double fold is nearly full, when the weight of the water will cause the gut to become inverted. The fibrous inner membrane is then soaked three or four hours in water to which wood ashes have been added. It is then washed free from lye and can either be split into thin fibers when it has dried or may be twisted into a bowstring or similar cord. To twist it, plant two stout stakes in the ground, a little wider apart than the length of the gut; make a saw-cut in the top of each stake; cut two narrow, flat pieces of wood into the shape of knife-blades, thin enough to enter the saw-cuts, and notch one end

of each; firmly lash each end of the gut to one of these notched ends. By alternately twisting these and fixing them in the saw-cuts, to prevent their running back, the gut may be evenly and smoothly twisted like a single-strand cord. Let it dry and then rub it smooth with a woolen rag and a little grease.

Membranes.—Bladders only need cleaning, inflation with air and drying to preserve them. They may then be made pliable by oiling. The paunches of animals, after cleaning, can be expanded with grass until dried. Such receptacles have many uses in wilderness camps, where bottles and cans are unobtainable; for example, to hold bear's oil, wild honey, and other fluid or semi-fluid substances.

Sinew.—A very strong, pliable and durable sewing thread is made from sinew. It splits into even threads, is easy to work with when damp, and, on drying, it shrinks tightly and becomes almost as hard as horn; hence it is better material than any vegetable fiber for certain kinds of sewing, particularly in sewing leather or buckskin, and for binding together any two parts, such as a tool and its handle, where the former has no eye. For bowstrings and heavy sewing, the Indians preferred the sinews of the buffalo or the moose, and then the elk, these being coarse in texture; for finer work they chose those of the deer, antelope, and bighorn. The sinew of the panther or mountain-lion was esteemed as the finest and most durable. The ligaments that extend from the head backwards along each side of the spinal process were preferred to those of the legs.

The aboriginal method of preparing and using sinew is thus described by Isham G. Allen: "The sinew is prepared for use by first removing all adhering flesh with the back of a knife; it is then stretched on a board or lodge-pole and left to dry for an hour or so, preparatory to the separation of the fibers or threads by twisting in the hands. By the same or similar twisting motion, and by pulling, the fiber can be extended to a reasonable length. [Dried sinews may readily be shredded by wetting, and, if necessary, by gentle hammering.] Cords or small ropes are made by twisting many fibers together between two forked sticks fastened in the ground, and, during the process, rubbing with thin skins of the elk or deer to soften them; the largest cord I have seen made in this manner was one-fourth of an inch in diameter. To prepare it for sewing, the sinew is wet, and, at the needle end, rolled on the knee with the palm of the hand to a fine, hard point, like that of a shoemaker's bristle. As suggested, the sinews are made sufficiently fine for use in fixing the guiding feathers, and fastening the iron or flint heads of arrows, and in wrapping of clubs, etc. Formerly the awl used in sewing was of bone taken from the leg of the eagle; this has been displaced by the common sailor's needle; the overstitch is that most commonly employed in aboriginal sewing."

To join two slippery strands of sinew, lay their ends side by side, as in Fig. 108, and then with this double strand tie a figure-of-eight knot (Fig. 101).

Parchment.—It may sometime happen that one wishes to prepare a sheet of parchment on which to write an important document; this can be done in the wilderness, if one can kill some animal that has a gall-bladder. Make the parchment like ordinary rawhide, from the thin skin of a medium-sized animal, say a fawn or a wildcat. Rub it down with a flat piece of sandstone or pumice-stone. Then get a smooth, water-worn pebble and with it rub every part of one surface, (hair side) of the skin, making it firm and smooth. Then give this a coat of gall diluted with water.

The old-fashioned way of making ox-gall was as follows: take the gall of a newly killed ox and after having allowed it to settle twelve or fifteen hours in a basin, pour the floating liquor off the sediment into a small pan or cup, put the latter in a larger vessel that has a little boiling water in the bottom, and keep up a boiling heat until the liquor is somewhat thick; then spread this substance on a dish and place it before a fire till it becomes nearly dry. In this state it can be kept for years in a pot covered with paper, without undergoing any alteration. To use it, dissolve a piece the size of a pea in a tablespoonful of water. It makes ink or watercolors spread evenly on parchment, paper, or ivory. A coating of it sets lead-pencil or crayon marks so that they cannot be removed. It is also used for taking out spots of grease or oil.

Translucent Parchment.—To make parchment translucent, as for a window: take a raw skin, curried, and dried on a stretcher without any preservative; steep it in an infusion of water, boiled honey, and the white of eggs.

Another method is to soak a thin skin of parchment in a strong lye of wood ashes, often wringing it out, until you find that it is partly transparent; then stretch it on a frame and let it dry. This will be improved and made rain-proof if, after it is dry, you coat it on both sides with a clear mastic varnish, made as directed below.

Unsized paper or a thin skin is made waterproof and translucent by applying lightly to both sides a varnish made by putting y( ounce gum mastic in 6 ounces best spirits of turpentine, and shaking it up thoroughly, day by day, until dissolved. The bottle should be kept in a warm place while contents are dissolving.

Or, use equal parts Canada balsam (fir balsam) and turpentine: this dries slowly, but is flexible like map varnish.

Or, dissolve y2 ounce beeswax in pint turpentine.



The methods used by regular tanners in making leather are complicated and beyond the resources of men in the woods. Vegetable tanning, with extracts or infusions of bark, etc., requires weeks or even months to complete the process. However, this sort of tanning is adapted mainly to heavy hides. Light skins, such as woodsmen usually handle, are best made into buckskin or else tanned with mineral salts or acids, which are comparatively quick and simple processes. <

I will describe a good way to tan a pelt with the fur on. It may also be used to tan naked leather, except that the skin, in that case, is first soaked until the hair will slip and then grained like buckskin, before tanning.

Since one seldom makes a good job of tanning at the first trial, it is best to begin with a skin of little value, and one that is not of a greasy nature— a cat skin, for example, either wild or domestic. The tanning of a furred pelt proceeds in five stages: soaking, fleshing, pickling, washing, and softening:

I. Soaking.—A skin fresh from the animal needs no soaking, but one that has been dried must be relaxed before anything further can be done with it. Immerse the skin in running water from one to six hours (depending upon temperature, and thickness of skin), or, if this is not convenient, soak it in salted water, using a good handful of salt to the pailful. Take it out as soon as it is pliable, for

« PreviousContinue »