From Moose to Moccasins

13 January 2015

From Moose to Moccasins: A Step-by-Step Guide to Traditional Hide-Tanning
by Jeff Coleclough
Published by Kakwa Publishing
Review by Keith Foster
$17.50 ISBN 978-0-9781555-5-1

For those interested in traditional hide-tanning, From Moose to Moccasins: A Step-by-Step Guide to Traditional Hide-Tanning is the place to start. Jeff Coleclough’s 37-page, coil-bound manual is geared to a very specific audience – those who want to try their hand at turning a raw moose hide into a smoke-tanned piece of leather – and first-timers will likely be very happy this book exists. Sometimes all a person needs to start is knowing where to start, then how to keep going.

Unlike instructions in so many owners’ manuals, Coleclough’s step-by step guide to tanning is easy to understand and follow. He takes readers through the stages of framing, fleshing, scraping and de-hairing, greasing, braining, softening, and smoking the hide. Since one step requires mashing the brains of the animal, this aspect may not appeal to those with weak stomachs.

Coleclough recommends starting with quality materials, and moose hide as one of the best for making moccasins. “The grain is tighter, the leather wears like iron, and the thickness is excellent for cushioning the feet on rough terrain,” he explains. Although obtaining a hide may pose a problem, he offers several solutions.

From Moose to Moccasins is peppered throughout with practical tips. For instance, when softening the hide, Coleclough cautions, “Work the entire surface, being careful not to make any cuts in the hide – or yourself.”

Coleclough takes readers through his odyssey of preparing the hide from start to finish. Ordinarily the entire process could be completed in a week. It took him a little longer due to several interruptions. As a First Responder, he had to respond to a medical emergency, and as a volunteer firefighter, he was called upon to help put out a house fire. Plus, sometimes the weather slowed down the process, as when the cold prevented the grease from penetrating the hide.

Photos by Thomas Archer – seventy-five black and white and sixteen in colour – accompany the instructions at every stage of the process. The final photo shows a beautiful pair of moccasins with embroidered beads which Coleclough’s wife Kathleen made from the hide he prepared. In addition to moccasins, moose hide can be used for many accessories – jackets, vests, leggings, and pouches. Rawhide also makes an excellent drum skin, especially for pow-wow drums.

Tanning requires painstaking work, but it “can be a relaxing and satisfying experience,” Coleclough says. By following his step-by-step instructions, you can enjoy the satisfaction of preparing your very own tanned moose hide. Plus you can take pride in knowing you did it yourself.


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