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Working Sinew

  If you want to buy sinew <click here> as I do NOT sell sinew

Making Sinew Usable

If you are up to the challenge then forming your sinew into usable pieces can be quite rewarding.  It can be a lot of work and takes quite a bit of time to make it workable. But in the end, it is a pleasure knowing that you made it completely the "old" way. 

I use both simulated sinew and the real stuff.  I have found that there is nothing better than the natural sinew and hide glue.  It is easy to apply and shrinks/dries tight.  It is surprisingly strong.  I only used a couple inches and hide glue to haft one knife and it is solid. Well lets get to it.

Acquiring It

First you have to get some.  Try talking to a real butcher or a slaughter house.  Often you can find garbage cans full of legs.  Hunters are a good source also.  They cut the legs knee down. Sinew also runs down the spine and neck but is very close to prime meat so it will be unlikely that you can get a hold of this.  So from here on we will be talking about deer leg sinew.

 

Cut at the knee and start peeling the skin apart as you cut carefully down the centre.Cutting the Sinew Out

Now you have some deer legs. Take a sharp knife and cut the skin straight down pulling at each side.  If it is fairly fresh it will be easy.  The sinew is the long white/yellow round tendon running down to the hoof.

 

 

 

Once you have the skin off, pull out the sinew.  Carefully scrape it clean of any fat, skin, etc.

Scraping

Now comes the boring but necessary part.  Take a dull knife and scrape the still soft sinew.  Make sure you scrape, clean free, all of the hide, fur, meat, fat, etc. left on it.  It will likely feel kind of rubbery. Don't push to hard or you may tear it. Anything left on will start stinking during the drying process.

 

 

Drying

Now clean, store them in a dry area.  Don't leave them out in the open where a cat, dog or bird may steal them.  I generally leave them for a week or two but I am sure it would dry sooner.  It will darken in color and become quite hard when dry.

 

Pounding

Once hard comes the tedious task of pounding them into workable pieces.  It is hard work.  Take a strip and find a hammer and anvil.  I use a rounded stone and a flat piece of wood.  Start pounding the sinew rotating it, making sure to get it all, over and over again.  Make sure that you do not hit it with angle from the hammer or it might tear it.

After a while, it will start breaking into threads.  This is good and exactly what we want.  Slowly take the threads and pull them out, hammering the parts still attached until you get the sizes that you want.  It will look like dental floss.  Now separate them by sizes for later use.

Note: I now usually skip this process (unless backing a bow). I pound it a bit until it strips then pull it a part. Chewing on it allows you to pull the strands out quicker and more efficiently plus I can stop the process at the bottom giving me a longer piece.

Using It

Now that you have these strands, how do you use it to haft a point or knife blade?  

Take a strand that will likely make a couple of circles around the object (arrow, knife handle, etc.).  Now I put the piece in my mouth chewing it and letting the saliva moisten it. Then take it out and dip it into warm hide glue (hot glue will cook it).  Pull it out straining the excess glue off between your finger and thumb.  Now slowly and gently wrap it around your point and handle.  You may have wanted to start the process by making sure that your handle snugly holds your point in place using hide glue or epoxy first.  Do not pull the sinew too tight or it will rip as it is very delicate when wet and thin. Place some more using the same procedure if it needs it either tucking the ends under or simply pushing it down onto the previous sinew.  Now let it dry for a day.  You will be amazed at how hard it gets.

Sinew and hide glue are not water proof so you may or may not want to add pine pitch or bees wax to coat it from the elements.

 

Additional Resources

www.hideandfur.com

http://www.primitiveways.com/secrets_of_sinew.html

 

Sinew For Sale - I do Not sell sinew

http://www.hideandfur.com/inventory/7945.html - numerous sources

NativeWay

Robert White - Occasionally has some, email him.

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This Page Was Last Updated October 08, 2010

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