Making Rawhide that Stays Flat

© 2011 Crazy Crow Trading Post

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Rawhide Shield Kit from Crazy Crow Trading Post

Rawhide Shield Kit from Crazy Crow Trading Post

There are several steps in using powder paints/earth pigments to paint rawhide:

Understanding Why Rawhide Warps

Bottom Line: Rawhide will always be subject to warping due to humidity. Also, since rawhide is not uniformly thick it will expand and shrink accordingly. Additionally, if it is painted, the rawhide will absorb some moisture, causing it to expand in the painted areas but not in the unpainted areas.

For rawhide that is not permanently stretched in a frame, etc., there is no ready solution to be able to get it perfectly flat and for it to stay that way. It will always be warping whenever the humidity changes. (Even bringing it out of the house for several hours, then returning it can subject it to humidity changes.)

The only good partial solution to keep rawhide fairly flat is to physically wrestle with it and try to bend it over the knee, etc., in the areas that are warped the worst in an effort to get it somewhat flat.

Keeping it Flat: The “Old Way” to Make a Shield:

If really FLAT rawhide that won’t change shape is desired, then a fresh green hide is required. (The hip section of a buffalo or cow is desired – NOT the hump, as has been reported erroneously in the literature.) This should be a section about 3 times the size of the desired finished shield, and then it must be fleshed and de-haired.

Making rawhide that stays flat: FIG 1

Making rawhide that stays flat: FIG 1

    • Dig a pit about 15″-18″ deep with a diameter a little larger than the size of the finished shield.
    • Heat enough rocks to half fill the pit. This will take 3-4 hours.
    • After the rocks are heated, place them in the pit, and then the rawhide is staked all around the edge of the hole except for about a 12″ gap. See Figure 1.
    • The un-staked edge is lifted and water is thrown in on the hot rocks. See Figure 2.
    • Then the rest of the hide is staked down.
    • The rawhide will immediately start to visibly shrink, and the crafter must continually rub it with a wet rag to keep it from getting hot spots from uneven heat distribution.
    • Every so often, the hide has to be re-staked as the edges of the hide move closer in to the edge of the pit, and the hide will be shrinking and start to pull the pegs out.
Making rawhide that stays flat: FIG 2

Making rawhide that stays flat: FIG 2

  • When the hide is re-staked, more water must be sprinkled on the rocks and sometimes new hot rocks are put in, as well.
  • This process goes on all afternoon, but, at the end of the day, the hide has shrunk to about 1/3 its original diameter, is about 3x as thick, and unlikely to be noticeably affected by humidity.
  • Of course, when the shrinking is done, the peg holes should be cut off around the edges to make a nice, neat shield.
  • This is normally an all-day process and must be done if one wishes to make a completely authentic shield that will retain its shape regardless of almost any conditions.

For information on painting your rawhide shield, see Powder Paint Preperation & Application Tips.

Making Rawhide that Stays Flat – Related Products

The following items are used in the above-article, or may provide added reference and helpful information.

Powder Paint

Product No. 6506-001

$3.50

This natural earth paint can be used to color everything from parfleches to articles of buckskin clothing. Simply rub dry powder into buckskin or mix with water and paint on other items. It also doubles as a safe, non-toxic face paint when mixed with mineral oil.


For more information, see Powder Paint Preperation & Application Tips


Order Instructions:

  • You may select assorted colors for the quantity discount.
  • Select the color desired. .
  • To order multiple colors, use the "continue shopping" button to return and enter another selection..

Shield Kit

Product No. 4832-001-001

$49.00

Makes a thick, white rawhide shield 16" in diameter.

Shield Kitincludes:

  • 1 round piece of thick rawhide
  • 1 piece red felt 3" x 72"
  • 12 imitation eagle feathers 12-14"
  • 1 leather thong
  • 1 bobbin thread
  • illustrated instructions

Shield Rawhide

Product No. 1725-001-026

$35.00

Thick, white 16" diameter rawhide to make your own shield. Pre-cut circles, all you do is add the finishing touches.

Rawhide Whole Sides (18-24 sf)

Product No. 1709-100-800

(18-24 sf)

$169.00

Stiff enough for drums, parfleches, etc. This commercial product is a perfect substitute for Indian cured rawhide (except moccasin soles).

Rawhide Half Sides (9-12 sf)

Product No. 1709-050-800

(9-12 sf)

$90.00

Stiff enough for drums, parfleches, etc. This commercial product is a perfect substitute for Indian cured rawhide (except moccasin soles).

Elk Rawhide, Bleached (aprox 20-22 sf)

Product No. 1712-100-800

(aprox 20-22 sf)

$249.00

We are extremely pleased to bring you these hard-to-find rawhides in traditional materials! Deer rawhides (avg. 10-12 SF) are fairly light in weight and better for smaller projects such as quillwork, smaller hand drums, etc. The elk (avg. 20-22 SF) is larger and better suited for larger drums and parfleches, while the buffalo (avg. 28-30 SF) is considerably larger and much heavier and darker in color than the elk and deer.

Buffalo Rawhide, Natural (aprox 28-30 sf)

Product No. 1713-100-800

(aprox 28-30 sf)

$399.00

We are extremely pleased to bring you these hard-to-find rawhides in traditional materials! Deer rawhides (avg. 10-12 SF) are fairly light in weight and better for smaller projects such as quillwork, smaller hand drums, etc. The elk (avg. 20-22 SF) is larger and better suited for larger drums and parfleches, while the buffalo (avg. 28-30 SF) is considerably larger and much heavier and darker in color than the elk and deer.

Hide Glue

Product No. 4953-041-016

$6.95

A traditional adhesive in a modern-day convenient form. Helpful in many craft applications including sinew backing of bows, arrow making & flint knife construction. Sold in 4 oz. ready-to-use bottles.

Hide Glue - Powder Form

Product No. 4953-044-004

(Per Ounce)

$1.50

For an authentic age-old adhesive, try our powdered hide glue. Simply mix with water for arrow hafting, sinew backing of bows and parfleche sizing. Use with powdered paint mix as a fixative. Join wood or repair cracks. The list is endless. Liquid hide glue has a shelf life within which it must be used, but the powder version will last indefinitely.

Rawhide Parfleche Making, Indian Lore Seminar Series DVD

Product No. 4085-007-005

$19.95

Complete instructions for making rawhide are covered in this informative video. Beginning with hide preparation, fleshing, de-hairing & drying, you will learn how to lay out, paint, cut & complete your parfleche. Based on their extensive experience, the Brewers interesting discussion cover everything from the preparation to various uses for rawhide, along with tips and facts on tools. 56 minutes.

The Indian Lore Seminar series features recorded seminars from some of the masters of Indian crafts. Neither edited nor condensed each presentation gives you the full experience of being there and learning with the participants.

Selected for quality, content and authenticity they will help you learn all about Native American & Buckskinning craft techniques, outfits, dance styles and much more. To help you improve your skills and knowledge, nothing is better than observing and learning first hand from an master craftsperson in the field, sharing the tips & techniques gained over many years of experience.

Indian Rawhide: An American Folk Art

Product No. 4107-005-900

$29.50

Mable Morrow- First published in 1975 and last available in 1993, until reprinted by Crazy Crow Trading Post, this definitive study has long been the primary resource on the unique American Indian art form of rawhide parfleche production. "Indian Rawhide: An American Folk Art" includes detailed discussions on methods of preparation, tool usage and tribal decorations and is essential for anyone interested in collecting or reproducing rawhide containers. Of special interest is a chart of parfleche design characteristics, so that articles can be identified according to tribe or area. Includes 55 photographs, 80 color pattern designs and 74 line drawings. 256 pages. SC.

2 Book Overstock Special: SAVE 40%

Regular Price: $49.45 - COMBO SALE PRICE: $30.00 - SAVE $19.45! Use item #4101-001-999 to get combo price.

Someone forgot to tell the printer to turn the press off (seems that way)! We have an overstock of these titles (Indian Rawhide: An American Folk Art by Mable Morrow and Costumes of the Plains Indian by Clark Wissler), and offer great savings on these titles. SAVE 40 PERCENT when you buy both books together!

Parfleche Knife Sheath Kit

Product No. 4860-012

$14.50

Indians and frontiersmen alike often made sheaths from parfleche, the specially prepared rawhide perfected by Indians.


Basic Parfleche Knife Sheath Kit Includes:

  • heavily illustrated instructions and designs
  • pre-cut sheath blank
  • red and blue wool binding
  • leather lace
  • old-style low dome brass tacks
  • old-style brass beads
  • lacing needle
  • powdered hide glue

Deluxe Parfleche Knife Sheath Kit Includes:

Deluxe Kit contains all of the above, PLUS Earth Pigment Kit (red, blue, yellow, & black powder paints, powdered hide glue, wooden "paint brushes"