Apr 04 2007

Processing Sinew

Published by at 9:51 pm under Animal Materials

Torjus has talked about using sinew for sewing so I thought I might show a little photo tutorial on how to process sinew. These instructions won’t be exactly in chronological order as I won’t be showing how I remove sinew from the critter until I butcher my next goat. The sinew I will be working with here was saved for me by my friend the meat processor who I worked with in gathering up my deer skins for my year. They were already cutting the sinew off of the loins so I just showed them how I wanted to keep it as long as possible and they supplied me with bags and bags of deer and elk sinew. I keep finding these bags in my freezer and I have more sinew than I know what to do with! You may wish to become very good friends with your localmeat processor or butcher as they can supply you with many things that you may not have access to if you live in an urban area but like to play caveman.

The first pic is of elk backstrap sinew that has only been cut away from the rest of the loin. When I remove sinew it seldom has this much meat left on it but I am not complaining. In my hand I am holding a piece of slate. On the sinew is a obsidian flake.

The next image shows the actual removal of meat from the sinew. You want to work perpendicular to the sinew, not at an angle. You don’t want the tool your using to be very sharp as you can cut the sinew. The longer your sinew is the better it is to work with in most cases. I am simply “pushing” back and forth.

This pic shows the elk backstrap sinew getting cleaner. There is some connective tissue on elk that isn’t on deer that I used the sharper obsidian on.

This pic shows the connective tissue on elk that makes meat removal a little harder.

You want to clean both sides of the sinew. You will find that the side of the sinew that faced the dermis of the critter doesn’t have all that much to remove but you do want to remove as much of the fascia as possible. Every little bit helps. Any meat or fat left on the sinew can weaken the sinew. This pic shows fascia or connective tissue that you want to remove as much of as you can. Elk especially is very tough when dried out.

I will post the next part on Sunday.


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4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Processing Sinew”

  1. Mungoon 07 Apr 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Very interesting… I used to be a butcher, and would sometimes bring home the tendons, and dry them out… pounding them out later to separate out the fibres. I would very much like to try it again, and learn how to weave some string… my eventual goal would be to create a fishing line, and actually catch a fish!

  2. torjusgaarenon 07 Apr 2007 at 9:47 pm

    I’m not sure that sinew would work all that well for fishing lines. Sinew soaks up moisture easily and becomes seriously weakened (slippery more perhaps) by that.

    The inuit did make fishing nets and harpoon lines from it though, so it may work.

    Have a go at it, it may work well for you. If not, resort to plant fibres instead.

  3. Robert Retallickon 08 Apr 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Yes Mungo, I have also pounded on them a bit but I’ve also thought this might weaken then if overy done so I don’t really do it anymore, at least with backstrap. You would want to pound out the long attatchments of tendons to release the fibers though.

    I agree with what Torjus said on the fishing lines. As I said in the next post you have to use different knots as it wants to slip when wet and was virutually useless when wet as a bow string. I’d love to hear more about harpoon lines made of sinew Torjus if you have more info on that. I am thinking of what a whale must be like for sinew!!

  4. torjusgaarenon 09 Apr 2007 at 4:12 pm

    Some inuits used whale sinew a lot. Probably the Northwest Coast Indians too (especially Makah?). I imagine it comes in marevellous lengths. I saw this braided sinew harpoon line in “Indian Fishing: Early Methods on the Northwest Coast” by Hilary Stewart. It was appearantly very thick. 1/2 inch. Braided with four strands it looked like.

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