Our bushcraft day out at Reaseheath College with Peter Groom and company

This is a short photo-essay and summarises part of my experience yesterday on our joint University of Manchester / University of Chester bushcraft day out. Spoiler alert: it was excellent. This post focuses upon sinew making from a deer metapodial, or lower part of the leg. To begin the process we each selected a limb. Apparently Peter Groom, who runs the course, can get these free of charge as they are of no real commercial value. The thing I would emphasise is how the metapodial is an very self contained unit, and as Peter pointed out, you get four of them from each animal.


The first step was to select a stone flake with a sharp edge and make a cut so that the skin could be peeled off. It became clear that my metapodial had been lying around for a long time and dried out. This resulted in it being pretty difficult to ‘peel’ the skin off. Two of Peter’s students, Evon Kirby and Matt Bonwick were on hand to help guide us through the process.


Hannah Cobb, who I was sat next to, had a ‘fresh’ one and was able to skin it cleanly and quickly. However, with persistence I got the hang of it and managed to get the skin off. The tools used are in the lower right of the above image.


One of the purposes of removing the skin was to expose the tendons. Tendons runs up the front and back of the metapodial and once exposed both of these were cut and removed.


As can be seen the tendon is pink and feels plastic. The task is to transform the tendon into sinew through a process of beating. As the tendon is beaten it first of all changes colour from pink to white. As it flattens the differing elements that make the tendon are separated out into individual fibres. Hannah’s ‘fresh’ tendon took a lot longer to process than my dry example. Mine took less than 20 minutes.


Once the complete tendon has been sufficiently flattened the individual filaments can be separated out and this is the sinew. Evon then showed Hannah how the sinew could be used to attach flights to an arrow shaft. What I found interesting though was the range of materials we had also acquired through this process. Most obviously a section of skin and a bone as well as the deer’s ‘toes’. Matt thought the toes may be useful for making glue a bit like horse’s hooves. This is a short post with more to follow, however, as already mentioned the day was excellent and if anyone is interested I would encourage them to get in touch with Peter for a chat.

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