HomeTracker SchoolClass Summaries

Advanced Skills class

June 2003
Brief summary by K.P.


The Tracker Trail website has no official connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever

Sunday: Our first group project was an Osage Orange Recurved Bow. With our group we removed the bark from the staves

Monday: Tom said that every skill has a mythology and is available to those who search for them. As a group we each stated what this bow and the building of it meant to us. GF often had Tom learn a new artefact by building in miniature so he would not waste life (material) in the learning process.
Much of the day we spent pounding yucca leaves and sinew and preparing other materials. We covered 7 steaming apparatuses for bending wood and 5 methods of securing the wood after bending, including how to make a Reflex-Deflexed Bow. We also learned and made Carved Arrows; 8 Arrow Notches, 5 Reinforcement Wraps for notches and 3 Notch Flare Designs were also covered.
Inserts and Overcups for reed, bamboo and cane arrows were covered. We each made a model of a Lemi Style Cedar Bow.

Tuesday: 26 new Arrowheads (Detachable, Tanged and Non-detachable), 18 Fletching Designs (some very radical), the Apache Double Arrow and 2 Hafting Techniques were presented which we used on our carved cedar arrows. New Knapping Tools and Techniques (Deer Tyne Nibbler, Indirect Percussion, Hammer Knapping, Saw Blading and Reverse Knapping) were presented. Tom said GF had trees and tools named. Considered them living entities and had an intimate relationship with them. GF would sit and gaze at an artefact for a long time (communicate) before sending Tom for a personally named tool. With bow blanks GF would study them for a little while each day from a different angle.

Remainder of the Week: The X-Country, Round, Egg, Modified Bear Paw, and 2 Survival Snowshoe designs were covered, including 8 Snowshoe Wraps. A miniature was made in each group. We learned and made Pine Needle Coil Baskets and miniature Burden Baskets.
Osage Orange Dye and Yucca Soap was covered and made by the class. Other dye solutions can be made from Acorn, Oak root, Walnut and root, Blueberry, Cranberry, Pine nut and root, inner bark of Pine, Cedar bark and root, Ash root, Butternut, Sweet gum and Sphagnum. New Tanning Methods included: Liver, Kidney, Osage Orange, Yucca, Urine, Small Intestine, Testicular, Mucus, Fish Oil, Nut Oils, Neetsfoot Oils, Tobacco, Pancreas and the Tallow Tan. Birch Bark Canoes, Hyde Kayaks and Reed Watercraft were covered and models made for the class. Sinew Backing was demonstrated. Finally, rawhide and woven Sandal designs were covered.

Tom said artefacts were made into works of art. They were considered symbols of worship, thanksgiving and caretaking.
"Measure not the making of an artefact in the cost of time and labour, for the only measure is that of eternity and love."
-Coyote Thunder to GF as a child. "You will understand that it is not you who works the artefact, but the artefact working you.
-Do not determine what the artifact will be, but ask it what it wants to become." -GF 1959.

Here are some brief notes from this class, as a sampler of what was taught:

Tanning Methods From the Advanced Skills Class

This is straight out of my notebook. I have not yet tried theses. I'm sharing these because I believe they have to be shared. I hope some of you will try these and share the results.

To degrease a greasy hide like wild pig, coon or goat put the hide in a steaming apparatus. Save the drippings for tallow.

Yucca Soap Prep
Shred root
Cover shreds with water
Twist grind
Soak mash 24 hours
Twist Grind
Heat again
Filter (liquid soap)

Save fibers for scrub brush. Add wood ash powder to liquid for stronger cleaner. Make paste of wood ash, Yucca liquid and pour into soap bar mold. *Replace brains with concentrated yucca soap paste for yucca tan. Softer than brain tan. Rinse before stretching. Highly resistant to insect infestation (mold, mosquitoes).

The Yucca tan is supposed to be softer than braintan (and waterproof?). I'll speculate that if the tallow makes it waterproof, than maybe adding tallow to brains can make a braintan waterproof.

Osage Orange Dye Prep.
Medium dye, add more wood for bone. Soak wood fibers/sawdust and heat to simmer. Let soak for 24 hours. Heat again and twist grind. Heat again and let soak for 24 hours. Heat again and filter. Basic dye solution is now ready.
Note: Add 1 oz of neetsfoot oil to 1 qt of osage orange dye.
Soak hide 48 hours. Finish off as brain tan (Osage tan).
Lightly oil and heat to drive in dye. For bone, soak in dye for
24 hrs, dry, heat solution and let dry...gets darker.

The osage tan is supposed to impart a beautiful orange color that is ideal for camouflage in fall foliage. Sorry if it is a bit confusing; part of it describes dyeing wood and bone. I remember we used about a gallon of woodchips and sawdust for the dye at the class.

Other Dye or Tanning Solutions
Prep as Osage: acorn, oak root, walnut and root, blueberry, cranberry, pine nut and root, inner bark pine, cedar bark and root, ashroot, butternut, sweetgum and sphagnum.
Tanning elements (as in brain tan): liver, kidneys, urine, small intestine, testicular, mucus, fish oil, nut oils, neetsfoot oils, tallow tan, pancreas and tobacco.

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