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lea-bladders-msg - 8/3/98


Tanning animal bladders. dressing and cleaning them.


NOTE: See also the files: bagpipes-msg, lea-tanning-msg, leather-msg, butchering-msg, instruments-msg.


KEYWORDS: medieval instruments bladders tanning cleaning leather period





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: shawnjoh at uoguelph.ca (Shawn Johnson)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Using Cow's Bladder

Date: 14 May 1998 19:13:20 GMT

Organization: University of Guelph


I went to the Abbatiore today and asked for some cow's bladders.  I

recieved 6 fresh off the press and dripping (yuck).


I need them for a couple of medieval instruments I am developing.  One of

them involves inflating the bladder.


My sources say that the bladder must be dressed or cleaned.  Does anyone

have any idea how to do this?


I have wrapped the fresh bladders in many layers of plastic bags and

placed them in the fridge.  I need an answer soon! :)  


Also, what else were animal bladders used for in the middle

ages/renaissance?  Just curious :)


Thanks for any help you can give!!


-Robyn Whystler...



From: mclean1382 at aol.com (McLean1382)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Using Cow's Bladder

Date: 14 May 1998 22:37:34 GMT


I don't think the lime method is right for a bladder.  Lye or lime are used to

get the hair to come off of a skin.  This is not necessary for a bladder.

I think a buckskin recipe would probably be better since buckskin comes out

softer and more pliable that other treated hides.


First, get all of the little veins and other icky bits removed without tearing

the bladder.


My source says to use the animal's brain to treat the buckskin.  I assume it

didn't occur to you to grab a few brains while you were there, so you could use

"soft soap" instead.  If you don't happen to be an avid soap maker, you can

make do with a bar of yellow laundry soap shaved into bits and dissolved in

water.  My source says to use 1 bar of laundry soap to 2.5 - 3 gallons of hot

water.  Soak the skin for 4 or 5 days.  I suppose a bladder would need less

time.  Rinse well.


If you _are_ using brains, you make a paste of brains and warm water.   Slather

the bladder on both sides with the paste. Roll it up and store in a cool place

for two days.  Rinse well and wring as dry as possible.


Next, you have to work the bladder continuously while it is drying.  The idea

is "somehow to pull, twist and strtch that hide in every possible direction to

loosen the fibers of the grain".  Some suggestions are to pull it back and

forth other a beam or stump, scrape with shells or stones, or it it is small,

work it by hand.


If you used the soap method, grease it with animal fat, dunk it in soap

solution, rinse again, work again. "By now it should be possible to squeeze

water easily right through the skin.  If it isn't sof or if you have hard spots

moisten and work while drying agin until you are satisfied."


Buckskin is then smoked to improve its durability and appearance.  Green

hardwood is the preferred smoking source.  A buckskin takes 1 or 2 days to

smoke.  I am not sure that it would be necessary or desirable to smoke the

bladder if the point is for it to be elastic.  Since you have 6, you could try

different recipes to see if any of them work.


My source for this is "Carla Emory's Old Fashioned Recipe Book".  Obviously not

medieval, but the best I could do.  Good luck.


Wendy McLean



From: shawnjoh at uoguelph.ca (Shawn Johnson)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Using Cow's Bladder

Date: 18 May 1998 01:15:22 GMT

Organization: University of Guelph


Here's an update on my dealings with cow bladders:


I took one of the bladders, which was very fleshy, over to the laundry

utility sink, and started to play with it (having donned rubber gloves)

to see what I could do.  I could feel a membrane with a little more

solidity deeper inside the mass, so I figured this was the bladder.  

Having located the orifice, I stretched it over the mouth of the tap and

filled it with water.  It got to be about the size of a balloon but

certainly no bigger.  It was much easier to separate the fatty connective

tissue and blood vessels from the bladder within this way. I began using

a cheap exacto style knife, much like a scalpel in dissection class, and

it worked quite well to separate the connective tissue, until i tore the

bladder.  The whole operation was much like separating the skin from a

chicken breast.  Eventually I was able to separate most of it from the

damaged bladder.


Despite the damage, it was still useful in size to make rommelpots (a

type of friction drum ... clay or wooden vessel, with a bladder or skin

head into which is affixed a stick.  Rubbing the stick causes the

membrane to vibrate and get delightful sounds (snicker) as well as peals

of laughter from the crowd.


Unfortunately my experiments with the bladders so far have no been

entirely successful.  The bladder becomes quite dry, and very much like a

thin celophane in appearance and texture.  First glance and touch it's

hard to think it's anything but synthetic.  I affixed the bladder in two

pieces to two different pots when it was still wet, and the pieces dried

on the pots.  The interesting thing is that the bladders stuck like glue

to the pots, and while I tied them onto the rims, this wasn't necessary

when everything was dry.  THe bladder became quite fragile .. and with

some use throughout the next day, both split.  Perhaps some oily before

or after drying is necessary.  It could be that rommelpots made with

bladders were only a temporary carnival instrument, and those made with

skins were more permanent.


Because of this exiperiemnt, I find it hard to understand how bladders

were used on bladder pipes.  I would think they constructed like many

folk bagpipes, by using leather ... but perhaps the inner membrane was

bladder for waterproofing.  They are extremely water and air tight.  And,

they are quite strong when wet.


For my next project (not a bladder pipe), I will need to inflate the

bladder to make what is called a "bladder bow". Basically it's a kind of

spike violin, whereby the bladder acts as a resonator wedged between a

stick and the string.


I have only one period (before 1600) picture at my disposal .. I have

seen quite a few 17th and 18th century examples recently. I'm sure,

however, in my more distant pictorial wanderings, I've seen bladder bows

pre-1600.  Any help on this, or the whole process would be appreciated :)


-Robyn Whystler



Date: Sat, 20 Jun 1998 07:24:36 +0200 (MET DST)

From: Par Leijonhufvud <parlei at algonet.se>

Subject: Re: SC - Help on an Adventure (slightly OT)


On Fri, 19 Jun 1998, Michael P Newton wrote:

> (since I don't know where else to ask) is how does one tan/cure a pig's

> bladder? Getting the bladders shouldn't be a problem since our shire

> seems to be in a pig roast mood lately.


ISTR seeing a bladder (from a sheep or deer) that was tanned with bark.

Here's my stab at the procedure.


1. Rinse and inflate the bladder, and hang up to dry. I suppose you

might get away with just rinsing if you plonk it in the tanning solution

straight off.


2. Place in a tanning solution made from any tannin containing plant

matter. Simply boil or steep the material at hand until it is as strong

as tea that has been left to draw _way_ too long, and is undrinkable.

Let the solution cool to body temperature before putting your bladder in

it. Possible materials: bark from oaks, salix (willow, etc), or even

plain tea (finally, a use for Liptons Yellow Label Crud^H^H^HTea!).

Tannins are in lots of plants, and you can't really mistake the taste.

Some plants add a color to the skin, but that might not be an issue in

this case.


3. The bladder needs to be in there (possibly with some changes of

solution) for anything from a week to months, but most likely a week or

two would be quite sufficient, thinking of how thin it is.


4. In order for it to dry soft you need to work it while it dries.

Either work outdoors, or spread a towel over your lap and do it while

watching TV. Just roll, stretch gently, and bend until it is thoroughly

dry. If you need to take a break place in a plastic bag in the fridge,

or freeze if it is more than a couple of hours involved.



- --

Par Leijonhufvud                           parlei(at)algonet.se



Subject: Re: SC - bladder tanning (long)

Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 17:00:28 +0200 (MET DST)

From: Par Leijonhufvud <parlei at algonet.se>

To: Stefan li Rous <stefan at texas.net>


> I think a buckskin recipe would probably be better since buckskin comes out

> softer and more pliable that other treated hides.


I would recommend the tannic acid based methods: when you buckskin tan

hides one of the tests for "doneness" is that they let air throught



> Next, you have to work the bladder continuously while it is drying.  The idea

> is "somehow to pull, twist and strtch that hide in every possible direction to


Don't twist, at least not with real hides.


> hardwood is the preferred smoking source.  A buckskin takes 1 or 2 days to

> smoke.  I am not sure that it would be necessary or desirable to smoke the


Last time I smoked a deerhide it only took a few hours...


Aprt from this I'm not sure buckskin is documentable to the middle ages.




Par Leijonhufvud                           parlei(at)algonet.se



<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org