Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky
Lewis Garrard made the following observation in his journal regarding thinning buffalo skins while working out of Bent's Fort in 1847: "Near them were industrious squaws: bringing, by dint of constant exertion, buffalo skins down to the required thinness by means of the dubber, which, as it struck the hard and dry robe, sounded like the escapement of steam from a small pipe."
Garrard elsewhere describes the dubber as an adze-shaped piece of iron fitted to an angular section of elk's horn, used to chip off pieces of the hard skin until it is reduced to the required thinness. The photo at the above right is of a Cheyenne "Chipper" made of Elkhorn with an iron blade from the collection of the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska.
According to Rufus Sage in Rocky Mountain Life:
"The usual mode of dressing skins, prevalent in this country among both Indians and whites, is very simple in its details and is easily practised.
It consists of removing all the fleshy particles from the pelt, and divesting it of a thin viscid substance upon the exterior, known as the "grain," then, after permitting it to dry, it is thoroughly soaked in a liquid decoction formed from the brains of the animal and water, when it is stoutly rubbed
with the hands in order to open its pores and admit the mollient properties of the fluid, -this done, the task is completed by alternate rubbings and distensions until it is completely dry and soft.
In this manner a skin may be dressed in a very short time, and on application of smoke, will not become hardened from any subsequent contact with water."