Experimental Homestead

How to remove back strap sinew without wasting any meat



Whether or not you want to use the sinew, this is a great way to remove it from the back strap meat.

We’ll be moving soon!  I’m working on the new website now!

August 8, 2015 - Posted by | animal parts | , , , , , ,


  1. Awesome and wow. Would this work as well with sheep?

    Comment by rabidlittlehippy | August 9, 2015 | Reply

    • Yeah, it should work fine. I think it will work on all those hooved things. I don’t skin or process many sheep or lambs. I get to eat one every so many years, but goats are cheap, so I eat a lot of them. Lambs are much more valued for meat around here than goats are.

      Comment by Stevene | August 9, 2015 | Reply

  2. Amazing. It was certainly worth waiting for! I made a real mess of it many, many times, some of which with people standing around looking, thinking I’m some kind of an expert… I think my main mistake was not peeling that membrane all the way. ok, I’ll try it on this week’s skinnings.
    Thanks a lot Steven!

    Comment by nimrod | August 9, 2015 | Reply

    • It’s the thin tool that makes the real difference to me. I’ve used all kinds of other stuff. I used to use the back of my knife, but it never came that clean. I think a thicker knife that comes to an edge will work as long as it is dull, but probably the thinner the better. And, yeah, get that stuff out of the way!

      Comment by Stevene | August 9, 2015 | Reply

  3. Hey Stevene,

    Long time viewer…and have been meaning to say thanks just as long…Great stuff and many I send here are really getting a great deal out of your presentations and writing…much thanks…

    I am not much for making videos (I guess I should work on that.)

    I would like to add to your post, and/or ask if you could do more videos like this one…??

    Some observations/expanded points and questions…

    Do you ever treat your sinew?

    My grandmother would treat it with a wash of borax or salt, and some she would soak before drying in tannin from acorn…

    Have you ever “rolled” (also called “wefted” as the sinew is the “warp”) off sinew with traditional wood tools for this task?

    There is an entire array of wood tools for traditional (Native/Indigenous) butchering that follows very closely your format modality as demonstrated in this video. I would love to see a video by you making and using these tools…

    Thanks again and hope to meet someday!



    Comment by Jay C. White Cloud | August 19, 2015 | Reply

    • Great stuff Jay. I have imagined the ideal bone tool for removing sinew before. I think northern people probably had a bigger tool set for this since all needed sinew more than anyone in warmer regions. It seems like I’ve seen a video of using a wooden tool of some kind for rolling sinew. I’ve always just used my hand on the thigh. I also seem to recall some pictures in a cool book I have called Indian and Eskimo Artifacts of North America. Maybe I’ll dig into that subject some time. The borax makes sense since bugs will eat the stuff just like the will eat skin. It is made of the same stuff, so it should also tan up fine. I had never heard of anyone doing that though, so super interesting that your grandmother did so. Bugs don’t much like tanned collagen, so that could also preserve. The salt makes less sense to me. I wonder what that was for. I’ll definitely be doing a lot more stuff on animal parts and materials for sure. Not sure what all yet, but they’re coming. Making videos is a lot harder than I thought it would be. So many things to think about… Hopefully we’ll bump paths sometime! Your timberframing work looks amazing.

      Comment by Stevene | August 20, 2015 | Reply

      • Hey Stevene,

        Silly me…”rolling off” or “wefting off” sinew is what my grandmother called it…It is almost exactly as you demonstrated removing the sinew in the video, accepte she used wood (and sometimes bone) tools to do it.

        “Spinning” or “hanking” is what she called making the sinew thread and cord. She was a weaver, and hand knotted, among her many other talents…

        The salt was a “lesser type treatment” and not as good (grandma thought and I agreed) as the Borax (aka sodium borate) is also a salt or in the “nitrate” family kind’a stuff, and draws moisture while “tainting” the material against mold and other “nasties.” Works well on wood, and anything to keep the nasties out…while still being relatively natural and traditional…

        I forgot in my last comment…the “facial” you removed to get to the sinew. I heard you say keep that for making soupe (which it does an “o.k.” job at) but if I can suggest…stock pily this and dust it with borax, then when you have a fair amount…stick it in a big pot as start boiling!!! This stuff makes some of the best “hide glues” I have ever used and Elders over the years have “gooped” this stuff into everything from wood joints to boot souls, and my mother even used it in bookbinding and parchment work…Great stuff, and if you haven’t dabbled in “glues” yet…you will love it!

        Thanks for the compliment about the timber framing…If you ever are in the need to make something that way…give me a “heads up” with a good fare warning and I would be glad to help and/or guide the your project anyway you care to use me. I love teaching that craft, and I am always looking for new teaching venue…as most of the “workshops” out there are more “modern timber framing” (by my account of it) and not the more ancient styles, or anything out of Africa, the Middle East or Asia which are wonderful styles…especially in the “folk modalities.”



        Comment by Jay C. White Cloud | August 20, 2015

  4. Sorry…correct “facial” it was suppose to read as “facia”…

    Comment by Jay C. White Cloud | August 20, 2015 | Reply

    • I haven’t used that fascia or is it facia? for glue, but I know it’s mostly collagen. On deer it is leaner, but on this goat it had a lot of fat. I try to eat a lot of connective tissue and make stock out of all that sort of stuff If I’m not making glue. I’ve definitely dabbled in glues! I’m in the middle of a big hide glue project trying to make the purest glue I can from a bull hide.

      I’m really interested in building with round or partly flattened poles. Bot the artistic part and maybe coming up with building systems for everyday stuff that are really efficient. We have millions of acres of regrowth here and poles are much stronger than the crappy dimensional lumbers they are producing now out of small diameter trees. Have you read the round pole timberframing book by that engilsh guy? I was wondering if it was worth picking up.

      Comment by Stevene | August 20, 2015 | Reply

      • Love to read you are a traditional…”glue person”…I love natural adhesive knowledge! They are awesome!

        I have found over the years that “skin glues” (aka hid) are not as strong or quality (other than some fish species) as are tendon and fascia (as I know it it spelt fascia…??) based pure glues seem to be. Pure hoof glue is even better than most “hide glues” as these “hide glues” tended to be the “generic trad glue” but not the “craftspersons” glue choice for really strong joints or specific applications…These fascia/tendon based adhesives are”specialty forms” as we are now discussing…and crazy strong…especially when augmented with sinew fiber for “laminating” tasks.

        I love building in the Asian styles like Japanese Minka and Korean Hanok vernacular forms. Live edge work like this with to flat facets on either side of a beam aesthetically to me is just incredible. You can see the grain and the workmanship of the craft while at the same time the natural beauty, elegance and soul of the living tree it came from is right there…Now after 35 years in and out of these craft forms, and academic study of these many vernacular types, I think of most of them as extremely efficient. With a concert of traditional skill sets working in context with both power tools and finishing hand tools…most of these architectural forms can be rendered as effectively as 2x stuff from the box store. Yet, in the end, you have a building that is both sustainable, with lower environmental impact and will potentially last millenia if just basically taken care of…

        Boy are you correct about the, “…crappy dimensional lumbers they are producing now…” I am currently bidding a large (~9 meters x 36 meters) Farmers Market Pavilion out West, and the other bid they rejected was for this hideous “glulam” and stick built thing…(so ugly!!…and the material specs they offered…??.. I just couldn’t understand the ridiculous price they wanted for it for this monster of industry??) It was the worse wood, stuck on top of concrete posts covered in more “concrete faux stones.” Icky! Now the town has requested we submit plans for our frame styles. One will be an English Cruck and the other in the Asian aesthetic, and we intend to place it on local sourced sand stone plinth that the posts will be scribe fit to in the stone’s natural conditions and shape with only a little smoothing…

        I have read Ben’s book (“Roundwood Timber Framing”) and find it charming but (this is a subjective view on my part…nothing against Ben) the author’s/friends I tend to have followed over the years are more into traditional methods. I find much of the “new age” back to earth types “reinventing” way too many wheels…I don’t turn folks away from getting and reading the book, but I don’t really recommend it either…There is just too much good traditional wisdom still left out here and in some of us to “start over” again with experimenting with concepts and/or only coping/following part of the traditional teachings…yet again, that is just my subjective view, and in general, Ben’s publications are great tombs with wonderful thoughts and concepts…

        I would recommend many others first…especially for someone of you caliber. I do have a book list I give students, friends, DIYers and such that contact me. Ben’s book is in there as well. Please feel free to send me an email and I will get you a link to it.



        Comment by Jay C. White Cloud | August 20, 2015

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