The fleshing knife is a tool built for the trapping and fur handling industry. When preparing pelts for the fur market, it’s necessary to flesh, stretch and dry the pelts to keep them from rotting and give them a limited shelf life until they are tanned for long term preservation.
Fleshing a fur pelt involves scraping the fat and meat from the skin. Although this can be done using a variety of implements, far and away the most efficient tool for the job is the fleshing knife. A fleshing knife consists of a curved blade with two handles, one on each side of the blade. The blade typically has two sides, one dull and the other sharp. The fleshing knife acts similar to a draw knife, except that instead of pulling the blade towards yourself like you would with a draw knife peeling a log, the fleshing knife is worked by pushing it away from the body, over the surface of the pelt.
The dull side of the fleshing knife blade is used for pushing and scraping loose fat and meat off the fur pelt, while the sharp edge side is used to cut away the tougher areas where the material is difficult to push or scrape. With the pelt draped over a wooden or plastic beam, the knife is worked over portions of the pelt and it is continually shifted and rotated until complete. Once the pelt is fleshed, it can be put on a stretcher to dry in the proper shape to be sold as a raw fur pelt.
There are several different brands of fleshing knives. Here’s a review of the most popular ones, along with my favorite choice.
The video below shows how I use a Necker 600 fleshing knife to flesh a beaver pelt.