I have read previous posts about these type machines and hear what a great job they do...provided that you learn how to properly use and maintain the machine. We all have heard the old saying about practice till perfect. I'm sure it applies here. The 'fleshing knife and beam' is an old friend of mine and I'm familiar with the use and also the impressive tricept development one can gain. Move over Bow-Flex...lol. The machines for sure would be a speedier approach but not cheap ($1200?). Do they really work that well? How long does it take to get good at using one? just curious. I would think the blade disk would dull quickly and have to be sharpened frequent. How many skins can be fleshed before having to 'send out' blade disc for servicing? Cost for blade service? Sorry for so many questions.
In my work processing leather we use Turner-type 300mm machines. These have a spiral blade cylinder and rotate ~ 800 rpms. Hide is placed grain side down on a 'feed roller' and fed into the machine. Foot peddle is depressed bringing hide up against shaving cylinder and hide worked into the machine while shaving. After every few skins shaved must 'sharpen' blades with grinding wheel mounted on machine. A few passes is all it takes back and forth. This grinder has its own independent drive system. Once in a while....a skin can 'grab' and be pulled in a viscious fashion away from the operators grip. Gotta stay awake here. The best shaving technician on these machines that i ever saw began this very physical job at the age of 14 when he lived / grew up in Mexico. Physical and dangerous job. Could you guess how he got the name "7-Finger Jose"?
I'm sure those fast rotating razor blades (banjos) could make a nice boo-boo too.
Return to Tanning Category Menu
These "Banjo Types" are what we also call "Circular Shaving Machines"! These are the ones you see advertised using the circular blade with the edge turned. They are almost exclusively used in the fur, hair and wool-on Taxidermy market. The flat Turner machines such as you described, are normally used for leather only - although I have seen some very talented operators use them for spot shaving some of the thicker skins and they also do well shaving Sealskins with the fur on. It's tricky though - unless you are working with an evenly furred or haired skin - it will turn them into speghetti! Calf and Cowhides with the hair-on are also shaved on them - but before they shave - they clip the hair evenly over the entire skin. It is a very efficient and fast machine when used properly - but like you pointed out - it's not a good machine to work on if you're having a bad day! Those Turners can cause massive damage to an operator if he's careless! And they are unforgiving!
Those "Banjo Types" however, do have guards to prevent major damage to the operator - but even experienced operators still get a few remindful nicks and cuts, every so often. Even those machines, much safer than the Turners, demand a little respect!
The archives just had a guy who'd managed to shave his palm for the first time. (I wish I'd had it happen ONLY once. LOL) To answer your question, however, if you buy a quality machine in that $1200 bracket you mentioned, you should expect to be very competent on it within a matter of days. When the blade guards are set close and properly, the likelihood of cut throughs is diminished. Since one "world class" taxidermist has accused me of infomercialling, I'm going to eschew naming ANY machines here, but you get what you pay for. My blades last about 100 deer capes worth without re-sharpening. NOW they do have to be HONED often, but they last a long time. I'd advise buying at least one extra blade with your machine so you can make that transition when you send the other out to be sharpened. New blades can run up to $100 while sharpening is less than 30. Just remember, when they are resharpened, the diameter decreases by almost 1/4 inch. Two or three sharpenings will bring the diameter down to where it can't be used any more. And BTW, buy and use a pair of Kevlar gloves when fleshing. They are bulky, you don't get the same feel for the hide, but it saves a lot of pain and cash in emergency room visits for beginners who're just learning the process.
Mr. Rittel and George for the info. It has been well noted.