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A fleshing machine is a device that strips the fat and muscles from the hide, or cape, of an animal. A strong blade separates the skin from the attached tissues, and flattens and stretches the hide. Fleshing machines are used by taxidermists primarily, but can be used by any company that makes products from the pelts of animals. A fleshing machine takes the place of non-powered fleshing knives and tools by using power to rotate a blade. Large, industrial fleshers have rollers and mini-teeth to scrape away the meat and fat from the skin.
After an animal is gutted, the hide still has much tissue attached to it; this may include pieces of fat or muscle, called the flesh. To prepare a cape for tanning or any other purpose, this tissue must be removed. Traditionally, taxidermists and hunters used a fleshing beam, which is a small rounded platform on which a hide is draped. Once the cape is placed on the beam, small hand tools cut away at the tissues. A fleshing machine is a much faster method of preparing a hide.
Fleshing machines can be small, handheld power tools or large pieces of equipment, depending on the task at hand. Prices vary dramatically, depending on the size and capability of the machine. The investment of time and money in a good machine can be very worthwhile. For a professional taxidermist, for example, fleshing machines can be an invaluable piece of equipment, saving many hours of work.
When buying a fleshing machine, it is important for the buyer to know what comes with the purchase. Some fleshing machines do not come with the motor or other parts of the assembly. The assembly and installation of a fleshing machine also requires careful attention to detail. Users should remember that the machine and blade will be exposed to fluids, so safety is of utmost importance since electricity is involved. In addition, the placement of the blade guards is important to the safety of the operator by protecting the hands.
A fleshing machine can also be used as a shaving machine to thin a hide and make it softer and more malleable. Removing even a few thousandths of an inch (centimeter) from a cape can be time-consuming and tedious. A fleshing machine is much more precise, and allows a taxidermist or hobbyist to make tiny adjustments to the thickness of a hide.