We have already noticed that after a sheep skin, or other raw hide, has been cleansed and purified from all extraneous matters, it undergoes a scraping and paring of its inner surface to give it a thinner or more uniform substance; by these processes the subsequent dyeing and tanning are greatly facilitated. This reduction of the substance was once entirely, and is still partially, executed by means of a knife in the hands of workmen, some of whom are so dexterous as to be able at every stroke of the knife to take off a shaving the whole breadth of the beam. The utmost exertion of ordinary skill was, however, insufficient to prevent the frequent recurrence of unlucky cuts, by which the value of the skin was considerably lessened, and the pieces sliced or scraped off were only applicable to the making of glue. But by the introduction of machinery to effect this operation, the skin is now divided throughout its entire substance into two parts of equal extent, one of which is subsequently converted into leather, and the other into parchment; at the same time the upper or hair side of the skin is thereby made smoother and of a more uniform thickness, which enhances its value.
During the last forty years a variety of highly ingenious machines have been constructed for this curious and apparently difficult operation. It is now about twenty-seven years ago that we saw a beautiful machine for this purpose at work in the extensive manufactory of the Messrs. Bevington, near Bermondsey, the peculiar or essential features of which we shall be able to afford the reader an idea of in a few words.