Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tanning a Hide: Assets on the Net!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Image Credit: Joezaremba
Here is another worthwhile project for the outdoorsman.

Maybe you saved a deer hide in the freezer thinking that you might get around to doing something with it. Well, here is your opportunity!

Brain tanning is probably the simplest method, and one that really works! I brain tanned a deer hide that I got from my neighbors that hunted, when I was maybe 13 or so.

I remember working on it for well over a week. I would watch the clock on the classroom wall, counting down the minutes before I would be liberated and could get back to my basement and continue fleshing and then tanning that hide!

There are a ton of links out there for brain tanning hides. All it takes is some brains.

Obviously, you have to save the deer brains for this operation not your own. I mean you have to have some brains to follow the directions... But the process itself is reasonably easy, but there is a bit of (relatively physical) work involved. The nice thing is that there are no harsh chemicals used, no poisons, and it is about as "Green" as you can get!

A good resource is Brain Tan. If my memory is correct, it started as a "this is how you do it" site and evolved into a supplier of gear and equipment for do-it-yourself tanning. Regardless they have many tutorials on skinning, preparing, and tanning hides. Their tutorial page is here at their Articles and Tutorials page.

To begin with you need to treat the hide with care. Skinning for pelts requires a slightly more refined method, and a bit of care in the process. Jim Miller has an excellent set of instructions at BrainTan called Tan Your Pelts with Nature’s Tools. He covers everything from skinning to smoking the hide.

(Precautionary Note: I want to caveat his instruction by saying that the use of raccoon brains can be dangerous. If you have taken the animal yourself, are fairly certain that it is not rabid, and are going to take reasonable precautions like wearing gloves, then go ahead. This warning only applies to animals that commonly carry rabies.)

As I mentioned, the process requires a bit of elbow grease, but you can practically stop at any point and come back to it later.

I also found this PDF from the New Mexico State University Tanning Deer Hides
and Small Fur Skins.
It covers several methods including the chemical ones.

Native Tech
also offers an alternative method of brain tanning. The link Updated Version of Brain Tanning will take you to that version. It is basically the same as Jim's but it throws a couple of twists into it; well worth the read.

Now that you have read a few different versions, remember that when I did it 35 years ago (Holy Smokes...) I used a kitchen knife that looked like an over long buffalo skinner, an old porous brick, a two by four that I rounded for a fleshing beam, a pickle bucket, and my mother's blender, (She still has no clue I used it!) And I didn't smoke it either. With those simple tools I made a hair on hide throw that she kept for at least 20 years.

Go look at the resources available that I pointed out to you and give it a try! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results!

Best Regards and Happy Hunting!
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Josh said...

I've got a good book, too: Brain Tan Buckskin. If a person is worried about brains, they can use eggs.

I found that a machete was about the most useful tool for this. The spine is great for fleshing, and one of those foam noodles cut in half to go over the blade makes it comfortable and safe, too. The sharp edge of the blade is great for the trimming.

Anonymous said...

Yup, I like this post and will be saving this one for future reference. Oh ya, that reminds me.....

Phillip said...

One critical warning to anyone who is thinking about tanning a hide... it takes patience. I've ruined several because I tried to take shortcuts and not be thorough.

Good stuff, Albert... as always!

Kansas Scout said...

Deer brains contaminated with Chronic Wasting disease are hazardous and should be avoided lest you have this deadly disease transmited from the deer to you.