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Skinning     Obtaining Hides     Storing Hides


How to Skin
Deer, Elk, Antelope, Goat, or Sheep
Skinning is a straight forward endeavor if you follow the body's built in guidelines. This is because the skin and muscle tissue are naturally separated from one another by protective membranes. Simply make the initial cuts, and then pull the skin off, as if you are removing the deer's coat. When you peel the skin, it easily separates from the meat along these membranes. After getting a clean start, there is little risk of tearing the skin or the meat. So all you need to do is use your hands and body weight to pull and pry the skin from the deer. It is generally a ten to fifteen minute process. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to cut the hide off with your knife. When you use a knife to slice the hide from the deer you inevitably violate these layers, making the whole job harder. Once the meat is cut into, you are no longer working with the natural division between meat and hide. You usually end up removing large chunks of meat, as well as putting cuts and holes in the hide. These cuts (also called scores) and holes open up and enlarge easily, increasing the amount of work at every stage of the tanning process. The membranes that encase the meat also protect it from flies and deer hair. When you cut into the meat you create moist and protected habitats for flies to lay their eggs in. If you peel the skin, the muscle layers remain intact, the outer membranes dry out, and flies will not lay their eggs. For some reason, most modern hunters do not know this and that makes finding well skinned hides a real challenge. There are absolutely no advantages to knifing a skin off. It is not faster!

How To Skin
Hanging the deer makes it easy to use your body weight to pull the skin off. It also assures that the meat will stay clean. You can either hang it from the neck or from the legs. Most people prefer one way or the other. I like them both. Deer should be hung using strong ropes (I had one fall on me once when the rope broke. The antler tines hit my forehead. Those things hurt!). Do it within a few hours of the deer's death and it will peel off especially easily. Make sure your knife is sharp, and proceed as follows: If you want to get better hides, tell your friends who hunt about good skinning techniques, or post a flyer around town. To hang a deer by its back legs, find the large tendon that connects the lowest leg segment with the rest of the leg. Poke a hole in between that tendon and the leg bone. Use your fingers to feel the lump that is created by the double jointed bone. Then sever the lower leg at the lower of the two joints as illustrated.

Cut skin and tendons around the joint, then snap it over your leg.

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Make the incisions as shown in the illustration. Once you've made the initial incisions, put that knife down. Then use your hands and body to pull, yank, and pry the skin from the deer.

Getting a clean start: use finger tips and thumbs to separate the hide from the meat. Notice how clean and encased both the meat and hide are.

Once you've gotten a good start, grab the hide with your hands and pull. You can also push your thumbs, fist and elbows in-between the skin and meat to release areas that are sticking.

Use your body weight to help pull.

There will be a very thin layer of meat that wants to come off with the hide. This is the muscle that the deer uses to twitch flys off of its back. Nobody that I know of eats this meat because it is so thin and membraney. It is easily fleshed off later, so most folks let it come off with the hide.

Removing The Brains
Deer conveniently come with just enough brains to tan their own skin. If you are planning to tan the hide right

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away, the simplest place to store the brains is in the intact skull. To remove the brains from the skull you first need to cut away the skin that covers the area between the eyes and the back of the antlers (on Does just go to where the antlers would be). Then use a hacksaw to make a V shaped cut into the skull. The antlers can be used as a lever to remove the cut bone. A messier but equally effective alternative is to smash this section of skull with a stone. Be careful not to cut yourself on bone shards. Once the skull is open use a spoon, fingers or straw to remove all of the brains. Protect the brains from flies.
Skinning     Obtaining Hides     Storing Hides


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They will make light-weight. and most commonly wasted hides in North America. You will also get alot of real crappy hides. (feel free to print out the pages on skinning). Tanning knifed up skins takes longer in nearly every stage. With a little effort you should be able to find all that you could ever want. Luckily most people interpret this to mean deer and elk. so check it out. If you know lots of folks who hunt.   Learn how Skinning     Obtaining Hides     Storing Hides Home    Obtaining Hides Where to Get Them Cheap or Free Intro There are lots of free and cheap hides available every hunting season and frequently in-between. If you handle any questionable hides. with no bullet holes. perfectly skinned hides. There you will find a list of all local butchers who do game processing. Friends who hunt. Tanning hides that have been skinned well is a joy. Roadkills. If you are buying deerskins. moose. and advertise. You can also offer to do it at your home. Roadside barrels.html1 . Call them and ask them how much they charge. and most would love to give it to you. It may be illegal in your area. yellow jackets and trash. and the finished product is not nearly as good. see a physician immediately. Set up a free skinning station along a road that many hunters will use. remove any meat you will use. He gets all of the free hides and brains that he can use. Go to extra lengths to get good skins. This is just a relative comparison. Either buy one frozen or salted hide or check out a freshly skinned hide if that is possible. and in regions where a large number of tags have been issued for an area with only a few main access roads. comfortable dresses and summer clothing. Most of them don't. you can also find elk. and return the carcass to somewhere that the critters can get to it safely. Have a handout to give them on good skinning techniques or offer to skin for them. or red streaks going from your cuts toward the chest.braintan. Moose on the other hand has the fiber quality of deer but the thickness of moose. Antelope and big-horn sheep are renowned for being uniformly thin. This is especially effective during peak hunting weekends. There are a zillion out there going to waste. Rinse the salt out of the http://www. and buffalo. If you notice an unusual amount of swelling. just tell them you want the skin. Skin the deer. You can get lots of free. More than 300. It's really hard to see knife marks in frozen or wet salted hides. thick and perfectly fine for many applications. it is always worth a few extra bucks for really good ones. goat. Elk leather is beautiful. If you try this be prepared to deal with some gross hides.000 deer are hit annually in the United States. Look in the yellow pages under meat.com/articles/obtaining. Jim always wishes that the good skinners would autograph their hides so that he could meet them. Where to get good skins Deer you hunt yourself. they are weaker and wear out faster than deer. etc. Deer are by far the most common. so check out a sample of their work before you make any big purchases. They are also a good one to start your tanning adventures with. Skinning stations. smelly hides can give you an infection or blood poisoning real fast. Rotting. antelope. but you will find some gems. how many skins they get a season. large. However it is a bit trickier finding hides that haven't been knifed up in the skinning. They are particularly great for moccasins. My friend Jim Riggs puts out two or three barrels every year with a sign that reads "hides and heads". Local butchers who do game processing. wash up really well afterwards with disinfectant soap and keep an eye on any cuts or sores. What could be more satisfying than pulling on a deerskin jacket from deer that fed you and your family? Obviously do not hunt deer just to get more skins. They will all tell you that they do a really great skinning job. Elk are much more work to tan and because of their fiber structure. While this chapter is geared particularly toward the obtaining of deer hides. away from the road.

Avoid these.braintan. and not ones that hunters bring in. etc. It is preferable to have none. this is good. Ask them to put aside twice as many as you actually want. This is a bit of a russian roulette since it is hard to see knife marks through the salt. These gloves are available wholesale for two to three bucks from Sullivan's Gloves. plus make money reselling the others to the tannery. Offer more mula for peeled hides. A common deal is to offer free leather gloves in exchange for hides. Tell them that you only want their hides. You need to order 60 to get the wholesale price. Offer to pay a dollar or two more than they are currently getting. If there are only a few knife marks on the edges and none in the middle.E. Hunters like this. instead of leaving it in the woods or the trash. Advertise at hunting shops.com URL: http://www. Even better is to get a job skinning for a butcher during the opening week end of deer season. Become a deer hide buyer and dealer. If yours does. you could become that person. this is the sign of a hide slasher. Most hunters would like to see their hides get used. You will be surprised how many you get.html 2 . and then you go through them yourself.com Leap around the site http://www. The going rate for deerskins is so low it would never be worth it. Skinning     Obtaining Hides     Storing Hides          Email: backcountry@braintan. This way you can pick out the very best hides when they are fresh. Have a flier to give hunters that illustrates proper skinning techniques. you are just giving them a little incentive to get their skin to someone who will use it. If your area doesn't have a hide buyer. and make a deal to get everything they skin that deer season. By buying hides directly from hunters. Find out where the closest tannery is. but this is sadly rare. These will appear as cuts in the skin or the meat. will be consistent.salted hide. If you explain to the dealer that you want the hides with the least knife marks. for their best ones. On the flesh side look for knife marks. Hide dealers and tanneries. 1315 S. and get the hides for free. you will mostly get good ones. the quality or lack of. A typical price for a deerskin from the butchers in 1997. Then buy hides at prices that will make it worth your while. Then go through the pile and pick out the best.braintan. and how much they will pay you per hide. especially if you do it year after year. As long as only one person is doing the skinning. Most big towns have someone who buys hides from hunters. Bend Oregon 97702. I shop around for the best skinners. Sometimes you can get a butcher to change his skinning practices so that he pulls the skin off (see skinning). Rather. (541) 3823092.com/articles/obtaining. but worth the effort and paying a little more for it. If their are knife marks in the middle of the hide. Armour Rd. you will not be encouraging folks to go out and kill deer to sell you the skin. This is rare. ask that person to put aside the very best. just out of ethics. is from four to eight dollars.

no matter how long it soaks or is manipulated. Even if they feel damp and pliable they may still have dried enough to affect scraping. bears and bugs. I fleshed and dried my hides for storage. The only way to really screw this up is by storing salted hides directly on the ground. full and luscious as a fresh apple? http://www. lay it directly on top of the first. It takes an experienced tanner about an hour's work to get their hide to this point (not including soaking time). When re-soaked. while a big pile can be put into a garbage can. if you take them through the grain scraping stage and then dry them. so they won't dry out. Wet-salted hides should feel as loose as when they first came off of the deer.com/articles/storing. Store in cool place with no air flow. Drying Hides For Storage Can Make Tanning Harder For four years. After one week drain any water that has accumulated at the bottom of the container. buck. It might take a beginner four or five hours. The more they dry the harder they will be to scrape later. it doesn't reconstitute fully. Use air-tight plastic and wooden containers. For wet-scraping this can make it much harder to remove the grain. So. Scrape fresh and then dry. Drying shrinks the grain and causes it to adhere tightly to the fiber core.. tie. Roll hide up in tight bundle.braintan. You can flesh first to reduce volume. Salt will rust metal. Think of a dried apple. Allow the salt to soak in overnight. This is the most practical method for people who tan alot of hides. and freeze indefinitely. One or two hides will fit in a five gallon plastic bucket. put in plastic bag. Many brain-tanners do this. If you have the freezer space. Storing salted hides in tarps or other permeable containers causes them to dry slowly over time. Spread fine salt over the entire surface. and so on. salt is cheap. Use The Basic Method. is it ever as soft. Some-how the ground causes the hides to rot over time. Drying unscraped hides makes them considerably harder to scrape later. this is the easiest way to go. To salt the next hide. Then you can dry the hide out and store it indefinitely.When reconstituted. Wet-salt..html1 . and protected from rot. Will store at least one year. Don't skimp. ring-tails. This is fine for dry-scraping. To do this. dogs. How to store hides Freeze. all the way out to the edges. you must flesh.   Learn how Skinning     Obtaining Hides     Storing Hides Home    Storing Hides So They are in Optimum Condition for Tanning Intro You want to store hides so that they are in optimum condition for tanning: uniformly moist. grain and rinse. Lay hide out flat with the flesh side facing up. which will then stain the hide. you are not creating any unnecessary work for yourself. This hide wasn't stored so good.

.com/articles/storing. The advantage of this is that you can make just one batch of solution and put all of your hides through the bucking process at once.com Leap around the site http://www. in moving water. The disadvantage is that you don't get the easier scraping that swollen hides provide.braintan.braintan. In fact there is no need to do the bucking or rinsing steps. Check the edges periodically as they have a tendency to curl up and hold moisture in. especially once spring rolls around.. The omnipresent nasty hide beetles will infest and chew holes in any skins stored dry with the hair on. Hides that have been stored dry for more than a year will grain fairly easily. Getting a hide to this point only takes about one hour or two of work for an experienced tanner. There are however a couple of exceptions to this rule.and the same is true of hide grain. Hides dried hair-on need to be protected from bugs. I encourage you to leave them in the buck and in the rinse a little longer than necessary. causing the mucus in the grain layer to break down. Hides that have been stored dry for a few years are exceptionally easy to grain and soften. and you're tanning a lot of hides. This won't be too much work at once unless you are tanning 30+ hides. to make sure that the whole batch is fully treated and ready. Dry in a fairly warm place so that the hide dries before it rots. Then your hides will be immediately ready to scrape whenever you are.com URL: http://www. rather than having to wait for them to go through the bucking process. It also takes considerably longer for the hide to rinse. and it doesn't create any more work for you. Another Option You can soak your hides in the buck and rinse them before storing. however you see fit. Then store them using any of these methods. The aging process has an effect similar to the alkali. Skinning     Obtaining Hides     Storing Hides          Email: backcountry@braintan. This is another good reason to scrape the grain off of your hides before drying them. or in a smokey spot. Give the hide a very thorough fleshing job because any fat left on the hide will rot and weaken it. no freezer. The hide beetles don't like the flavor of smokey hides. In that case you have to deal with the realities of mass production. This allows the dressing to easily enter and prepare the hide for softening.html 2 . so I don't discourage it as much as I did in the past. These cruel bugs also don't like to munch hairless hides. Using the bucking process as illustrated in Deerskins into Buckskins makes dried hides scrape considerably easier than they otherwise do. You might as well since you are not in a hurry to scrape them. If you do not have an environmentally responsible way to dispose of salt. So if you have some old hides out in the shed. The grain will never swell and loosen to be as easy to remove as on fresh hides. unless stored where the bugs can't get them.No. soak them up in plain water for a day or two and go at it. about 48 hrs. this may be your only option.

sheep. stretch the hide out by laying it on the ground flesh-side up. a bone flesher or the dull knife from above. elk or antelope.) This is called bating.) egg yolk or “dubbin” (a mixture of fish oil and tallow. You don’t want to stretch the hide. like buying a tanning kit from Tandy or the Leather Factory. The hide is hung over the pole and soaked in a mixture of water and crushed oak bark. Actually if it can be skinned it can be tanned.htm1 . Now you need to flesh it. Furs Simply omit the dehairing process and move to the next step. especially dogs is used as it contains an enzyme that digests collagen. You may have to scrape the hide even if you used the water/ash method. Leather Flip the hide over so that the hair side is up. horses and deer. Any of these methods are quick and easy but if the leather gets wet. Scrape the entire hide. the oils or minerals would be washed out and the leather would rot. Tannin Tanning The best way to tan the leather is by using a chemical called tannin. You could rub it with an oily substance like tallow (animal fat. You can use a stone. you need to prevent the hide from stiffening or rotting. Scrap the skin to get every bit of meat or fat off. After bating it is quite relaxed and will lay flat. It can also be treated by rubbing salt. Oddly enough each animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide. tooled or left plain. knife sheaths. then remove it and spread it out to dry. Take care not to tear the skins. You want the stakes close to the edge but not so close that the skin tears. The bating process is remarkable one from the properties it imparts to the hide. There are several methods that can be used.alpharubicon. Prior to bating the hide is springy and “lively. brain or potash alum into the surface to produce a very pale leather. It can take a couple of days for heavier hides. it has done its job and there is no reason to keep such a smelly component of the leather making process. which is an elastic component of the hide. It’s stinky time http://www. Now that the fleshing is done it’s time to decide if you are going to make buckskin or a fur. then placed over a wooden beam and scraped with a dull knife. when you do this it will also scrape off the epidermis layer. If you don’t want to wait that long you can use a sharp knife and scrape/shave the hair off. Once again. It’s difficult to describe but easy to recognize when the hide is compared before and after bating. These contain pre-measured chemicals and instructions for using them. It can be used to make shoes. you can make your own leather. pigs. Any fat or meat left on the hide will cause you misery later. The hides can be from cattle.” rather like having a mind of its own. Brain tanning produces a beautiful buckskin and it does require a bit of work to produce it. Basics Making leather is a time consuming and smelly process. This is important as it allows you to soften the hide later. goats. quicklime or wood ash into the wet surface. The hair and outer part of the skin is then removed by rubbing urine. To do this the skin is soaked and pounded.*Tanning Leather* By Dragoona If you hunt. So it is time to tan the leather. After the animal has been killed and the skin is carefully removed. This will loosen the hair and allow it to be scraped off. Now you need a clay-lined pit with a log or pole in it. This is what produces the tannin. The dung is washed from the hide after bating. Some are easier than others. raise your own animals or plan to do either in the future. There are a number of ways to tan leather and furs. this includes the tiny veins that cling to the surface of the skin. the first job is to remove any bits and pieces of meat and fat. just keep it from shrinking. Punch wooden stakes at intervals around the edges and drive them into the ground. Soak the hide for a couple of days. This leather can be carved. Saving urine to use at this time will make an almost white hide. Don’t stretch the hide beyond its original size.com/primitive/tanningdragoona. (Gross time) To do this the hide is rubbed with dung (which allows the tannin to penetrate the leather. The idea at this stage is to remove the hair as completely and easily as you can. Brain Tanning This is a very primitive method of tanning leather. After the hair has been scraped off. After removing the hide from the beastie. It will all depend on the animal and the thickness of the hide. I am not going to cover the use of kits. Cover every square inch then let it set until the hair starts coming loose when you pull on it. This will be easier if you are careful while skinning the animal and not let a lot of meat or fat on the hide. The dung of carnivores. be careful to not cut or tear the skin. holsters or bags. but the old ways of tanning your hides. You can mix up a slurry of wood ashes and water and rub it into the hide well. The first thing you need to do is to prepare your hides for tanning.

submerge the hide in water overnight. You can now cut away the edges with the stake holes. unstake it. use a smooth stone to rub any imperfect areas. And if he ever asks me to bet against him again. Loop the hide through a rope loop or over a branch tied between two trees and pull it back and forth. it’s a brave new skill to learn.htm 2 .The tanning process breaks down the glycerin and loosens the fibers of the skin. May be reproduced for personal use only. The other is simply a sick about two inches in diameter. The first is a wooden wedge shaped tool. You want to smoke the hide until it becomes a nice buckskin color. While it is soaking. Dragoona "This article is especially for Sierra. To prevent this. You want it to be completely saturated and pliable.alpharubicon. It will be used!" Dragoona. The end of the stick is carved into a smooth. the *fair-minded* All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996-2003 Trip Williams. Start by rubbing the mixture into the skin side of the hide and then into the hair side (skip this side if you are making a fur. However it will become stiff again if it gets wet. http://www. folks. All rights reserved. Squish and squeeze them with your hands (wear gloves) to mash it well. you can prepare your “graining” tools. If you stop before it is completely dry it will become stiff! When the hide seems dry... to whom I lost a bet. make a tripod of sticks and drape the hide over a small smudge fire. This will stretch the hide and the heat/friction will dry the hide some more while breaking up the grain farther.com/primitive/tanningdragoona. Restake the hide after it has soaked and use the wedge shaped grainer to “ooze” the water out of the hide. with or without a handle.) Use all of the mixture including any “broth” left in the pot. The object is to stretch and loosen every inch of the hide while it is drying. if you do you will ruin it! The hide is now complete. rounded point. an Office Sir. There are two types needed. Leave the hide alone and out of the sun for 6 to 8 hours before continuing. When the brain soup is almost to hot for you to touch. After the brains have soaked into the hide for 6 to 8 hours. since there may be areas you couldn’t scrape well. Take the brains and cook them in a little water. Have fun. Now take the blunt stick grainer and work every inch of the hide. rub it into the hide using your hands and smooth round stones that have been heated.. The agent used in this method id found in the brain of the animal that provided the hide/fur. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission. Do this until you can’t get any more water out of the skin. blunt.. Note: If you are making a fur be careful and do not run the fur side over the branch or through the rope loop. Turn it over as necessary for the smoke to penetrate all parts. When you are done.

so when the frame is turned different ways. Picking Hides to Tan This article is best used in conjunction with The Dinsmore's video guide to the Pre-Smoke Method now available at the Braintan. Fleshing the Hide A hide is always easiest to do when it is fresh or has been frozen. We put nails about every five inches around the outside of the frames to keep the cord from slipping out of place.com Tools A draw knife that is fairly dull. The less holes the better. we always recommend you begin with a doe hide or small buck that is not very thick. I have recently discovered a neat little tool I use during the softening process. the outer nails are not flattened out. Some sort of anti-bacterial soap for washing. ezra@midrivers. Fresh hides also often times still have ticks on them so watch out for that too.com Skinning tutorial for details). Avoid hides that already stink or have maggots on them. It is a narrow little spade used for digging holes. I like the way it pulls on the hide more than any other tool I have tried. A pulled hide is ideal but most hides we get have been skinned with a knife.com/articles/presmoke. Glovers needles and artificial sinew or other strong thread. http://www. Also the way it was skinned is important. (see the Braintan. Choose hides that have been shot as few times as possible. Cut off any long hanging down legs or pieces of skin to make the whole process easier. a pair of insulated rubber gloves for cold weather scraping (ones with long cuffs). get the majority of the flesh and fat off. As we're fleshing along the belly and find holes close to the edge. Parachute cord. PVC pipe of 6" in diameter. It makes it easy to work on the edges because it is narrow. Frames made of 2x4's in various sizes.braintan.com Store If you are new at tanning. When fleshing. it is used by trappers and is called a Yoho.html1 . note: this is only a problem with certain types of wood). a 10 gallon plastic garbage pail. we always just go ahead and trim the hide back so that the holes are eliminated. Also make sure the ends of the boards extend about four inches beyond where they are connected. about 60' of it cut into 6' foot lengths.The Pre-Smoking Method Revised and Expanded December 9. Avoid hides that have a lot of score marks. It provides a smooth surface unlike a peeled log that will get nicks in it after a while and cause nicks in the hide as you dehair (ed. 1998 © 1998 SUNDOG TRADERS: Joseph Dinsmore & Victoria Longtrail D. Often times we get special orders for hides that have the skin of the legs left on. We use a PVC pipe to scrape on. a plastic garbage can. It is surprising how many inquiries we get about tanning elk for a first project. a utility knife.

The hair on the neck is always more difficult to remove than the rest of the hide. You should use old clothing and water proof gloves. Different sections The neck. It is important to remove as much as possible but not necessary to get 100 percent of it. tie it and stick it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer until you can get to it. Even in cold weather the hide is most often ready to be de-haired the next day.Storing the Hide Freezing If you are not going to go ahead with the tanning process then you will want to store the hide. Stir it once or twice to make sure all surfaces are in contact with water.com/articles/presmoke2. it can get what we call grease burned and when you go through the process of tanning the hide will fall apart. Salting You can salt the hide and it will keep for quite a while like that. Weigh the hide down with a cinder block or stump to keep the hide totally underwater. we flip it over and pass over the flesh side again. storing salted hides stacked is common practice). Keep in mind that if you have many salted hides and have them stacked up on top of one another. then it can be hung and dried and will keep for years as long as bugs don't get at it. Drying You can also hang the hides to dry AFTER they have been fleshed. if you are interupted and can not work on the hide for a few hours or days you can freeze it without damage to the hide or the tanning process. down the back and the hips are the thickest part of the hide. Joe takes a large garbage bag and cuts the end out. Once you get past the neck the rest of the hide will be relatively easier. This way it can be thrown away after a few uses instead of hosing rain-gear off. We'll discuss this later.com tutorial Storing Hides) De-hairing the Hide Soaking After the hide has been fleshed and you decide to continue the process. Scraping Place the hide on the PVC pipe so that the neck is closest to you as you will want to scrape the hair off in the direction it lays naturally. http://www. note: while this is possible it is not typically a problem. flesh side to flesh side. The idea here is not to slip the hair but to thicken the grain enough so that when it is removed.braintan. As you get toward the sides of the hide. the hair comes off with it. Ideally. the hide gets thinner and you won't want to press as hard as it is easier to put a hole in the hide. If you leave meat and especially fat on the hide and dry the hide. roll it up tightly. We try to get as many fleshed and dehaired as possible then they can be rolled up small and frozen or pre-brained as we most often do to them. place the hide in a plastic garbage can half filled with water. more of the membrane will come off because the hide is not padded by the hair still being on like it was in the fleshing step. If the hide has been fleshed well. than slips it on like a skirt. see the braintan. (For more on hide storage. there will be heat generated within the pile that could cause the hides to rot (ed.html1 . Bulk Strategy We usually buy hides twenty or more at a time. Membraning Once the hide has been de-haired. If you are only doing one or two then you can fold the hide. You can recognise the grain as a brown/pinkish layer at the roots of the hair. In fact any time during the tanning process. freezing it is the best way to go. some are salted but most are fresh. Joe lost over a hundred hides a few years back due to little burrowing bugs.

braintan. http://www. If it is hot and windy. We buy the brains in bulk. the rest can be pushed down and submerged also. clothes pin it in a couple of places and prop it open with sticks we find laying around. If you don't have well water then any ground water or rain water would do. We usually hang it over the line. Do not boil it as it seems to have an adverse effect on the solution. As you are swishing the hide and working your way around the edge you will notice that the hide is getting lighter in color and is becoming soft and slimey. chances are the hides will dry enough in one day to take them down for soaking in cold water. We always heat the brain solution. The chlorine has an adverse effect on the function on the brains. Thats good. Leave it in the water overnight. making sure it is not sticking to itself and the air can circulate over all of it. Preparing the Solution Take about a pound of cow brains and either blend them in a blender. we prefer our hides to be soft and lofty. or for storage. by the pound through our local meat market. It is possible to let them dry out too much. The next day hang it out on a line. yellowish with bloody spots on it perhaps. You want them to be slightly flexible. Fill a ten gallon plastic container to about 3/4 of the way full with cold water. The hide will be discolored. or squish them through a screen to get it as mashed as possible when mixed with about four to five gallons of water. Putting the Hide In At this point your hide should be somewhat damp and not real wet as you have just scraped it and most of the moisture from soaking it has been removed. do not use chlorinated water. Fold the hide and stick it in the water. usually you will not get the whole thing submerged as it is stiff but as the hide softens in the water. Also if possible. We use well water for this step. At this point the hide will be a yellowish color again. Take the edge of the hide and sort of work your way around the entire edge making sure it is not folded and stuck to itself.com/articles/presmoke3. We use cow brains. They can be stacked and stored indefinately at this point as long as they are in a dry place.Pre-Braining When we have finished de-hairing we pre-brain the hide.html1 . Resoaking It If you plan on continuing the tanning process then do the following in preparation for pre-stretching. We have used pig brains but find them greasy and result in a more dense hide. Put the hide into the warmed brain solution and swish it around a bit. At this point the hide should be so soft and slimey that it is difficult to hang on to. Drying the brained hide for storage Submerge the hide in the brain solution and let it soak over night.

But you can improvise by using a canoe paddle or something else. it should be fuzzy on both sides. and not very long. http://www. If they are too close to the edge they tend to break during the prestretching or softening process. I like for the hide to be the shape of a hide but not have all sorts of hanging down pieces on it. It will again be a yellowish color. it is all personal preference and doesn't matter since the frame is reversed and turned all different ways. I start lacing the hide onto the frame from the top end and then lace from one side and then the other. As you work the hide when it is wet. I like the holes to be about an inch long so it is easy to lace them.braintan. This is the point where I trim the hide and cut the lacing holes with the utility knife. And white with no areas yellowish as when in the rawhide state. The idea behind this step is to stretch the fibers apart as much as possible and let the hide dry that way in preparation for the pre-smoking step which is next.html1 . as it does so.com/articles/presmoke4. or parts that stick out further than others. all the way to the edges. Stretching I use a tool we have made. Lacing it in the Frame Lace the hide onto the frame. I use a glovers needle and artificial sinew and a blanket stitch. I have found that the fibers pull apart best when stretched from side to side as opposed to lengthwise. I sew the holes up now so that there is no pucker in the hide at the end of the process. keep taking up the slack by shortening the laces. Preparing the Hide for the Rack Now I cut the lacing holes. with an axe head welded onto a pipe. working my way down both sides of the hide so it does not get pulled towards one side or another. it should be rubbery feeling. If the neck is exceptionally long I cut it down so it is nearly straight across at the shoulders. Be sure to hit key points of the hide.Pre-stretching Trimming When you take the hide out of the water after soaking overnight. It doesn't matter which end or which side is up. away from the edge of the hide. I make them about five inches apart and about 3/4 of an inch in. it will keep stretching. Keep the hide tight and the fibers pulled apart and not allowed to shrink back together. At this time I usually end up with a hide that is stretched very wide. Sewing Holes It is during this time that I sew up any holes. I also sew any scores that look to me will break through. When the hide has dried. I cut the legs off rather short so they are not extending much beyond the shape of the body.

and were known to soften up readily when wet. From what we have read and from some Native Americans we have talked to it seems it is an old method. There are many ways to build a smoker and most of them work just fine. the deeper the smoke is absorbed into the hide and coats the fibers. The same thing occurs when the hide is pre-smoked and the smoke goes into the fibers of the pre-stretched hide. Therefore we smoke several hides for two days to get them a nice yellow color. We suspend the hides in a horizontal fashion.com/articles/presmoke5. http://www. thus the necessity to pre-stretch well. We use old juniper fence posts. The better the pre-stretching. Keep the fire smothered so it is cool and not a hot fire.braintan. the easier the hide softens up. then any punky wood would work. Also. The first hide is about three feet from the smoke pot and then about every foot and a half to the top. We use a pot with a metal cover that has holes poked in it to allow air inside. It is quicker to sew the hide into a sort of sleeve and do them individually but we do so many hides. How to do it We found that the darker the hide is smoked. is to reason it with the fact that the tops of worn out hide tipis were used to make clothing. you are required to work the hide less during the softening process. from ties at opposite corners of the smoker. that it is not time effective for us. How Pre-smoking Works The best way we can figure to explain why the pre-smoking works. the easier it is to soften in the last step. If you can't get either of these. cut into wafers with a bit of sawdust around them.Pre-smoking Intro This step is not done by most tanners. It is possible to cook the hide in the smoker especially if it is hot outside.html1 . Our smoker is built of four pieces of plywood with a top and a hinged door at the bottom of the front. Joe says the best wood to smoke with is cedar. a hide can be overworked resulting in a stiffer feeling hide. by using the pre-smoke method.

Just work it back and forth to make sure the fibers open up a bit. just in case it floats to the top. We use a piece of screen to lay over the hide in the solution. When you have done this to the whole hide then put it back into the warm solution to soak over night. you will want to make sure you work on the band well. A towel would do also. This solution is used many times as the smoke seems to preserve it. We have a metal band connected to a post in a vertical manner with enough room between the post and band to easily put a hide behind and pull it side to side. You don't have to really pull hard. The ones that do. http://www. at the neck.braintan. some hides do and some don't. You might find that the hide feels a bit rubbery or dense at this point. I like to pay special attention to the hair side of the hide. Some Thoughts On Brain Solutions If we are starting out on a whole new batch of hides and need to pre-brain some hides. to an already prepared. we make another brain solution and brain however many hides we will be softening up the next day. just enough to feel the hide stretch. we will make up a brain solution and pre-brain up to a dozen hides doing as many as four or five at a time. After that many hides we use then use the same solution for the prebraining step and make a new solution for additional presmoked hides. as it will soften as you do. note: I'm not sure what theory they are referring too). work them a bit anyway. Even after a dozen hides or more the solution still smells like wet smokey wood and does not have a spoiled smell. When it is time to brain hides that have been presmoked. The hide when coming out of the smoker will be slightly stiff but as you put the hide into the warm solution it will readily soften up and absorb the brain solution. Slosh it around to make sure all the hide is wet. Thus it is cost effective and also shoots down the theory of one cow brain per hide (ed. Some hides at this point just stretch like crazy and feel very soft.html1 .Braining the Hide Before Softening it Soaking We found it is best to go right from the smoker. usually two. warm brain solution.com/articles/presmoke6. back and hip area. Usually we then discard that solution. Just something to keep the hide moist in case it floats to the top of the solution. Working it Open Leave the hide in the solution for about an hour then take it out and work it over a band.

(if it is near the edge like sometimes happens at the neck). Also if it is real hot. If you quit working the hide then. back and hips. it is better to leave more moisture in the hide. Brain tanning is our only source of income. We tan year round. Softening the Hide Work the hide in a side to side motion all over. Brain tanning is a never ending learning process. Lace across the top first then tie a lace at the bottom. We run it through a couple of times until most of the moisture is out. alternating from one side to the other to keep the hide straight in the frame. Recently Joe has began to do all of his on a frame too. the liquid that comes out should be a milky white color. The neck. We do hides that are equally soft all over and all the way through. then reverse it and do the same thing to the other side. About The Authors Joe has been tanning for nearly 12 years. but focus more on the side to side motion.braintan. Sometime it is by accident and other times well thought about. cable and band. Hand vs. Lacing it onto the Frame Lace the hide onto the frame leaving a sufficient amount of space at the top. We sell our hides at $12 per square foot and most of the hides we do are above nine square feet in size. Do not pull the hide tight. you can either go back to the smoker for additional color or use it the way it is.more often. He has tried many different ways and as many different tools. To us it seems that way. Work the hide from side to side. Price is $75 per day per person and it usually takes about three days to go through all of the http://www. you will want to take up some slack. as the fibers seperate and soften easier that way as opposed to lengthwise. The edges are thinnest and will dry faster than the neck. As you run the hide through the wringer.Softening the Hide Wringing We use a wringer like the kind on an old wringer washer.less often. so you can see how we can live on our business of tanning and you could too or use it as a supplement to your regular source of income. Go back up to the top and begin down the sides. Classes with the Dinsmores This article is best used in conjunction with The Dinsmore's video guide to the Pre-Smoke Method now available at the Braintan.com/articles/presmoke7. Just keep working the hide until it is dry all the way through. the weather dictates how often the hide must be worked. It wore out my arms and shoulders to do it that way and I opted to do it on a frame. this is the way we prefer to do it. If we get a hard spot. we feel that through trial and error we are doing hides the quickest and easiest way we have found. On a hot day . We often come up with ideas that make the job easier and faster. Some tanners use a sander to sand smooth the outter layers of a hard spot but then the inside is still dense and not suitable for beading. before you even finish lacing it onto the frame. It seems when the hide is wrung by twisting. it tightens up the fibers.html1 . Together we have a production line going with hides in all stages of completion. back and hip areas will dry last. The hide should have a smokey wet wood smell and be soft.. as at times. As in the pre-stretching. The hide should always be slightly baggy in the softening step. As the hide stretches.. and on a cool day . it has begun to dry. So this is how we do it on a frame. Frame Softening Up until recently Joe softened the hides by hand using a square post. The hide should be slightly baggy in the frame. Sometimes they feel dry on the surface but are still damp in the middle. Our's clamps onto one of our frames we have leaning against the smoker. it will harden up inside. we either cut it out.com Store We offer seminars nearly year round. Finishing Up When the hide is softened and dry. We usually double the hide and run it through. You will also work the hide lengthwise. When we treat our tanning like a regular every day job we can produce six to seven hides per week. Again. I (Victoria Longtrail) have been around tanning for nearly as long but have only been a tanner for about a year. You lace it at the bottom so it does not come out shaped wide and short like it does when prestretching. there are different ways to wring out a hide. or we rebrain the hide again. but don't tighten it like in the pre-stretching phase.

html 2 . Montana 59087 406-429-7828 ezra@midrivers.steps. POB 182 Winnett.com http://www.braintan. We are always willing to answer questions by phone or e-mail. SUNDOG TRADERS: Joseph Dinsmore & Victoria Longtrail D.com/articles/presmoke7.

Tan Your Pelts With Nature's Tools Adapted for the web from a chapter in Brain Tan Buffalo Robes. The process is an easy one and will start you on the way to using all of the animal when you take it's life.braintan. Whether you are seven or seventy. color. Thoughtlessly and sometimes without knowing. As much as possible pull the pelt off the carcass. particularly at the head. But whether from the trap or the road. neck and tail.no chemicals are needed. left there to become crow food. this stuff acts like rubber cement and must be cut carefully. each animal comes with a complete tanning package -. They're great for bags and pouches to flip over a belt. It was a large. With knife or sharp stone in hand make an incision from the hock to the vent (see diagram 1).com/articles/furs/miller1. O Skinning Jim Miller and friends To remove the pelt from the body or carcass. Warmth.html1 . Next cut the tail on the underside from the vent to it's tip. Nonetheless. Cut through the cartilage beneath the nose and ears. the membrane and pelt will pull away easily. It will sometimes want to pull off with the pelt. for the beginning tanner a road kill could become a rewarding first project. Skins and Pelts by Jim Miller ur ancestors lived very close to the circle of life. Thankful always for the food. Pelts taken off in this manner are referred to as cased. Today. Also very warm as socks though usually the fur is short lived. one need only walk the roadside to find animals whose lives were taken. tools and clothing that came from a successful hunt. So let's get started. If the raccoon is a fairly fresh kill and still warm. protection and camouflage are shared with us by our four-legged brothers through the giving of their pelts. Always leave as much of the fat and meat on the carcass as possible. Only use your knife if absolutely necessary. begin pulling the pelt up away from the leg and cut the film or membrane that holds the skin to the meat. if the carcass is cold. a pair of rubber gloves are recommended when handling these critters from the wild. fluffy road kill raccoon I named Ricky. My hat is made from the first pelt I ever tanned. http://www. tie both back legs to a tree limb about head high. However. Many of these pelts are in perfect condition. Using the knife gently.

Fortunately they're so fluffy they can be sewn back together without a sign of the disaster.) Now. Sometimes hair will pull back through the underside of the skin. so take your time. Fleshing a pelt. Remove all the fat. Definitely not a good beginners project! You can use a fairly crescent shaped knife held at a 90 degree angle to the pelt. tacked out on a plywood board Of course if the animal was struck by a car and has Good Year stamped in the facial fur. Now push and scrape. Clean them well (soap and water?) but go gently. I also use the same scraper used on buffalo. meat and membrane until you begin to see the pores of the skin. This is usually from animals killed during the summer or early fall. it's an old butchers saying. http://www. slice the hide open all the way up the belly to the hair of the chinny-chin-chin.braintan. Just move on to the next area and keep scraping. they can break fairly easily. Buffaloes I stake out right on the ground.com/articles/furs/miller2. throw it over a very smooth log or tack it out flat on a piece of plywood (see photo). The tails generally have a lot of fat on them. (Sorry. you may want to cut the mask off entirely.html1 .Fleshing To simplify your first project. The membrane on the head or mask is the toughest to get off.

The way it was created to be used. This leaves you with a pelt that is soft. The fine oil that is used is the reason for this. When the animals life is taken it gives you a complete tanning package as a bonus. http://www. Pelts and skins used for brain tanning require a thorough fleshing job.html1 . Apply the lukewarm mixture and rub it in by hand.Braining You've finished the first step referred to as fleshing. mix or blend into an oily liquid. Go ahead ladies. Buff up the pelts surface with some sandpaper. or granite rock. Cook this mixture for about 10 minutes. No harsh or toxic chemicals are used.braintan. light. Buff the surface again and apply the second coat. Remove the brain from the raccoon's skull and mix with about 1-1/2 cups of water.com/articles/furs/miller3. This is the only way for me. Allow to dry overnight. fluffy and very natural feeling. Every critter has enough brains to tan it's own hide. This will be divided into two equal amounts. Now cover with a very warm and wet towel and let it set overnight. except buffaloes (and some people I know). sandstone. Then mash. it'll make your skin soft. Thicker pelts require more brain and more applications but most raccoons can be done in just two coatings.

stop the car. but continue to stretch until dry. Take it as a lesson from mother nature and keep trying. If for some reason the pelt dries tough in some spots.com/articles/furs/miller4. I think I saw something back there. honey.braintan.. you should expect your pelt not to do this. So clear out a corner of the garage and brain-tan those pelts. If you wait until the hide is totally dry before rebraining. it's ready to be smoked in the teepee. If you are softening and you notice that the pelt is getting unacceptably stiff (anywhere besides the edges)and you can't work that stiffness out. Hey.its time to re-apply the brains. let it soak in and stretch until dry. but smoking deters them allowing you to enjoy them year round. Applying oil to these fibers and rubbing them together fluffs them up making them soft and airy. resoftening cycle until the hide is as soft as you want it to be. Take breaks whenever needed. The fibers in the skin are a lot like a baby diaper. The skin can be hung at the top and rotten wood placed on the fire to smolder and smoke. Smoking When the pelt is dry and no longer cool to the touch. If you do enough Working the hide over a straight edge tanning you will get some tough ones. http://www. crossing and overlapping each other. Pull side to side and head to tail.Softening The following morning uncover and begin to stretch your hide (see photo). If it does consider yourself lucky.. Remember you want smoke not fire. A Note From the Editor While some pelts do come out soft with the first braining. mix another solution of brains and re-apply. Pull the pelt down over it.html1 . At the campfire the pelt can be suspended on sticks downwind but out of reach from a possible wild flame. A beautiful and respectful momento from the hunt or a well earned reward for salvaging a road kill. You can continue this re-braining. Moths like tanned pelts of any kind. stretching and buffing over the full length of the pelt. The back of an old wooden chair works well for this. it won't absorb the brains as well and won't soften up as soft.

I call them baby buffalo. Also. After soaking for an hour or more I stretch and pull it in the solution until it is completely saturated and then wring it out just as a deer skin! The hair will look shiny and does not slip. or laced onto a hoop or small rack. This Article is excerpted from Jim's forty page book Brain Tan Buffalo Robes. This will require them to be stretched and tacked on a board after fleshing over the beam. tail and jaws. neck and tail. Average to large blanket size beaver are very thick at the neck. I brain them twice and work them dry as described earlier in this chapter. Feel the thickness of the pelt in the rib area and use that as your gauge for the rest of the back. with many of the heavier pelts such as beaver.com/articles/furs/miller5.braintan. Then I dunk them right into the warm brain slurry. (I got this tip several years ago while working with another tanner from Montana.html1 . Temperatures of 20 degrees or less work best. Skins and Pelts. And as with buff's I use my hand held scraper (wahintke) to thin them out a bit before braining.Tips for Tanning Heavier Furs A couple additional bits of information for you when working with beaver pelts. You can find contact information and more details about what Jim does in braintan.) Just be sure to work the pelts completely dry and give them a thorough smoking of a couple hours or more. ©1997 by Willow Winds Drawings by: Joe Schnur Photos: Greg Lashbrook http://www. It works well in winter to hoop and freeze scrape them too. This scrape/thinning is most easily accomplished when the pelt is still damp. You can read our online review and ordering information to get a copy directly from Jim.com's Resource Directory or at his 'Willow Winds' website.

and take extra care when you begin to soften the skin in this area. fox. (If you are worried about fleas you can place the dead fox in a trash bag and spray it full of Raid or some other flea killer). The furs that I have tanned with varying degrees of success are marten. coyote. coyote.braintan. and pine marten. muskrat. I recommend using this article in conjunction with Jim Miller's article Tan Your Pelts With Nature's Tools. beaver. Over the last several years I have been brain tanning many of my furs. There is an assumption that the reader already has a basic knowledge of certain steps of fur-handling.com/articles/furs/george1. bobcat. Getting Started I will describe how to tan a fox. and beaver. as a source of more information and alternative ways of doing things. The process begins as soon as we get the animal. This is the way the Indians did it. I use a two handled fleshing knife that I bought through a trapping supply catalog. When tanning coyote and coon you must thin the skin on the shoulders to get the softest tanning job. The skins that you do this way are even edible. easy and inexpensive way to tan your furs. Most any fur will work the same way.Brain Tanning Furs by George Michaud Editors Note: This article is adapted for the web from an article George originally wrote for Fur-Fish-Game Magazine. coon. In this way I can place the fur on the beam and hold it in place by pressing my body against the beam. http://www. sew it up. I use two different types of fleshing beams. mink. Beaver and muskrat are the two hardest that I have tried. and coon. I use this method for deer. the less knife cuts you make in the hide when skinning the easier it will be to tan and the nicer it will come out. It is set at an angle that hits me just above my belt. I also have a small beam that I can mount on a bench and use a hose scraper for muskrat. To thin the fur I place the dried skin on a fleshing beam and using a sharp large knife I scrape the skin. I hold the knife at a 90 degree angle to the skin and I scrape it very carefully. One is a 5 foot maple beam that has a rounded and tapered point that is mounted to a 2X6 base board and it has a supporting leg.html1 . Fleshing After skinning the fox you want to scrape it thoroughly making sure to get rid of all the fat and any membrane. If you do put a hole in it. Be very careful that you don't damage the hide. It is a safe.

Continue doing this until you have covered the entire skin. Turn the skin over and do the same on the other side. For the brain I go to the local market and get either a pig brain or a beef brain. a bath towel (not one of the good ones) and some punky wood. It is best to start this project in the morning as it will take a few hours to finish. The skin should be already starting to soften up some. If not.html1 . Place the fox skin on a table and pour some of the brain on the skin and start to work it in with your hands. Next roll the skin up in the towel and let it set for a couple of hours. Braining For tanning you will need one brain. Next I borrow her hair dryer to blow dry the fur.braintan. Get all of the above mentioned items together and now the real fun begins. Remove the skin from the stretcher when it is completely dry and you are ready to begin. Unroll the towel and check the skin to see if it is thoroughly soaked and pliable. Now take the towel and soak it in hot water then wring most of the water out. here in the Rockies I use aspen. After the brain is thawed (about 1 minute 30 seconds on high) you drop it in the blender with a 1/2 container of hot water (out of the tap is fine). The next step is to turn the fur in and dry the skin a stretched out like you would if you were taking it to the buyer. Remember to put the bowl with the brain in it in the refrigerator until you need it again. This is usually best done when she isn't home. They come in a nice little container that is real handy. a blender. You want to have the skin covered with it. Just to heat it but not cook it. all you want is a hot moist towel. It really doesn't matter which one as either one will work. work some more brain into it and roll it back up in the towel for another hour or two. Place the fox skin on the towel and pour more of the brain mix onto the skin. Next pour the contents of the blender into a plastic bowl and put it back in the micro wave for another 3 minutes. I use Suave shampoo for this and the bath tub when my wife isn't looking. http://www. Hit liquefy until it looks like a strawberry shake. First thaw the brain in the micro wave.Washing Your Fur Now that the skin is scraped you want to wash it. The more of the brain that gets worked into the skin the softer and easier it will tan. At times I have been forced to buy a whole case of brains as it is a special order but they are not very expensive. and they will last in the freezer forever. a microwave.com/articles/furs/george2.

but it makes it a lot harder to smoke it (You smoke the skin to water proof it). You don't want to wait til the skin is completely dry as this makes softening it harder or impossible. It is easier to split the skin down the belly to work it.com/articles/furs/george3.braintan. This action causes friction which causes heat and helps dry the skin. and just hang the skin up to dry on the clothes line (don't stretch it). To soften the skin I use a new beaver snare. If you do split the skin you will have to sew it back together to smoke it. I pull the skin different directions to work the fibers. I begin pulling the skin back and forth across the cable (fur side in). Just as it starts to feel dry in some places I begin to work the skin. http://www.html1 . Be careful not to over work the skin to where the fur starts to come through the inner side of the skin. This way I can increase or decrease the tension on the cable by leaning on the door.Softening After the skin has been treated I wipe as much of the brain solution off as I can with the towel.com Store). or you can use a piece of steel cable (available at hardware stores or through the Braintan. I attach one end of the snare to a door knob and the other end to a solid object. I also stretch it with my hands.

One other thing: sew the leg holes closed as the smoke will discolor the fur anywhere it escapes.angelfire. Build a simple tri-pod over the hole to hang the skin from by a cord through the nose. what it does do is make it so that if it gets wet all you have to do is rub it between your hands when it is dry and it will be as soft as the day you tanned it. George Michaud traps. I smoke my furs for about 30 minutes. now put the punky wood on the coals and have some water handy to put out any flames that break out. Spread the skirt that you sewed on the skin over the hole and place rocks on it to hold it down. and teaches trapping and the brain tanning of furs. runs his own dog sleds. If the wife catches you using the kitchen appliances just tell her that you were doing it for her new fur coat. The tanned furs will be as soft as the finest fur dress if you put a little work into them. He guides trips through the Tetons on his dog sleds.com/biz/4pawpower/ http://www. To learn more his dog-sled tours. It also prevents decay and bugs from devouring it.com/articles/furs/george4. Build a fire in the hole and let it burn down to coals. Parting Thoughts With this method you can tan several skins with one brain and for under two bucks.html1 . The smoking doesn't make the fur water proof. The easiest way to smoke the skin is to turn it fur side out and sew an 18 to 24 inch canvas skirt on it.braintan. Next dig a hole about 12 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep (a post hole digger works great for this). This is sewed to the bottom of the skin so that it is slightly funnel shaped sloping up to the skin. All you want is smoke and not heat because high heat will damage the fur. check out his website at www. This is a safe way to tan furs around children and pets.Smoking After the skin is softened you will want to smoke it. Stay right with the skin checking frequently to make sure the wood doesn't catch fire.

It is used as an integral part of many useful items from bellows. There seem to be two major schools of bark tanning. It was a stone mill powered by a horse and its creation caused a number of tanneries to begin operation in the area. Bark tanneries were set up in nearly every settlement of the new world because this type of leather was considered a necessity. In 1633. but it is generally reserved for tanning grain-on leathers from large thick hides such as cattle. Many people believe that this type of softer bark tan was once common throughout Europe. The earliest known example of vegetable tanning comes from Gebelein Egypt. Modern uses include saddles.Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Intro Bark tanning (aka vegetable tanning) is an ancient method of creating durable. In this article we'll focus on the bark tanning tradition of 'civilized' peoples. canteens. harnesses. to hinges of trunks. bark tanning was mechanized from a very early date. We've set up a separate section on the bark tanning techniques of native peoples. Inuit and Eskimo. for example.. dog collars. and dozens of vats for the long soaks encouraged this. Peter Minuit had the first bark mill in North America built in New Netherland (later New York). Reed. historically.229 tanneries in operation in the US. a very unique and useful combination. a tannery thought to be over 5000 years old. generally by just applying the tannin to the flesh side and doing it on relatively thin hides." R. but even so by modern standards they are lightly-tanned and contain only small amounts of fixed tannin. Bark tanning continued to be an important and basic trade throughout Europe. Unlike brain tanning. horse. helmets. but these northern peoples did (and still do) tan this way. The census of 1840 estimated some 8. shields and gun cases. trunks. Rome and Greece. It can be done to virtually any skin.htm1 .. http://www. harnesses. It has been commonly used for saddles. History: "Through-tanned vegetable leathers of appreciable firmness are extant from 1500 BC in Egypt. holsters.com/barktan/1basics. softer hides such as deer and caribou employed by northern tribal peoples such as the Saami (Laplanders). though on a much more limited basis than in the past. pouches. Rome and Egypt. Ancient Skins. water repellent leather with a lot of body.which is what we typically think of as "bark tan". This type of bark tanning tends to involve much less soaking time (and thus less 'tanning') and a softer finished product. The need for large quantities of bark to be crushed. wallets. the Middle East and India until the late 1800's when cheap modern chemical tanning methods came into widespread use. You know those beautifully carved holsters and saddles? That's all done on bark tanned hides. stiff shoes.braintan.. buffalo and pig. belts. and the Chukchee of eastern Russia. There is also a style of bark tanning done on thinner. Parchments and Leathers Highly developed bark 'tanneries' were common in ancient Greece. which wasn't efficient to mechanize. There is the style developed by civilized man in ancient Egypt. to holding wagon wheels together. Bark tanning continues to be done on a large scale and used throughout the world. When the colonists came to North America they brought their leather working skills with them. North Africa. providing an immensely strong and durable material that was pliable. holsters and shoe soles. Bark from the clearing of forests for agriculture was in great supply. In general it is considered a bad idea to bark tan furs as the tannins can stain the fur. belts. Bark tanned leathers were an important tool in the development of civilization.

when you peruse the literature. probably because it dissolves out the hide's natural greases. tannins are used to draw irritants out of your skin such as the venom from bee stings or poison oak. generally yellow-white to brown. oak galls. Shredded bark from sawmills sold as garden mulch is excellent for bark tanning (assuming it hasn't been left out in the rain a bunch). heather. Another source said oaks are best between 30 and 35 years. chestnut. Fir bark has as much as 11% tannin and yields a yellow/brown leather. tannins are used as tanning agents for leather. pull some fresh bark off the twig of a nearby tree. Mark Odle suggests that in general it takes about twice the weight of the hide in bark to effect a good tan. The resultant leather is of pale color varying from creamy or yellowish to light brown. Alder makes a hard and fragile leather and is often used just to color finished leather. Hence they are favored for sole leather. in all climates. red or dark brown hues. whereas naturally occurring tannin is closer to 10% to 12% of the material. although many sources say the resultant leather is of a lower quality.braintan. oak galls and oak-wood contain pyrogallols.. but it is interesting to pay attention to as you tan.. Next time you get stung. alder. Certain willows are considered excellent.. fir. Collecting: All barks are best collected in the spring when the sap starts to rise in the trees. tea. Common Sources: Typical materials used for bark tanning include any of the oaks.not herb teas). Tannin is usually concentrated in the inner bark (cambium layer)." Average tannin equals 12%. These extracts are typically 30% tannin or more. bark to unripe fruit (ever bitten into an unripe persimmon?). astringent (meaning it tightens pores and draws liquids out). They also create greenish-black spots on contact with iron.Because they transform proteins into insoluble products that are resistant to decomposition. in one country or another. I wouldn't worry about it. Using these concentrated extracts speeds up the tanning times considerably. When you apply tannins to your skin you can instantly see the skin contract.. from root to leaves. The Two Types There are two types of tannin: Catechol and Pyrogallol... Oak wood = 6%. certain fern's rhizomes and wood-hops have also been used. Pyrogallols (aka hydrolysable) deposit a pale-colored sediment called 'bloom' (elegiac acid} which.so I wouldn't get to caught up in it. that are more 'solid'. but you can use bark from any time of year. The irritation will go away within seconds. you realize that an enormous amount of plants were at one time or another. The tradition of adding milk to tea has the added benefit of causing the tannins to bind to the proteins in the milk rather than to the proteins in your liver and kidneys. Stats on various tannin sources Oak bark averages 10% tannin. It is usually used in combo with other materials and is sought for its high sugar content. alfalfa. Tannins occur in nearly every plant from all over the world.. The brightest color comes from the bark collected just after the first hard freeze. This is when they are most concentrated and the easiest to peel.com/barktan/2tannins. In modern times 80% of all commercial bark tanning is done with highly concentrated extracts of Quebracho. certain willows. Bearberry (leaves). wearing properties and resistance to water. light or heavy. It can have 10% tannin. In fact. canaigre root.. http://www. How Much: It really depends on the quality of your source.htm1 . Supposedly. Gives a light red-brown color. upholstery and other purposes where longevity is essential. hemlock. It is found in almost any part of the plant. mellow and soft." Encarta Encyclopedia annin is a large. Oak bark contains both types. They make leathers of pink. birch. There are so many varieties that this surely varies. Oak leather is considered mellow and tight. One source says that fir trees should reach 30 years old before debarking and the best oak trees are between 15 and 30 years. an older tree has more tannin than a younger one. sumac leaves. Sumac. Catechols (aka condensed) are more astringent and tan more quickly than the pyrogallols. Many plants don't contain a useful amount of tannin. important sources of tannin. the expert tanner could reputedly create the appropriate leather for any need: hard and firm. pomegranate rinds. Most trees contain plenty of tannin. They are also preferable for leathers intended for bookbinding. Pyrogallols make bluish-black spots on contact with iron and resist changes in pH value. Medicinally. deepen in color when exposed to light. the leaves are just coming out and the bark will peel easily (a fortunate coincidence). chew it up and apply it to the sting. Mimosa. Lotta Rahme says that "birch bark yields a somewhat fragile leather. alder and fir bark contain catechols.. you are literally tanning your insides. When you drink tea without milk. They deposit a reddish sediment known as 'reds' or phlobaphenes. if deposited in the leather. molecule found in plants that bonds readily with proteins. improves its solidarity. Until you are an expert and can even notice the differences.Tannin and Tannin Sources "Tannins. sweet gale. bloodroot. fungi and mosses do not contain much tannin. quebracho. Tannins are also applied to burns to help the healing and to cuts to reduce bleeding. T Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Another every day interaction with tannin is in tea (from the tea plant. It gives a rust orange to red/brown. Algae. By understanding when to blend these together. birch. hemlock. It is concentrated in the bark layer where it forms a barrier against microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria (when hides are stuck into tannin baths the bacteria are also killed). Chestnut or Mimosa. Put them in your mouth and your cheeks pucker. with a yellow-brown color. yielding a soft and supple leather. chestnut. and the lower parts of the tree contain a higher concentration than the top parts.

Tannin is water soluble and will be leached out of wood or bark that has been left out in the rain. Bark is easier to grind if its dry too. Good for both heavy sole as well as lighter fancy leather. The liquors are bright red and full of acid-forming sugars. http://www.braintan.com/barktan/2tannins. If kept dry. It is among the most desirable of barks for tanning. Hemlock bark contains about 10% tannin.htm 2 . Chestnut oak also called rock oak is classified as a white oak and is high in tannin (10%).Storing: Bark should be dried out and stored dry. as well as acid-forming sugars. it can be stored indefinitely without losing its effectiveness.

it is preferable to use hides that have been stored frozen or wet-salted. Deer hair slips more easily than many other types of hides. it will take longer for the tannins to penetrate the hide and you will need to use more of them. This is because the alkali clean out a mucus that controls the movement of molecules through the hide. The alternative. Sometimes it'll just brush off with the hair. but that the grain and hide are not marred. other times you'll need to make a conscious effort to remove it. but you want it to be so easy that you can just push the hair out rubbing your hand over the hide. particularly if the hide soaked in the lime for an extended period of time (more than three weeks) See Ancient Skins. These processes were employed when a limed hide was intended to come out more pliable and historically involved soaking the hide in fermenting materials such as hen or dog dung (known as bating). For more.Fleshing & De-hairing Please Note: These instructions assume that you understand basic tanning processes. It should be more rounded than what you would use to scrape a brain tan. return the hide to the alkaline solution. Lime will leave some calcium in the hide. soak the skin in an alkaline solution of hydrated lime. or something similar. If you don't want a firmer leather. You do want to remove the epidermis though.braintan. Limed hides. Rinsing: When all of the hair and epidermis has been removed. or take a class. A Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Bucking/Liming: After fleshing. especially in the summer.htm1 . Fleshing: Flesh as you would for brain tanning. The epidermis contains the pigment and is a darkish gray/black. Be careful not to damage the grain. Dried out hides are harder to re-hydrate and get good penetration by the buck and the bark liquor. This phenomenon has historically been exploited to create firmer leathers. De-hairing: To remove the hair it is best to use a wooden bar with a dull edge. Bucking or liming takes longer than it does to simply prepare a hide for brain tanning. Early on. you are better off bucking. You do not need to get every last bit of membrane off at first. you should get one of the Recommended Books. or are fresh. wood-ash lye or commercial lye (see the book Deerskins into Buckskins for thorough directions) until the hair slips super easily. You do not have to do this step though it is a classic part of the bark tanning process. which is the dark pigmented layer just below the hair. If you don't. rinse the alkali out of the hide by soaking it in running water for 12 to 72 hours (until all signs of swollen-ness are gone). If you don't soak the hides in one of these alkaline solutions. one does notice that limed hides tend to come out less stretchy than bucked hides. s in any type of tanning.com/barktan/3fleshing. Parchments and Leathers. beer dregs. See more below under 'Rinsing'. or fermenting grains (known as drenching). Some people find it easier to membrane the hide after it has been soaked in the tannin for a few days. is to let the hide "sweat" by letting it decay enough that the hair slips. tend to come out somewhat less stretchy than bucked hides. that to fully remove involves further processes that I prefer to gloss over here. In brain tanning. If patches of hair will not slip easily. see the Storing Hides Tutorial. which some native people's do. the hair will pull out of the hide fairly easily. especially if they are limed for extended period of times. as you do not want to cut or mar the grain. http://www. for more on bating and drenching.

The main reason soft water is preferred is because the minerals will react with the tannic acid and create spots or blemishes on the skin. which help remove any traces of lime as well as help preserve the hide. if any has been left in the hide (the iron in blood can react with the tannin to make a black stain).. Use a plastic or wooden tub. Use wooden stirring paddles. I don't know if they treated their water to remove minerals. forming lactic and acetic acid. If the hide is put into a strong tannin bath. The warmer the water you soak the bark in the faster the tannin is extracted. Some traditions have you soak the bark in cold water for a few days to extract the tannin. That way all the large tannin particles have already been used up. Your choice.. This is called "dead tanning" or "case hardening". the outside gets tanned and shrinks. the bark sugars have fermented. and then moved to progressively stronger solutions. and masonry tubs are all suitable. The ideal bath to start with is one that has already been used for another hide.. Tannin is water soluble. the more tannin you'll get from a given quantity of material. so don't use them. powered by an ox or horse. It should be emphasized though that the smaller you can get it. There is another advantage to spent liquors. the hide will tan without it. and use the third extraction and then add up to three parts water to the one part liquor for the first solution. The more bitter and astringent the more tannin. leaving the inner parts raw. Iron or aluminum pots will react with the tannic acid and cause stains etc. or they use their hatchet as best they can to pulverize the bark into small pieces. And as mentioned before. simmer again and pour off. This is known as a "spent liquor". So will blood.Making the Bark Solution Preparing the Bark The finer the bark is ground up the faster and easier it is to extract the tannin (its a surface area thing).com/barktan/4barkbath.htm1 .. Here are two recipes: Lotta Rahme: "Fill kettle halfway with bark and totally full with water. chipper/shredders used for making garden mulch. Modern folks use grain mills on a coarse setting. Boiling tannins especially darkens and dulls the color (like adding grays to it). Plastic. or a coarse powder. Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Leaching the Tannin It is ideal to use rain or other soft water..braintan. Bring it to a boil and let it boil for at least an hour. Tanneries were traditionally located on rivers and streams because they used so much water. Hides are start in a weak bath. Hot water darkens tannin resulting in a darker colored product. In an old bark liquor. much like a millstone. It was ground until it was the consistency of cracked corn." The First Bath It is very important to use a very weak solution for your first bath. I don't know of any other functional reason to use soft water.like tea or coffee. http://www. Many tanners will put this aside too. Add more water." Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder: "Steven and Tamara use 1 to 3 gallons of shredded bark and soft water (rain or snow) to cover. In the old days bark was crushed using a large stone wheel. The first pouring is too strong so put this aside. This gives the lightest color. Take half the liquor and mix with equal amounts of water for the first bath. Many sources recommend simmering the bark for several hours. This inhibits the tannins from penetrating to the center of the hide. wood. Dark spots on surface of hide caused by using 'hard water' (water containing minerals). wheat berries. in a 2-5 gallon stainless steel pot for several hours. buying shredded bark (sold as garden mulch) is an easy and cheap way to go. fiberglass. Taste it.

Steven and Tamara used to this. It should be thrown out. Knowing When it is Tanned "Through" Generally. However. However. Different tanners recommend different timings for strengthening the bark solution.Soaking As previously mentioned. A sulpherous smell indicates spoilage. and that you need to be extra careful of case hardening with thick skins like cow. Mark adds three or four gallons to 80 or 100 gallons of liquor. It must be scraped off. Doug Crist says he only has some color reach the center while the outer edges are much darker (much like the hide pictured above). How Long http://www. The texture will change from somewhat slippery to a firmer. Once the whole skin has an even brown color. The pores and grain will become quite distinct. This may be a factor of how much tannin you get into the center of the hide. Strengthening the Solution You should use progressively stronger solutions. Smells. Smell can be strong but should never be putrid. Stir for the first 10 minutes and then once every 10 minutes for the first hour.braintan. Some tanners say that the color should be even from the outer edge to the center. the color should strike through to the center of the thickest part of the hide. skim it off or stir it in. Lotta recommends strengthening it after the first several hours. you can use the old bath to boil the new bark in. If the hides stay in too weak a bath they begin to rot from the inside. Mold may grow on the surface of the liquor. but don't bother any more. he also says that softening the hide is a fair amount of work like brain tanning. for added strength. whereas other folks say it should be much easier. buffalo or bull elk. the bark can be left in with the skin.com/barktan/5soaking. Skin should be turned and agitated frequently in the first few days to assure even absorption. removing the skin and membraning it again at this juncture. He then strengthens it weekly until the hide has been soaking for five or six weeks when the liquor can be used at full strength. but be careful not to remove the grain. bark liquor used as a first bath for skin that was de-haired with lime can contain residual lime and shouldn't be re-used. you want to use wooden. you should stir and re-adjust the hide more often. Mark Odle adds vinegar to further acidify and strengthen the solution. matted and glistening. slippery or slimy. In general. to be considered 'through' tanned. When unfolded the fold should appear as light dry lines. Lotta says that sheepskin epidermis is particularly difficult to get off. Molds & Textures The solution should develop a somewhat pleasant fermented or vinegar like smell from the fermentation of the bark sugars. After you start using full strength solutions. To check this. At no time should the hide become slick. If there are white patches it is from epidermis that was left. Another test is to fold the skin double two times and press the folded area between your fingers. Un-tanned skin will not absorb saliva easily and will appear wet. It is supposed to be (we haven't tried this) ok to freeze the skin in between baths. One rule of thumb seems to be that you can push things faster if you are tanning thinner hides like deer and goat (which Lotta is). Epidermis will block the entry of tannin. and you can leave it for longer times without stirring. If you don't. Mark Odle moves hides to the second run of liquor in a week or ten days. It is best to hang the hide(s) over sticks (crossbars) in the solution with as few folds and wrinkles as possible. snip a small piece off the neck. Lotta will also put a little saliva on the section that has been cut. The bigger the container and the more solution that you have in it. the easier it is to evenly tan the hide.htm1 . you strengthen the liquor as you notice it looking weaker. plastic or masonry containers to do the soaking in. Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Put the moist but drained skin in. textured grain.

Once they are tanned through. But you can always get more tannin to attach itself to the fibers and fill the spaces between the collagen chains.com/barktan/5soaking. http://www. This is also sometimes done for knife-sheaths. or you can leave it in there longer to produce a 'fuller' leather. can take half a year or more. The amount of tannin can reach 50% of the weight of the finished leather.B. Full-tanned hides are also easier to carve designs into the surface of. Once the color has penetrated to the center. The longer you soak it the more it is "filled" with tannins. Cattle and buffalo will take five or six months. but may not be as desirable for other uses. Goatskins are very thin. there is no problem letting them sit in the bath as they will not rot. using around 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 lbs of dried bark. and 6 1/2 months for sole leather. belts and shoe soles. The fuller the hide becomes. Getting color to the center of the hide means that some tanning has occurred throughout the hide. you can either remove it from the solution and proceed to currying.htm 2 . Cattle and elk. These are good qualities for saddles. Looser fibered skins will take the tan more quickly than the tighter skins.How long you soak your hide depends on the finished product that you desire.braintan. Contrary to this. the thicker and less stretchy it gets. Lotta Rahme recommends as little as 7-10 days to tan a goatskin through. The warmer the temperature the faster the process. A. Farnham: Harness and belting leather takes four 1/2 months (for cow). one source says that thick hides used for sole-leather are sometimes left with an un-tanned stripe in the center which makes it more water tight and harder. Here are some ballpark figures of how long you should expect to soak your hides: Mark Odle says deerskin sized hides should remain in a full strength ooze for three or four months in moderate temperatures.

came from bark collected just before snow. This process of oiling. If they wanted it darker they would boil it for just a few minutes first. and then cite specific methods for specific types of leather. You want to be real careful not to tear the grain off. A slicker can be a round. How exactly this is done. then greased and softened. after the first hard freeze (ed. smooth rod or a hand-sized. rinse well. Next the hide is dried a bit. working and drying can be repeated until you get the softness you desire.Currying "Currying is defined as "the preparation of tanned skins for the purpose of imparting to them the necessary smoothness. On completion. luster and suppleness".com/barktan/6currying. Stretch the hide in all directions. Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Once the hide is tanned as thoroughly as you want it. (We've done this using our wetscraping tool on the flesh side of the hide. Some skins required two or three applications.much like oiling a pair of leather boots. Add enough filings from time to time so there will always be some un-dissolved. color. currying was carried out by specialized tradesmen in an entirely different shop as it is an art unto itself. Neatsfoot oil. Mark Odle. any surplus oil or tallow can be removed with a rag. you can soak the hide in any tannin based dye. The Book of Buckskinning VII Traditionally in Europe. Note the men at the table using 'slickers'. Dyeing At this point your bark tanned hide will be whatever color was imparted by the tannins. Rinse off any excess and put back in the sumac over night. A Couple of Dye Recipes Black.braintan. Sumac solution is made by crumbling ten or fifteen pounds of dried sumac leaves into a barrel containing thirty-five or forty gallons of warm water. from Edna Wilder: "To prepare alder bark. scrub with warm water and then wash for some hours with several changes of water. Slickers can also have slate. drain a few minutes and brush over with the iron liquor. the Eskimos scraped the bark in fine pieces. First we'll give you the general rundown. fish. Red. http://www. If you want to change the color of the skin. olive oil. putting a towel between the hide and beam to help protect the grain layer from tearing). note: I've read this in other sources too). it can be "sleeked" with a slicker." Oiling Oiling the bark tanned hide makes it dry softer. Your are trying to remove as much unfixed tannin as possible. When the hide has dried. mixed it with a little water and let the mixture stand for a day or so.B. The brightest alder color. tallow. from A. repeat the brushing with iron liquor and return to the sumac for twelve hours more. Plunge and stir frequently and on taking out rinse off any particles of leaves. Using a light oil such as neatsfoot. Between each rinse use a slicker and a beam to squeegee out the liquid. again depends on what you are looking for in the final product. cows and other ungulates) imparts a heavier feel and more water resistance to the leather. Oil is then spread evenly on the hide and it is either worked soft as it dries or not depending on the type of leather desired. stretchier leather.. When the hide is dry. The dryer the skin the quicker it took the dye. If not black enough the next morning. Any dyeing should be done before oiling the skin. The hide should be damp with all excess water expelled by working it on both sides with the slicker." "Stir it well and when cool hang the sides or strips in it for about two days.htm1 . There is a good chapter on dyeing in Steve & Tamara's Wetscrape Braintanned Buckskin. it can be lightly dampened or "damped back" by rolling it up in a damp towel.. brass. Farnham: "A good black may be made by putting clear iron filings in 1/2 gallon of vinegar and letting it stand a few days. darkens it and prevents it from cracking. usually a tan or reddish brown. elk. They applied the tanning solution generously to the skin in the evening and let is soak overnight. brains. Using tallow (a waxy body fat from deer. rounded edged slab of glass. this color will darken somewhat. They scraped it off in very fine pieces and rubbed it directly on the skin to be dyed." Various activities in a currying shop. bear or brains results in a lighter. bear fat and fish oil have been used to finish bark tanned leather. To smooth the flesh side. copper or heavy glass blades. rinse it in fresh water for a couple hours. Once the hide is oiled. turning it once.

A. Apply a thin coating to the grain side while it is warm and hang them up to dry. take out.B. Repeat if necessary. Sole leather can be waterproofed by greasing heavily. When dry. Farnham. slicking. spread smooth and let dry slowly.com/barktan/6currying. pressing out the rinse water. and hang up again until fully dry. Finally rub over with sawdust to remove a surplus of the grease. If there isn't enough grease in the leather yet. http://www. staking and drying. Recipe: 3 parts tallow to 1 part fish or neatsfoot oil. Prepare a stuffing of equal parts tallow and neatsfoot oil (or fish). Hang up or better. Harness and belting are finished by taking the still quite damp hide. Do not apply tallow or heavy grease to light skins and spend plenty of time slicking and staking it. slick over the grain side thoroughly and give it a liberal coat of neatsfoot or fish oil. and allow to cool until soft and pasty but not liquid. describes different finishing methods To finish sole leather.htm 2 . Heat them together. While still damp give them a good coat of oil on the grain side only. dampen back again and repeat the process of greasing. lay the sides or strips down and press out most of the water by covering with some old dry cloths and treading over the whole surface to compress the fibers.braintan. damp back by wetting or rolling up in wet burlap until damp and limber all over. then hang up until they are only damp. When dry remove the surplus stuffing by working over the grain side with the slicker. Softer leathers are finished by oiling the damp leather. drying and slicking. damping back. stretching out and drying.

This is usually limited to thinner skins that haven't been tanned very 'full'. an "orange-peel" texture results.braintan." The grain side can also be rubbed with a weak soap solution and then scrubbed with a piece of glass to produce a tight and shiny grain. grain patterns were made with specialized tools called "grain-rollers". or nearly so. If you have just barely tanned it through. How you do this rolling will affect the grain's texture. According to Steven & Tamara.com/barktan/7softening. "If the hide is rolled up each way with the grain inside. They may be softened by drawing them across a dull edge (like a staker) or wire. In the old days. If the hide is maintained flat or rolled with the grain out. That is Doug & Lynx's experience at least." A. Farnham Mildly Soft: Hides that you want mildly flexible can be rolled on a table with the hands using considerable pressure. Contents Intro & History Tannins & Tannin Sources Hide Preparation Making the Bark Solution Soaking Currying Softening & Finishing Softer: Only hides for which you want a soft and stretchy texture are 'softened' anything like brain tan is.htm1 .B. the softer the finished skin will be. the surface remains flatter. Up to a point. as you would for brain tanning.Softening "All softening processes begin when the tanned skins are partly dry and are continued until they are fully dry and sufficiently flexible. the more you work it. The End http://www. as well as pulled and stretched by hand. You probably wouldn't want to use a cable as that will rough up the surface. you may need to soften it as rigorously.

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