Making Buckskin

Brain tanning is a very labor intensive process. On this page, we’ll show you some of the basic steps, to give you an idea of what you’ll be getting into if you decide to tan your own hides, or just to help you understand why braintan is a bit more costly than other types of leather. It’s been said that there are as many brain tanning methods as there are brain tanners, and there is a lot of truth in that, if you examine the finer details that each person uses. But, in the larger picture, there are really just two basic methods: Dryscrape and Wetscrape. As the terms suggest, dry scraping involves using a sharp tool to remove the hair and epidermis layer on a very dry, hard hide that is first stretched on a frame. In wetscrape, a totally saturated hide is placed over a smooth beam, and scraped with a dull tool. I wetscrape 99% of the time, and most of the pictures here are of the wet scraping process. For more detail we recommend the following books: Deerskins into Buckskins by Matt Richards or Buckskin: The ancient are of brain tanning by Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder.
 

Tools of the trade:

 

liza graining

Scraping

 

 

 

Wringing (under construction)

 

Brain Tanning is a very labor intensive process. During the final stages, the hide must be stretched and pulled in every direction to loosen up the fibers and allow the hide to soften. This can be done by working the hide over a post or cable (as shown below) or lashing it into a frame and working it with a tool.

Loren softening on a staker.
Loren softening on a frame