Braintan Buckskin Course

Course Info
· Lodge-Based
· Length: 3-Days
· Tuition: $300

Traditional Wet-Scrape Tanning Without Chemicals

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We started tanning hides in the early 1990’s after reading Blue Mountain Buckskin by Jim Riggs.
The art of braintanning starts with raw deer hides and, using only natural materials (ie. no chemicals) and elbow grease, transform them into soft supple, luxurious buckskin. We will be teaching the wet-scrape process. Topics covered in the course will include:

  • Obtaining Hides

  • Storing Hides; Salting, Drying, and Other Ways to Outwit Bugs and Dogs

  • Various Tools for Wet-Scrape and Dry-Scrape

  • Using the Vertical Fleshing Beam

  • Avoiding Tendonitis While Scraping

  • The Tanning Process, Including:

    • Fleshing

    • Graining

    • Membraining

    • Dressing or “Braining”

      • Using Brains and Other Natural Materials

    • Sewing Holes

    • Pulling Dry or “Breaking”

    • Smoking

  • Properites of Finished Buckskin; What it Will and Won’t Do

All hides and tools will be provided, but if you’ve got some of your own tools and want to try them out please bring them.

Tanning is a physical experience. There is significant labor and elbow grease that go into both scraping and breaking the hide. Participants will take home their finished buckskin. Blisters are included free.

In ages past, waste was not a concept people knew. When an animal was killed, every part of it was used. Today, many people hunt for meat, a few for sport, and a few for trophies. Few folks use the entire animal (meat, skin, bones, tendons and ligaments, hooves, brain, etc.), because few know what to do with it. Using the entire animal, or as much of it as you know how, honors the animal. In this manner, tanning and doing something useful with an animal’s skin honors the animal in a lasting way by creating a beautiful piece of leather or fur that will be with you for a long time, reminding you of the sacrifice that animal made by giving up its life in order for others to live. You don’t need to be a hunter to tan, as you can get hides from a butcher, local game processor, or from friends who hunt. Thus, hunting is not a prerequisite for tanning, whereas the desire to make something beautiful out of an otherwise discarded natural resource is.

The traditional method of brain tanning uses the animal’s brain, rubbing it into the scraped skin. Modern tanners use everything from eggs to mayonnaise to oatmeal and more, often depending on their dietary preference. I know some folks in northern Quebec who like to use oatmeal because the brain tastes too good, and some folks who use mayonnaise because they like to eat eggs, brains, and oatmeal, and some folks who like mayonnaise but don’t like eggs, and some folks who… Well, you get the picture. But, while the material used to dress, or “brain”, the skin may be different depending on where you go, the process remains the same as it has since the Paleolithic era. There are many variations on the theme, depending on whether you are tanning buckskin or fur, or utilizing the wet-scrape or the dry-scrape process, but the basics endure: flesh, scrape, brain, pull dry, smoke.

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