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Thread: Braintanning the simple (or overcomplicated) way

  1. #121
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    I do want to respond and help figure it out, so bear with me.. I haven't had all my coffee yet this morning

    Bigger deer = tougher grain, especially necks.
    I had let one stay in the buck until it really was eating at the fiber network, so in order to be able to grain without tearing it all up, I had to rinse it some. The bucking solution reacts with the loose hydrogen bonds (mucus) where the grain and fiber network meet. Once a hide is effectively bucked, the bond in the papillary layer is forever gone. (let me know if I lose you) Water causes a different kind of swelling of the hide, versus bucking. By rinsing, you stop the "digestive" process, or at least slow it down so that the hide is less swollen and less susceptible to tearing. If you leave one in the buck for too long, it will just turn to goo. It is possible that the solution is getting too weak, and might need to have a little added to it.
    To add to this, I know some people who do not use a bucking solution and just let a hide soak in water until it's ready. I suppose this takes a long time and for the sake of speeding up the process I choose to buck my hides, not only because it makes it easier, but also because timing is pretty critical. I usually tan on days when the weather is bad and I can't work, so I have to anticipate the rain/cold and try to get it done.
    I have not experienced one getting tougher from soaking longer in ashes or lime.
    I almost always grain the neck first, as it's always the hardest spot, so by the time I'm tired, I'm at the easy parts.
    I suppose it's possible that the ashes might have something that other solutions do not have, but I get the same results with CaOH, so I'm just not sure. I don't really have any way to analyze the components of the ash-lye.
    Bucking definitely makes permanent changes to the hide.

    I know it's frustrating, and I apologize that this thread did not cover your problem. I honestly suggest a 3" beam for the neck, and I suggest graining it first to conserve stamina.
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  2. #122
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    You might also want to do smaller deer until you get the hang of it. My dad killed an 11 point some couple years ago and he swore I'd never get it soft.
    But I did. It's on our bed right now as a blanket.

  3. #123
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    Default Grain-on braintan

    Now for something a little different: Braintanned hide with the grain left intact!

    First question, "why leave the grain on?" two reasons: when smoked, the outside will still be white; The grain is tightly knit and provides extra protection from sharp things like briers

    Secondly, "Is this still buckskin?" No. By definition, buckskin (from whatever animal) has the grain (and hair) removed to leave the soft, fluffy fiber network exposed.
    (I feel like I left out some details and questions, so ask away!)

    How does this process differ from buckskin? More time in the bucking solution is the first notable difference. In order to avoid breaking the grain while removing the hair, you let it soak until the hair will wipe off with your fingers. In this picture, I am not using any tools to remove the hair, just my hands.
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    You have to squeegee out the water instead of wringing. In this extensively bucked stage, the grain will literally peel off, so extended rinsing is also required. I was extra careful when working this one, and did not put a towel between the beam and hide. For more information, please refer to the "Utility Leather" thread, as the hide will get pretty much the same treatment up to the point of braining instead of being placed in bark tea.

    After three good days of rinsing and several squeegee-ings, It's ready to go into the normal brain slurry. In this particular application I made twice as much slurry as normal, soaked it and worked it in really well, broke it open and got it sort of soft, then back into the brains for a second dose! The grain is particularly tough and not very permeable, so extra brainings are necessary to be certain you got good penetration into the hide.
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    I used my smooth "utility leather" staker ONLY ON THE FLESH SIDE, and my lap to soften the hide. Drying is much slower and it actually took two days to work completely dry (off and on). Another difference I should point out here is that you only smoke ONE SIDE of the hide. The grain will not take color from the smoke, It's just too tight. Extended time on the smoker will be necessary to get an adequate tan. This one went for about an hour and a half, and just to be sure, another hour the next day.
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    Here you can see the smoked color of the flesh side, and the nice grain texture of the softened hide. This will make a very nice pair of mocs and leggings. Another advantage of having the grain layer left on, is that it can be treated to be water resistant with a lightweight oil, should you choose to. Oily leathers do not breathe well, so I elect to leave this as is. In this way, I can still wash it when it gets dirty. I might treat them later if they prove to be too absorbent.
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    Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. Helen Keller

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  4. #124
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I have to tell ya, you are simply amazing at this stuff. I truly enjoy reading your threads. I had to give ya some more rep on this one. Nice.

  5. #125
    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    I have to agree with Rick; your explanation, pictures, time taken to post, and encouragement to others to try braintanning is truly amazing and appreciated.

    I have done several hides (probably up to about 6 successful ones), but still finding that each hide is different (which you've noted before in this thread). I'll have to really try the neck first next time.
    I have ruined a couple hides because I was putting so many holes in it and didn't really even realize it until most of the way through. It made me, shall we say, angry. Looking back, it seems that you are saying that unless the hide had really turned "to goo" that I might have been able to rinse it well, stop the "digestive" process, and then grain. Bummer. It was a nice hide too.

    So, I may choose to leave it in my KOH a little longer (on big hides), and then rinse it before trying to grain - it keeps me from having to wear gloves :-)
    I have tried this with at least favorable results, if not good results, previously. As long as the mucus (papillary layer) is really gone, as you say, with a proper/adequate bucking, then rinsing it first should not make it grain any harder (theoretically, I guess).

    I do NOT like graining a hide saturated with buck. It may work, but it is NOT like the videos you post where you have long strips of the grain coming off... I have "gelatinous" stuff that just doesn't seem right. Anyway...

    Your post about tanning with the grain on is interesting too. I've wondered a lot about hair-on and grain-on tanning. Everyone says "you HAVE to get the grain off to be able to tan / stretch / etc. it correctly." But, I say, how does hair-on work, then? I guess the answer is just multiple brainings and careful rinsings. I'm assuming that the brain eventually works its way all the way through the hide via the flesh side, then.....? This is why a thin slurry is better?

    Lastly, I used lamb brains on one hide. It came out okay, but did NOT like the way it (still) smells. I typically use oil and soap. This is very slippery, as you've noted previously, but seems to work for me. I'll try eggs some day....

    I do love this stuff, too. I started it / learned it when I volunteered at an 1830's reenactment site in southeast Houston, Tx. Learning more all the time, but I wish I knew it as well as you!

    So, my final takeaway: Start with the neck. Buck a little longer. Rinse before graining. Presto! Sound workable?

    Thanks for listening!

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    Outstanding!!!!!!!!!!!!
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    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    One more thing about the grain-on...

    I'm assuming it can be soft (on the flesh side) but not as stretchy? Since removing the grain seems to be what allows the hide to be soft and stretchy, I would think not removing the grain does prevent this, right?

    On my hides where grain is left on accidentally in spots, it doesn't stretch well, and would definitely be rougher on the skin. Am I missing something here?

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Tanning a hide in anyway is long hard work.....
    Taking the time to write it up anong with pic's is a outstanding job.

    Haven't done any in a while....I commend you for the effort.
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  9. #129
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    I appreciate all the positive feedback! Thanks, gang!

    I do hope for the success of anyone trying this, so let me see if I can touch the points scottg has presented.


    I have done several hides (probably up to about 6 successful ones), but still finding that each hide is different (which you've noted before in this thread). I'll have to really try the neck first next time.
    Each one is definitely different. I think it depends on many factors, including diet, terrain, sex, etc. For most deer, the guidelines set forth will keep you on the right track, while the hide itself really teaches you what needs doing.

    I have ruined a couple hides because I was putting so many holes in it and didn't really even realize it until most of the way through... Looking back, it seems that you are saying that unless the hide had really turned "to goo" that I might have been able to rinse it well, stop the "digestive" process, and then grain.
    I'm thinking the lye might just be too caustic. crystal lye like you buy for drain cleaner is mighty powerful and pretty dangerous, so I avoid it. But to clarify, all the "bucks" react in one way or another with the loose hydrogen bonds in the hide. Once those are gone, it will react with the molecular bonds of the fibers. At some point the buck is going to start making the fiber network weak. Removing the lye from the hide stops this "dissolving" up to that point. Tick holes and scars are going to bust through if you are using too much pressure and especially if the hide has bucked to the point that the fiber network is weakened. I hope that makes sense.

    So, I may choose to leave it in my KOH a little longer (on big hides), and then rinse it before trying to grain - it keeps me from having to wear gloves :-)
    I have tried this with at least favorable results, if not good results, previously. As long as the mucus (papillary layer) is really gone, as you say, with a proper/adequate bucking, then rinsing it first should not make it grain any harder (theoretically, I guess).

    Correct. The grain on the neck is quite thick and bonded really well. Once the hydrogen has bonded with the buck and precipitated, that's it. They can't go back. Rinsing should not make it any harder, and might actually help by reducing the swelling just enough that you are not fighting against the "rubbery" hide. sometimes the hide will bunch up in front of your tool and that makes holes! The swelling helps keep the two layers separate, and for me at least, seems to make graining easier, but also, I've had a few that were just a PAIN.

    I do NOT like graining a hide saturated with buck. It may work, but it is NOT like the videos you post where you have long strips of the grain coming off... I have "gelatinous" stuff that just doesn't seem right. Anyway...
    This is what makes me think the crystal lye is just too much. Please be careful with that stuff!

    Your post about tanning with the grain on is interesting too. I've wondered a lot about hair-on and grain-on tanning. Everyone says "you HAVE to get the grain off to be able to tan / stretch / etc. it correctly." But, I say, how does hair-on work, then? I guess the answer is just multiple brainings and careful rinsings. I'm assuming that the brain eventually works its way all the way through the hide via the flesh side, then.....? This is why a thin slurry is better?
    Correct! The grain is not very stretchy at all, so it takes extra brains, extra work, extra time... so a thinner (a blender set to "liquify" is good) slurry is better IMO than just a hand mashed slurry, particularly where hair and grain are to be left on. Let me add to say that a fur-on tan will always have a bit of a papery feel because of the grain. They are not as stretchy as buckskin, by any measure, but are still soft enough for clothing. With furs, you can soak it in brains too long, causing the hair to start to slip. For this you need to try to limit liquids to the flesh side, so that the hair does not get and stay wet. I think "correctly" is being used in comparison to buckskin, so to that I say, no, your grain-on hide will never be that chamois light-soft, but it will be soft enough for clothing.

    Lastly, I used lamb brains on one hide. It came out okay, but did NOT like the way it (still) smells. I typically use oil and soap. This is very slippery, as you've noted previously, but seems to work for me. I'll try eggs some day....
    Maybe I'm just weird. I like the smell of brains. That is, until they've been out too long... peeewww!

    I do love this stuff, too. I started it / learned it when I volunteered at an 1830's reenactment site in southeast Houston, Tx. Learning more all the time, but I wish I knew it as well as you!
    Hey, man. I'm still learning and experimenting, too!

    So, my final takeaway: Start with the neck. Buck a little longer. Rinse before graining. Presto! Sound workable?
    Sounds like a plan! It's worth trying and if you still don't like the results, try a less caustic bucking solution, like pickling lime (CaOH). I get it at the grocery store for like $3 a pound which is enough to do two medium hides, and it won't melt your skin off if you get a little on you. Of course, it works a little slower, but you've seen how the grain peels off in ribbons. Something about your process isn't quite right, so change one thing at a time until you figure it out. I'm still thinking the lye is just too powerful.

    Thanks for listening!
    My pleasure! I hope you get it!
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  10. #130
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottg View Post
    One more thing about the grain-on...

    I'm assuming it can be soft (on the flesh side) but not as stretchy? Since removing the grain seems to be what allows the hide to be soft and stretchy, I would think not removing the grain does prevent this, right?

    On my hides where grain is left on accidentally in spots, it doesn't stretch well, and would definitely be rougher on the skin. Am I missing something here?
    Nope, you nailed it. It is also quite heavy compared to buckskin. Also, you'll notice the thicker areas, like the rumps and necks take more effort. well, it's probably double the effort with the grain left on! The hide above is not nearly as stretchy as buckskin, but I worked that joker over pretty good, so it does have 'some' stretch.

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    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    Once again, amazing.

    I worked for one and a half hours last night on just the neck. Not done, yet. It seems like graining a green hide, although the rest of the hide took just a few hours total several nights ago...

    I really think I'm going to try CaOH. It's either that or get access to a bunch of wood ashes. I have my eyes on a BBQ stand down the street. I think I'll talk to the owner about taking some of his ashes off his hands. :-)

    I'm going to have to try my hand at hair-off leather and hair-on as well. So many options and possibilities!

    Thanks!

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    Also, although not "natural" what do you think about drying out really hard-to-grain places, and then taking a dremel tool with sandpaper to it? I'm thinking just enough to break the grain down a little. I'd then want to resoak it and finish it off with my fleshing knife. Should work, right?

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    heck, it's worth a try! I hope you get it, man!
    Just for your own reference.. I was graining what must have been a little baby yearling, really tiny hide, and still had to go down to the 4" beam to get the neck.
    Found out a few days ago that the grocery store has brains back in stock for me! About to go buy a whole case, just because I have so many hides this year that didn't come with heads.

  14. #134
    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    Just to make sure our definitions are the same, what exactly is hard on the thicker parts of the hide? I'm assuming that the grain just doesn't want to budge. You can remove the hair fairly easily, but the grain stays put. Does that describe it?

    I worked another couple hours today.....still much left to do.

    After a sufficient amount of time in the bucking solution to start graining, is the hide now fairly "rot-proof"? I have a hide that has been bucked real well (still grain on the neck, of course), but I've had it sitting in water for a couple weeks at 50 or more degrees. No significant smell. Am I just lucky? How much time do I have? Should I put it back in the freezer if I can't get to it for a few days? If I wanted to put it in CaOH (which I bought yesterday), I would have to wait several more days on top of that. When will it start to go bad (knowing, of course, that other things like temperature etc. make this an inexact science)?

    Whew, this is fun! :-)

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    That describes it perfectly.
    Toss it back into the freezer until you have time. Even with mild temps, bacteria can still grow. I'd give the CaOH a shot. That should keep bacteria at bay. It will need a few days of soaking at least. with the ground substance out of it, you have a good deal of time before it will rot. I'd still freeze it till I had time to work it.
    Just curious, how much did your lime cost at the grocery store?
    AND... My local Harveys grocer has pig brains by the CASE for me! I bought 12 pounds for less than $35. That's enough to do 24 medium hides!! They are in yellow tubs from Smithfield Farms.

    Was working that little one dry on Saturday which was a 20% chance of rain. Well, we ended up getting all 20% right here in my yard, I think. Humidity went sky high. But that hide is now softer than angel poots.

  16. #136
    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    I suppose I'll have to try brain again, but I can't find it around here. I just found lamb brain (and expensive lamb brain, at that).

    My CaOH was less than 3 a pound. Probably not great, but I wanted to try it until I found out how much I like it. Then, I'll look into buying cheaper. I bought Mrs. Wages....

    I also talked to the BBQ guy a few miles from my house. He can supply me with as much oak and pecan ash as I want, probably. So, I'll definitely look into using the good ol' fashioned wood ash method.

    I thought you said you only do 10 hides a year? Sounds like you're having more fun than that!

    I'm going to try one more time tonight, I hope, and if it is less than productive, I'll put it in the lime and wait a few days.

    "Angel poots" :-)

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    A lot of the agricultural lime has additives, but I think it'll work and it's a heck of a lot cheaper. A lot of my ashes are pecan, so that's great. you can't beat free!

    If you're interested in doing the legwork, you can contact Smithfield farms here http://www.smithfieldfarms.com/b_pages/about.html to see if they can ship a case to your grocer, then ask the grocer if it's okay and get the address. I don't know, but it might be where you can buy direct. I only talked to the fella in the meat dept and they handled the rest.

    Is there any way you can get a picture of it? It really shouldn't take that much soaking.

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    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    I put it in last night.

    I'll see what I can do about a picture this evening. I should be able to work it.

    I'll look at it tonight (24 hours), but I was thinking late tomorrow was when I'd start to expect results. And, if I leave it in til the NEXT day, it shouldn't hurt anything (in case my Wednesday night gets too busy).

    That's one advantage I think I hear and like about either wood ashes or CaOH2 - if you leave it in for another day or so past when it is ready, it shouldn't hurt anything. Using NaOH or KOH, that can't always be said to be true....

  19. #139
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    Default Trying some pictures

    I'm trying to post some pictures. We'll see how it goes...

    This is the neck. Still fairly slick, clean, untouched, and unscraped (unfortunately)...

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    Fairly big hide. The yardstick is touching the ground, as is the bottom of the hide. Six feet total maybe?

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    Yellow areas where the water has been squeegied out. Only after this happens can I even remotely attempt to remove any grain.

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    Easily see scraped and unscraped areas.

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    Last edited by scottg; 12-10-2014 at 02:36 PM.

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    Two more. First showing the valleys where successful scraping has occurred. Each valley is WORK.

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    See several square inches of unscraped area. Just these couple square inches would take 20 minutes (at least). Whereas, a spot this big in the middle of the hide would take 2 minutes at most.

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    Any comments?
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