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Thread: Braintanning the simple (or overcomplicated) way

  1. #41
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    Flip it over and scrape the membrane side. A lot can be let go here, this is inside the garment. Do the best you can, most of it comes super easy. expect a few streaks on this side.


    *Edit: condensed videos. This video includes details for the next section
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:44 AM. Reason: videos


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    After the bulk of the mess is removed from both sides, it's time to double check both sides for any grain or membrane that might have been missed. By scraping in different directions you pick up any grain that might've been missed on the first round. This doesn't usually take very long.
    Basically a lot of scraping and a little common sense.

    *Edit: video above includes these details
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:45 AM. Reason: removed videos

  3. #43

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    I'm surprised the grain comes off so easy. I broke thru in a couple areas trying to remove stubborn hair and then decided to really try to see just how easy it would be to get the grain off. It was a bear and near impossible on my skin.

    I'm getting the impression my bucking mix did little to nothing.

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    Next time try pickling lime or wood ash. They work really well for me. It could be the temperature. My hide didn't move (buck) for about 2 days.. it was just so cold it took forever. Normally for me it takes about 4 days, this one took about a week. I was hoping to beat the rain, but I ended up trying to soften when it was 100% humidity.. Far from ideal.

    I actually finished (smoked) this skin today. Filmed the whole process in short clips (I hope it's working well this way) and as soon as I get each step uploaded, I'll post them up. There is some re-scraping commentary to be done, braining, wringing, and stretching vids to get up. I'm workin on it, I'm just slow.

    The one thing that is missing is the FEEL of the skin as it transforms from sloppy wet to chamois soft.. just can't capture that on film. I call it the "magic hour".

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    A grown deer has about a cup of brains. Mix with 4 cups of water, and blend.

    Rinsing should be done before braining to remove all the alkali from the skin. rinse it until your water runs clear.
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:48 AM. Reason: videos

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    I'd like to interject here a bit about the materials (mediums) we are working with and the possibility of infection.
    The brains I'm using came from the deer. They were removed and put in the freezer within a few hours of the kill and should therefore be "safer" than those that sat in a slaughterhouse waiting to be canned.
    If these were hog brains, I would absolutely be wearing gloves. I have a cut on each thumb if you noticed in the scraping videos.

    Most of this stuff is just guesswork, but I want to also explain a little about the concentration of the solution. Much of the information I've read says mix the brains with a half gallon of water. That's a lot of water!
    Through experience, I've figured "about" how much liquid a semi-dry skin will absorb. Based on that experience, I've reduced the ratio of water : brains so that I'm using more brains and less water. The more brains you get in there the first time, the easier it will be to soften. I found that higher amounts of water simply left the skin feeling "starchy", while less water / more brains made it much easier to soften and left the skin feeling much softer.

    A simple test is to rinse your hide, and wring it. then add a cup of water to your bucket at a time, each time soaking up as much as the hide can hold, and wring it out again. Normally a cup of brains to 4 cups of water is plenty.. even for this huge buck.. the 7 point I mentioned in another thread.
    Bucks are tougher than does. They are thicker and much more gristly from sparring and rutting. Ideally, you want the hide from an "eating size" doe; somewhere around 150 lbs. or maybe a little less. You could probably get by with 3 cups water to 1 cup brains.
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 01-07-2011 at 12:54 AM.

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    I didn't get a chance to record the wringing after the rinse, so this set of videos will apply after rinsing and after braining.



    Note the safety reminder in the video!!
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:51 AM. Reason: videos

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    Default Breaking a wrung hide

    All That twisting will leave your hide in a sad state of affairs. We have to stretch it back out. This is called "breaking" or "opening" the hide. At this point it's very stiff and misshapen. We want it nice and loose so we can pull the fibers across one another with our hands. To achieve this we use, once again, brute force!



    A basic breaking tool, the staker. I fashioned this one out of a used abrasive disk for a side grinder, a couple 1x4's and a few bolts. It abrades and moves the fibers in various directions as it stretches over the arc. I apologize for the poor lighting, but it was raining outside. I've seen similar stakers made from old trowels, dull shovels, boat paddles.. If it's rounded and dull, try it!
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:53 AM. Reason: videos
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    Quote Originally Posted by your_comforting_company View Post
    A grown deer has about a cup of brains. This video shows the mixing.

    Does Mrs YCC know you are using her blender to make brain smoothies?
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    Default Hand Stretching / softening

    Hand Stretching the hide until it's soft


    Abrading places on the hide that stiffened a little overnight and showing scar tissue. Scars are very tightly woven and will seldom soften the way we want. We just have to accept them and carry on.
    *see video above*

    Hand stretching is not such vigorous exercise, but it is a good workout. If it takes two days for your hide to dry, like this one (due to humidity or other factors) your arms are likely to get a little sore.
    This hide got stiff overnight, but I had to go to sleep. There are two main areas of the hide that will get stiff.
    The neck
    An oval just behind the shoulders on the top of the back.
    I will try to make a diagram or something to display these areas.
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:56 AM. Reason: video
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  11. #51
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    Default rebraining

    The hide didn't turn out as soft as I would have liked, but it got late and I had to sleep, so I decided to rebrain the hide and try softening again
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 10:59 AM. Reason: new videos

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    Default Smoking your hide

    This video touches on how we put together the hide into a pillowcase.

    The hide sack is hung upside down for smoking

    Introduction to the smudge pot. A dakota fire hole will serve the same purpose but will require the addition of a "skirt" around the neck. I fashioned this out of junk around the house.

    We use really rotten wood for smoking so that all the saps, sugars, and gunky "stuff" has been washed out. This is referred to as "Punk" wood.


    Just a few more videos and you'll see the finished hide!
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 11:01 AM. Reason: adding videos
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    Default Making Smoke

    There are several elements of fire, or should I say, properties of wood we need to address. Hardwoods hold a long coal without much flame, while softwoods burn up. Rotten wood doesn't have much of the material left to produce the "volatile gasses" that create flame. How well do you know your woods?

    Let's make some smoke.
    Close view of the smoke penetrating the skin
    A VERY SPECIAL NOTE ON SMOKING HIDES
    This is why you never leave a smoking hide unattended!!
    The hide has been smoking for about an hour.. how you can tell when it's ready to be flipped.
    Now it needs to be flipped if you want color on the inside of the garment. I like to smoke boths sides, but at this point the skin is effectively tanned. It is completely functional and you can wash it right away if you choose. It will dry back completely soft, just as it is now, with only a little stretching and buffing. A few pulls and a once over.

    *edit: notes above are for previous video!
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 11:02 AM. Reason: new videos

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    Default Finishing up!

    The inside (grain side of the skin) revealed.. just a peek!

    Smoke the inside if you choose to (flesh side) but not necessary.

    It's finished. Behold the beauty that is buckskin. To think such a wonderful thing can come of some gross, disgusting, gooey gunk, is puzzling. I dazzle at every one.

    *edit: the previous video includes all this information!

    It truly feels like magic as it changes forms in your hands.

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    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 02-07-2011 at 11:04 AM. Reason: new videos
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    I hope that with the explanations at the beginning, you will have the understanding to follow along with the videos. Maybe the videos show the details that you need to see. Most questions are "how do I know if I'm scraping deep enough" or the like, and I hope I show those bits, if nothing else, so that the things you can't see in the text are shown.

    I'm totally new to making videos and "presentations". I really don't like being on camera or talking to one, so critique as you will.. but please, please, let me know if I skipped a detail you need to see.

    Hopefully I can borrow the camera again and show framing and stretching. Perhaps with a bit more professionalism.

  16. #56

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    WOW! Totally AWESOME Job!!! Well done YCC, well done.

  17. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by crashdive123 View Post
    Does Mrs YCC know you are using her blender to make brain smoothies?

    She said and I qoute, "That's your blender now, I'm going to town to buy a new one".

    She's sweet like that.
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  18. #58

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    Dude, I think that the vids were done quite well. I really like the scraping of the hide, and the braining as you were stretching it and showing the change in texture and feel. It was very clear and was neat seeing it transfrom. I also like the way you made playlists so one could watch each part continuosly, very cool.

    I have to say after watching you do it, it does look like a labor of love, mainly the graining part looked tough. I was surprised how much force you were putting on that skin. I'm surprised it didn't tear through. It seems there's a lot more effort in this than the bark tan with grain on.

  19. #59
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    It's definately a lot of work
    Fleshing took about 20-30 minutes. Not too intensive.
    Bucking took a week
    All the scraping took about 4 hours

    With the humidity at near 100% the toughest part was getting it dry. two sittings, 4 hours one night, and about 6 the next day.

    So I've gone from 20 hours of labor, to about 16.. I'm getting a little faster!

    It seems like a lot of work, but to me, the finished skin is worth it. It's like some ancient magick, or alchemy.

    Deer skins are tough, and as long as your tool is properly dulled, the only places you might tear through are on the legs, edges at the belly, and around armpits. If you tear it up with a dull draw-knife, then it was too rotten to be using anyway.

    Furs or pelts come first as far as labor, next would be grain leathers but they are not much more work, and last would be buckskin, being the most labor intensive.

    I have a few more playlists to organize to finish up and I'm combining some of the smaller clips into longer ones to put in the instructional vids section.

    I really and truly believe that once any of you try this, you'll be just as hooked as I am. Tanning is what turned me on to all the primitive skills. The magic of friction fire is no less than that of braintanning. Knowing that you've made something so beautiful with natural materials and your own two hands.. I can't even describe it.

    It is a lot of work.. sometimes we get to enjoy it.. sometimes it goes on the wifes side of the bed (and we still get to enjoy it )
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    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 01-07-2011 at 08:53 AM. Reason: added pic

  20. #60

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    Just out of curiosity, roughly how many hides do you tan this way in an average year/season? I am thinking that this also might give an idea on how labor intensive or not it is... assuming you have access to the same number of hides each year.

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