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Thread: Braintanning the simple (or overcomplicated) way

  1. #141
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Picture 3, above, looks right, but at that point I would expect the grain to be off. What are you using to scrape?
    There is usually a definitive line where the grain is, and has been removed. Let me see if I can find a picture.


  2. #142
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    The raised places in this picture are leftover grain. The grain is much more yellow than the fiber network, where it has been removed.
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    We're going to figure this out. It won't hurt to leave it in a few days extra. As long as it doesn't start to smell rotten, you're okay.
    I know it's a lot of work, and it doesn't seem like you are making progress, but don't give up yet! We'll figure it out!
    Last edited by your_comforting_company; 12-11-2014 at 08:45 AM. Reason: added afterthought.

  3. #143
    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    I would LOVE to have the grain on the neck of my hide that you have in the picture above. I could take that off in 5 minutes. My neck is solid grain with very few spots of fiber network visible.

    I am using a "real" flesh knife. It is not very sharp, and I'm tempted.....

  4. #144
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    I use a drawknife with the handles straightened to the side and it is dull enough to draw across your arm without cutting your skin. Maybe this is part of the problem? I'm not entirely sure what a "fleshing knife" looks like. I assume something a bit like an ulu?

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Pretty sure a fleshing knife is just as you describe YCC.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    FYI......I made a fleshing knife/scrapper....old industrial hack saw blade.......teeth dulled down and the back side sharpened up a bit.....piece if broken banister rail for handles.....
    Works well....
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    Also used a wood "push paddle".....and a a old wood ironing board as a fleshing beam
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  7. #147
    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    Actually, this is the kind of fleshing knife I have:
    http://www.flemingoutdoors.com/12-in...ing-knife.html

    It is NOT sharp, not really a knife, in that sense, and is NOT like an ulu, IMO. It is really used to push off meat, fat, sinew, hair, and grain, from what I understand.

  8. #148
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottg View Post
    Actually, this is the kind of fleshing knife I have:
    http://www.flemingoutdoors.com/12-in...ing-knife.html

    It is NOT sharp, not really a knife, in that sense, and is NOT like an ulu, IMO. It is really used to push off meat, fat, sinew, hair, and grain, from what I understand.
    Correct...that kinda how it is.......
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  9. #149
    Puff...the crashin' drago scottg's Avatar
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    A few more pictures.

    I needed to put the hides away for a few days since I wasn't going to be able to work on them. So, I rinsed them real well and wrung some of the water out of them - just so they would have less water in them when I froze them. In the first and third pictures, you can see substantial grain (on the neck), but the rest is starting to look pretty good.

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    Here, except for some small patches of grain, this hide (I think) is really impressive. I'm happy (although tired)! This has NOT been brained / oil and soaped at all - just fleshed, bucked, grained, grained, grained, grained, grained, etc. rinsed.

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    I will be even more happy when I'm done with it!
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  10. #150
    Junior Member psecody's Avatar
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    I've enjoyed reading this thread a lot and have been given the inspiration I need to actually try some tanning this year. Thanks for making such an informative thread, it's a really interesting read.
    I thought of a question about the bucking part of the process. I noticed that you keep talking about time in the bucking solution and have noticed that your temperatures are always pretty low it seems whenever you're doing this. I only usually hunt during archery season (because I don't fare very well in the cold, I've been told it's a redhead thing haha) so when I shoot a deer it's usually around end of September or the first couple of weeks of October, so essentially we're still in summer weather here. You seem to let it sit roughly 2-3 days on average, from what I gather, in the bucking solution. I'm thinking with our temperatures these will be reduced by quite a bit? Or would it be best to just wait till about December/January till it gets colder? I guess what I'm asking is how hot is too hot to do this? EDIT: Forgot to mention that I plan on using mesquite ashes for the buck since we have that stuff growing everywhere around here.

    Thanks again for this interesting thread and the good explanation
    Last edited by psecody; 02-10-2015 at 08:34 AM.

  11. #151
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    @ScottG Looks real good except on that neck. Keep at it, it'll come off!

    @psecody I would say anything above 70 degrees is too warm. Bacteria tend to grow rapidly as temps approach 80. This year, due to work and all the other projects I have going on, I have left some for as long as 6-8 days. This is really pushing it, but so far they have not become "rotten" while in the buck on very cold days (unusually cold this year?).
    Basically, if the hair will rub off with your fingers, it's ready to scrape.

  12. #152
    Senior Member wilderness medic's Avatar
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    Maybe too much of a purest mind set but I don't like the idea of rebraining with another animals brains. Is there a point in doing half the brains, smoking, then rebraining? Or would that leave you at the same level and be pointless?
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  13. #153

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    I know this is an old thread, but I just wanted to say thanks for all the information and photos. I registered just because of this thread.

  14. #154

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    YCC it has been very educating to read your posts. I know this is an old thread. I'm new to brain tanning and joined this forum specifically to try and get some answers to my questions. Here's the situation. I know this is long, so thanks for your patience in reading. And thank you in advance for posting responses.

    I'm attempting to learn to brain tan. I am working in a 3rd world country and trying to learn this art so that I can teach it to the local people. I would like to teach them how to utilize something that is otherwise discarded. I'm trying to do this in a way that is totally reproducible by them. These folks can't order the tanning chemicals, hence why I'm wanting to brain tan. I've done rabbit hides and a deer hide with Borax and alum, but I cannot readily get borax and alum here either. Brains, on the other hand, I can get with the hide.

    I can get cow hides for free and the head with the brain for about $4. I know that a cow hide is ambitious for a first brain tanning project. I was attempting to do this with the hair on. I got the hide frozen. It had been pulled rather than skinned with a knife, so there were minimal cuts/nicks in it. I got the hide fleshed out but didn't have time the same day to get it stretched. Since I didn't have time to stretch it that day, I put it in a bucket with fresh cold water (no salt) and let it sit overnight. The next day (about noon) I pulled it out washed it well and then strung it up on a frame. There is still quite a bit of membrane on it that I couldn't get off in the fleshing process. I was hoping to scrape/sand the membrane once the hide dried out. [Note, I used a machete blade to flesh it as I don't have a fleshing knife yet.] The frame is underneath a house on stilts. The area is closed in with metal siding. Even though there are windows on two sides, there isn't a lot of air circulation. The average temperature during the day is in the 80s year round.

    After about 72 hours on the frame, the hide has a repugnant rotting flesh smell. I went to check it out and the flesh side was drying well and didn't smell too badly. I checked the hair side and it smelled worse and when I scratched it with a finger, the hair slipped off. Well, I hope I can still salvage this thing for buckskin. There are some spots that are darker on the hide than others, but when I scrape the hair, the darker color goes away. Some of the areas where the hide is thinner dried well and the hair is tight. The thick spots on the shoulders, back, and hips slip really easily.

    So, here's what I've done. I put the hide in a bucket of water with lime [made from cooking seashells over the fire and smashing them into a fine powder]. After 24 hours I pulled it out, returned it to the beam, and scraped the hair off. There was just a little bit of hair that was stubborn, so I returned it to the bucket of lime water. I'll pull it out in the morning and scrape it again to get the remainder of the hair and grain off.

    There is still quite a bit of membrane on the flesh side. How do I get that off? Can I let it dry a bit and then sand it off or scrape it off with a pumice stone? I can't seem to get it to turn loose with the machete blade. Any advice on getting the membrane off would be really appreciated.

    Here's another question for you. Do you have to do anything special to get the rotten flesh smell out of the hide? Or does it come out by the end of the braining/smoking process?

  15. #155
    Senior Member WalkingTree's Avatar
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    Whoa.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    YCC - This is an outstanding explanation.
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  16. #156
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Levi this thread is 4 years old and YCC has not paid us a visit in 3 years, so do not expect him to answer.

    As for the smell, if you catch the hide before it really rots and process it then the smell will go away eventually.

    The rotting smell is common to the tanning process and is the reason most of the old towns in the eastern U.S. have a road called Tanners Lane that is separated from the "better" part of town by a little distance. The road was not named after a guy named Tanner, it was the place where the hide tanners worked and they wanted the smell away from the main part of town.
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  17. #157

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    Thanks Kyratshooter. I figured it was a shot in the dark to get some responses on this one, but had to try. I'm trying to learn what I can. And thanks for the brief history of Tanners Lane.

    I spent yesterday scraping the remaining hair off the hide and then scraping the membrane side. I saw one post where a guy recommended putting fine sand on the membrane when scraping it. That really helped. Then I took it to the river washed/rung it twice and now have it stretched on the frame again. The odor has decreased immensely.

    Anyone have suggestions on whether I can paint the brain solution on each side and work it in rather than taking the whole thing off the frame again to dunk it in a bucket of solution? I wouldn't mind doing this for a deer hide, but this thing is heavy and hard to handle, especially when wet!

    Here's what it looks like now.
    IMG_20180901_175337.jpg
    IMG_20180901_175320.jpg

  18. #158
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    I always rubbed the brain solution into the hide while it was hanging. I can not imagine trying to get an entire cow hide into a bucket. You will have to leave the brain solution much thicker so it will stay on the hide and penetrate the pores. That is what the braining part of the process is all about.

    I know that larger hides were stretched for the fleshing and membrane process but most of the time when the braining was done they were covered in the brain paste and rolled up or folded so the brains could saturate the hide.

    This is one of the best videos I have found on brain tanning. However they are using deer hides. A cow hide is a much bigger project and I might consider cutting the whole hide in half and working on a smaller scale.

    This process would be magnificent for goat or sheep hides.

    I have done them in this more traditional manner and I have used other methods that require more chemicals and other modern tricks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CVtqjur2-4
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  19. #159

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    I always rubbed the brain solution into the hide while it was hanging. I can not imagine trying to get an entire cow hide into a bucket. You will have to leave the brain solution much thicker so it will stay on the hide and penetrate the pores. That is what the braining part of the process is all about.

    I know that larger hides were stretched for the fleshing and membrane process but most of the time when the braining was done they were covered in the brain paste and rolled up or folded so the brains could saturate the hide.

    This is one of the best videos I have found on brain tanning. However they are using deer hides. A cow hide is a much bigger project and I might consider cutting the whole hide in half and working on a smaller scale.

    This process would be magnificent for goat or sheep hides.

    I have done them in this more traditional manner and I have used other methods that require more chemicals and other modern tricks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CVtqjur2-4
    I watched the video. It is a great resource. How dry would you say my hide needs to be before applying the brain? I want to try to avoid cutting it in half for now, but we'll see how that goes.

  20. #160
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    If you are putting the hide in a container of brain mixed with water the hide being damp when it goes in does not matter does it?

    If you are rubbing in a brain paste then having it just a little damp might help spread the mixture.

    Tanning is the removal of oils you do not want and the replacement with oils you do want, then braking down the cell structure to make the hide soft.

    You can actually do a hide with no braining in the traditional manner. Many Indian tribes tradition was that the women processes the hides by fleshing and then chewing the hide to softness with no additional treatment needed. It takes days to chew a deer hide soft.

    That is how age of the women in prehistoric burials is determined. Processing hides for a lifetime left their teeth worn down to the gum line by late middle age. You can look at the wear on their teeth and determine their age.
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