Make your own free website on

Mid America Buckskinners Info Page

"Brain" Tanning

Missouri Iowa Nebraska Kansas

No, it's not skinning bucks............ Developed and maintained by JP Finn

You managed to get a deer hide. Now you want to tan it. Nobody thought to save the brains, and it's starting to smell.
I know! Let's "Brain" Tan it!

Congratulations! You are about to begin a slide into the pits of despair and sore arms (but that is a ways off, yet)

First, flesh them verrrry well. There should be NO meat or gristle on the hide. You might trim it now to get rid of the "dangles".

If you are looking for hair-on, it is different from brain tan. Deer hairs are hollow and break easily. If you are going to hang it on a wall or use it as a rug it may last. If you are going to use it for something else, it will shed forever until it looks like it has the mange.

Hair on or off:
In a plastic garbage can of rain water, add a squirt of Dawn dishwashing soap. Wash the hide. Rinse 3 times to get All the soap out of it.

Hair on:
Put hide on a stretcher and let it dry. Smear on some of that store bought tanning goop. (Try Tandy or maybe even Wal Mart. Most sporting goods stores should have some for doing home mounts.) This will make a wall hanger hide.

Hair off:
In plastic garbage can, add rain water and 2 cups lime or a small shovel full of wood ashes. Stick in hide, stir well and weight down with a stick so it is all under water.
Stir morning and evening. When the hair will slip off when rubbed well (about 2-3 days) pull out the hide and remove hair. Some will want to stay; scrape until it is removed. The top layer of skin will come off too. It looks kinda like cottage cheese mixed with the hair... Rinse the hide several times. Flesh both sides with the back of a hacksaw blade. Toss it back in the garbage can with new water until the following day. (Or go to the next step if you have time - it depends on how hard it was to get all the hair)
Put hide in stretcher for half a day. It is now rawhide. If you want to stop here, let it dry completely. When you are ready to restart just soak it overnight and start again from here.

Wash the hide again. Rinse well. Let it soak until it is soaked completely through. Scrape the hide with a board to remove a lot of the water (it shouldn't be soaking, just wet)

Mix up a dozen eggs and a jar of mayonnaise. Smear it on the flesh side (don't miss anywhere and try to get it even.)
Fold the hide over down the backbone, goop inside. Roll it up and stand it on end overnight.
Check the next day. Most of the goop should be gone. Repeat the drill the same way with 1/2 dozen eggs and half a jar of mayo (adjust amounts depending on size of hide. A squirrel would use 1 egg and a big spoon of mayo....)

Now the work starts.

Break the hide.
Tie a rope around a tree and the other end on a branch, forming a loop that you "shoeshine" the hide through. Turn the hide often and don't stop until it is completely dry. Put up hide.
Next day, check the hide. If there are any stiff, hard parts, dampen them, smear on more goop, let it set overnight, then rebreak that area.

Smoke the hide:
Build a tripod of poles and build a SMALL smoky fire inside it. Drape the hide on the tripod. Keep adjusting it, turning it and flipping it over. When it turns a grey/tanish color (smoke most of the day), rebreak it.

Try to decide what you are going to do with that hide. Keep remembering that after you cut it, it can't be put back together! Think of something else to make out of it. Put it up and save it as the first one that you did yourself!
(Get more to make something from, if you want to do it again)

There you go. Nothing to it! Take picture, keep a daily log and let me know how it goes. This will be a good story, later - like next year.


Back to the top of the Page

Back to the Story index

Back to the Main Page

If you want to plaver, do so. Hey, jp!