Bari Caton on brain-tanning


What a buckskinner does.

Well, for a hobby I enjoy making brain-tanned buckskins from
deer hides. So I'm a buckskinner. Actually, I don't skin the deer
myself, nor do I go hunting to kill them. I don't kill anything. I get
all the deer hides for free from the local butcher during
deer-hunting season, since the hunters only want the venison

Brain-tanning is the native, primitive, aboriginal way of preparing
hides, practiced around the world for thousands of years.
Modern chemical tanning is a poor substitute. It's done by
scraping the fur and the layers of dermis and epidermis off the
animal skin, and then soaking the skin in the brains of the
animal for anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours. Every animal
has enough brains to tan it's own hide: squirrel, deer, buffalo,
you name it. Every animal except teenagers, of course.

After soaking in brains, the skin is then pulled and stretched until
it becomes like soft pure white flannel. Then it is smoked over a
punky, smoky wood fire, which turns it that nice honey color
buckskin. White buckskin will stiffen up like rawhide if it gets wet,
but for some unknown reason, the smoked hides can get wet
(even in the washing machine), and when they dry, they remain
soft. Then you can use the hides to make clothing, bags and
pouches, or anything you want. It's wonderful to do beadwork on. West Jefferson NC

If you want to learn more about braintanning, try which is run by Matt and Michelle,

two of my teachers. Happy tanning!

Bari Caton