This year I am going to attempt (the optimal word here) to brain tan the hides of the deer I harvest and make buckskin. I figure deer hide is thicker and more forgiving that rabbit or fox. Plus it would take a kajillion of them to make a suit.
While there are many commercial processes available to tan the hides, brain tanning is the ancient way I will go. Gen 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
During my research the past several months into this adventure, I have come to learn that each animal has enough brain to tan their own hides. Even the stupid ones.
The smoking process is what allows the buckskin to get wet and still be able to be used/worn. Plus buckskin is a very durable product that can take some abuse.
The wife is not real keen on this, but my youngest is excited about it. We saw a deer that had been hit along side the road a couple of weeks ago and she wanted to stop and get it. Needles to say, by the smell, it had been in the Texas sun for several days with some vultures perched on it.
This is one of those projects that even if the world doesn't go tits up, it is still a valuable skillset to have.
Here are a couple of links for the process.
Tancourse (below) and Making Buckskin (this one is a very in depth guide with pic links)
Here is the history of braintanning
Steps of Braintanning
1. Obtain and flesh hide. This entails scraping all the meat and fat from the flesh side of the skin. Care now makes the job easier later.
2. Buck (de-hair) hide in a solution of 6 to 8 ounces of Red Devil Lye to 20 gallons of water until the hair slips easily.
3. Using a fleshing beam and tool, grain and membrane the hide, being careful to cover the complete unit.
4. Soak the hide in a flowing creek or mild vinegar water to remove lye.
5. Wring hide completely, removing as much water as possible.
6. Mix up a dressing by mixing one gallon of warm water (not over 120 F) with one of the following:
• one dozen eggs
• one brain from animal you are tanning
• ¼ cup oil (olive or neat’s-foot) and ¼ bar Ivory soap
7. Work hide in the dressing until thoroughly saturated.
8. Wring as much liquid from hide as possible using a stake, tree or post. You can help wring with a stick if it helps.
9. Work hide in dressing till thoroughly saturated. (You cannot overdress a hide!!)
10. Wring as much liquid from hide as possible.
11. Sew up any holes at this time.
12. Using a cable, breaking post, or combination, work the hide until it is soft and completely dry. This is the most important step of brain tanning and controls the outcome of your finished product. Make sure you work all parts of the hide, in all directions to keep the fibers separated. Constant working is not necessary, however all fibers must be stretched in both directions every 30 to 45 minutes. To fail to do so will cause hard spots in the hide. This can take from 4 to 10 hoursdepending on hide thickness, work area temperature, and humidity.
13. When the hide is completely dry and soft, sew into a sock shape, smoke till smoke stains saturate thickest parts of hide, turn wrong side out and repeat.
14. Admire your work, rub it, smell it, enjoy it.