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The Pre-Smoking Method:    page 7

Softening the Hide


We use a wringer like the kind on an old wringer washer. Our's clamps onto one of our frames we have leaning against the smoker. As you run the hide through the wringer, the liquid that comes out should be a milky white color. The hide should have a smokey wet wood smell and be soft. We run it through a couple of times until most of the moisture is out. Again, there are different ways to wring out a hide, this is the way we prefer to do it. We usually double the hide and run it through. It seems when the hide is wrung by twisting, it tightens up the fibers. To us it seems that way. Also if it is real hot, it is better to leave more moisture in the hide, as at times, before you even finish lacing it onto the frame, it has begun to dry.

Hand vs. Frame Softening

Up until recently Joe softened the hides by hand using a square post, cable and band. It wore out my arms and shoulders to do it that way and I opted to do it on a frame. Recently Joe has began to do all of his on a frame too. So this is how we do it on a frame...

Lacing it onto the Frame

Lace the hide onto the frame leaving a sufficient amount of space at the top. Lace across the top first then tie a lace at the bottom. Do not pull the hide tight. You lace it at the bottom so it does not come out shaped wide and short like it does when prestretching. Go back up to the top and begin down the sides, alternating from one side to the other to keep the hide straight in the frame. The hide should be slightly baggy in the frame.

Softening the Hide

Work the hide in a side to side motion all over, then reverse it and do the same thing to the other side. The edges are thinnest and will dry faster than the neck, back and hips. Work the hide from side to side, as the fibers seperate and soften easier that way as opposed to lengthwise. You will also work the hide lengthwise, but focus more on the side to side motion. As the hide stretches, you will want to take up some slack, but don't tighten it like in the pre-stretching phase. The hide should always be slightly baggy in the softening step.

As in the pre-stretching, the weather dictates how often the hide must be worked. On a hot day - more often, and on a cool day - less often. Just keep working the hide until it is dry all the way through. The neck, back and hip areas will dry last. Sometimes they feel dry on the surface but are still damp in the middle. If you quit working the hide then, it will harden up inside. We do hides that are equally soft all over and all the way through. If we get a hard spot, we either cut it out, (if it is near the edge like sometimes happens at the neck), or we rebrain the hide again. Some tanners use a sander to sand smooth the outter layers of a hard spot but then the inside is still dense and not suitable for beading.

Finishing Up

When the hide is softened and dry, you can either go back to the smoker for additional color or use it the way it is.
About The Authors
Joe has been tanning for nearly 12 years. He has tried many different ways and as many different tools, we feel that through trial and error we are doing hides the quickest and easiest way we have found. I (Victoria Longtrail) have been around tanning for nearly as long but have only been a tanner for about a year. Together we have a production line going with hides in all stages of completion.

This article is best used in conjunction with The Dinsmore's video guide to the Pre-Smoke Method now available at the Store

Brain tanning is our only source of income. We tan year round. When we treat our tanning like a regular every day job we can produce six to seven hides per week. We sell our hides at $12 per square foot and most of the hides we do are above nine square feet in size, so you can see how we can live on our business of tanning and you could too or use it as a supplement to your regular source of income. Brain tanning is a never ending learning process. We often come up with ideas that make the job easier and faster. Sometime it is by accident and other times well thought about.

Classes with the Dinsmores

We offer seminars nearly year round. Price is $75 per day per person and it usually takes about three days to go through all of the steps. We are always willing to answer questions by phone or e-mail.

SUNDOG TRADERS: Joseph Dinsmore & Victoria Longtrail D.
POB 182 Winnett, Montana 59087

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