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OK Books on Brain Tanning...

but they can't take you all the way

These books are all written by expert tanners, who for one reason or another left things out or oversimplified. They can be worthwhile to read and reference but they won't take you all the way.

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The Tanning Spirit
a video by Mel Beaty

Mel is an outstanding tanner who inspired a whole generation to learn wet-scrape. When he did this video, a key part of what made his process work, was unknown to him (he stored his hides for well over a year, after scraping but before braining. This breaks the mucus down and makes the hide brain and soften easily. Steven Edholm eventually figured this out). So if you follow his instructions perfectly on a deer that is anywhere near fresh, it won't work. Every time. Unfortunately this has confused a whole heck of a lot of people who didn't know any better and knew how great a tanner Mel is.

Otherwise this is the best video on the wet-scrape method and one that we recommend be used along with a book so that you get the missing details.

For more details and ordering info

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on the web
Tanning the Infirm Way
by Paul Dinsmore

The is a free online 'book' that describes Paul's pre-smoking method of brain tanning. Gives an excellent and clear overview of his method that is well worth checking out if you already know how to tan. There is nowhere near enough detail for the uninitiated to successfully follow these directions. We think these techniques are well worth checking out for their application to hair-on tanning. For buckskin, pre-smoking has always sounded like more work than the method in Deerskins into Buckskins (so we haven't tried it). We hope to make this online book available here at, but for now you can go read it at

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Home Tanning & Leather Making Guide
by A.B. Farnham

A classic book on home tanning, written in the 40's by a professional taxidermist and tanner. Decent info on bark and chrome tanning. He obviously looked down on brain tanning as a cruder form of his chosen art. His rather negative summary of it has been repeated as fact in various books since then. The how-to directions are much too short and cursory to work.

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Brain Tan Buffalo Robes, Skins and Pelts
by Jim Miller 40 pages $12.50

Jim with friends Written by an excellent tanner and a good guy, this book is a collection of his magazine articles on tanning. His information is good and might be enough for his students to remember the steps, or experienced tanners to understand Jim's techniques, but it is far too simplified for the unitiated to be successful.

Worth owning particularly for the information on tanning Buffalo and other fur hides (there isn't much available on either of these, and Jim has done a lot).

The fur tanning section is an article you can read here on

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