The Difference Between Various Brain Tanning Methods: page 5
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The hide is soaked in plain water and then wet-scraped to remove the hair and grain. Then the hide is soaked in brains, and casually worked dry as if softening. This opens up the fibers for the pre-smoking. Then the hide is smoked in a smokehouse, brained and worked all the way soft.

Related Articles
The Pre-Smoking Method, by Joe & Victoria Dinsmore. a seven page online guide.

Smokin' Hides in a Smoke House, a four page description of some of the key ins and outs.

The pre-smoking has an effect similar to bucking in making it much easier to brain and soften the hide. It also changes the texture of the hide making them really easy to wring. Many tanners who don't use the 'pre-smoking method', are still very influenced by it. If a hide doesn't come out as soft as desired, they will go ahead and smoke it, brain it again and re-soften.  This method was traditionally used by Native peoples in Canada on moose hides. There is also evidence of its use in other areas.


  1. Efficient. 
  2. Makes wringing easier than any other method. 
  3. Involves two softening phases, but neither are real hard. 
  4. The smoke gets into the brain water that you soak your hide in, and prevents it from getting stinky for much longer. This makes it so you can use the same brain water many times.
  5. We believe this could be an extremely good way to do hair-on hides…especially thick ones, because the smoke sets the hair and prevents decay (the biggest challenge doing hair on hides is to get them soft before the hair starts to slip).


  1. Works best with a smokehouse setup…so it's not as convenient for doing 
    in camp or survival situation (though you certainly can).
  2. More steps and working time than bucking.

Best Resources

  1. The Dinsmore's free six page online Guide to Pre-smoking , in conjunction with...
  2. The Pre-Smoke Method of Brain Tan, the video by Joe & Victoria 

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