The Difference Between Various Brain Tanning Methods: page 7
Some Recommendations for Different Situations
Backyard tanning is different. Sharp tools are easy to come by, as is five gallon plastic
buckets and other wonders of modern life.
We usually recommend learning the bucking method of wetscrape, as we feel it's the
easiest and most efficient method. However, this method does rely on a fairly liberal use
of water, so if you live somewhere where water is really at a premium (you are paying for
it and there are no creeks nearby) it may not be the best for you. Next we'd recommend
the pre-smoking method, as it is also very efficient. However, if you live somewhere
where generating a fair amount of smoke would be a problem (like in some suburban or
urban situations), this won't work well for you either.
In situations where you are limited by your water use and ability to create smoke, you are
better off doing either the plain wet-scrape method or dry-scrape. Numerous folks who have 9 to 5 jobs like to dry-scrape because they can hang the hide on the rack and scrape off some now and then whenever they get five minutes. Of course most wet-scrapers would argue that in the time you took to hang the hide on the rack, you would have been done wet-scraping! Whatever appeals to you most....
Tanning For a Living
If you want to tan hides for sale, wet-scraping with either the bucking or pre-smoking
methods, is the most efficient for volume tanning. There are definitely people dry-scraping hides as part of their living, but the vast majority of volume brain tanners wet-scrape.
If you are trying to do historically accurate Native American work, wet-scrape is appropriate for doing deer, elk or moose in any part of North America. Dry-scrape is documentable for deer and elk on the Northern Plains only, moose in much of central Canada, and for Bison anywhere.
All evidence in Mediaeval and Renaissance Europe, and Colonial America points to the use of wet-scrape. If you are re-enacting the Fur Trade Era, the traditional white man method for deer hides again was wet-scrape. Undoubtedly some picked up dry-scraping Bison or moose from the Natives.
Much of the documentation for this can be found in the Braintan.com bibliography. Primary documentation of actual tanning methods, written during the Fur Trade Era in the fur trade region is admittedly scant, but there is some. The above statements are based on the best available evidence.
If you want to learn how to brain tan, or learn another method of doing it, we highly recommend learning from someone who already knows how. Experimenting is great, we do it all the time, but you'll save yourself a tremendous amount of effort if you gain from
another person's experience. If you find that you are bit by the brain tanning bug, then experiment from there! The amount of high quality books, videos, instructors, and just plain friends who can teach you is greater than it has ever been in recent history. I've been brain tanning for a living for over 10 years. When I wanted to learn about pre-smoking I messed around with it a bit at home, and then drove to the Dinsmore's, tanned a hide with them and watched their video. Saved me a fair amount of head banging and scratching.
In fact, there are many more ways to go about this, then what is presented hear. I know guys who buck or pre-smoke their dryscrapes. Others who wetscrape a hide, string it up in a rack and then go over it with a dryscraper. I've even heard of people dryscraping hides, and then going over it on the beam with a wetscrape tool. I know one guy who puts his Bison hides between two big pieces of plywood and drives back and forth over it with his truck.
What do I do? I do my hair-off hides with wetscrape (almost always bucking), but I use
a dryscraper for thinning out the thick rumps and neck on large furs like buffalo, bear, etc.
Keep using your brains,