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The History of Braintan:    page 6

....And Its Return

Undoubtedly there were some folks somewhere who continued to make buckskin, but the knowledge of its manufacture, once as basic of a home industry as soap making, was no longer common. Since 1915 the deer population has rebounded to a healthy 30 million in the U.S. Of the six million deer killed each hunting season only a small percentage ever make it to a tannery. Most are left in the field or tossed into a dumpster. In the last thirty years interest in living with the land, and wisely using its resources has once again proliferated. Different individuals have sought out the knowledge of how to make the buckskin that was described in old woods-lore books and descriptions of the Indians. They sought the aid of Native American friends who remembered some of the old ways. They pieced together what they could from the scanty accounts that were available and tried to find a workable process.

From the backyards, wood-lots and reservations of America, this old and nearly lost art was slowly rediscovered. Eventually folks started running into each other and sharing their discoveries, tips and theories; amazed to meet someone else who 'brain-tanned'. Booklets and books were written: Indian-Tan Buckskin by Buckskin Slim Schaefer; Tanning Hides the Sioux Way by Larry Belitz; Blue Mountain Buckskin by Jim Riggs; Brain-Tan Buckskin by John McPherson. These books and teachers, among others, set off a renewed interest in the art as people saw the beauty and practicality of buckskin.

Since then many different methods of arriving at that same goal have been discovered or rediscovered. Those of us who brain tan have always been happy to share our new discoveries with one another and as a result we have all gotten better at the art. Much like computers, brain tanning is an art that we are continually improving our knowledge of as we discover or rediscover better techniques. Recent books, Wetscrape Braintanned Buckskin and Deerskins into Buckskins, reflect these easier methods. As does the pre-smoking method taught by the Dinsmores, and the dry scraping techniques taught by the Maness's.

These days brain tan buckskin is experiencing a much welcomed renaissance*. What seemed like an obscure art ten years ago, is now the preferred method for home tanning across America. When I used to tell people what I do for a living I'd say:

I tan hides using natural oils and woodsmoke, its the old method that people used to use....
Nowadays when I say that same phrase, most people look at me for a second, and then say:
Oh, you mean you brain tan...

 

the end
The End
 
*(Brain tanning has gotten so popular that Deerskins into Buckskins is the best selling leathercraft book of any kind on Amazon.com. How cool!)
 
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