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Learn How to Brain Tan

The best way to learn brain tanning is to get some hands on instruction with someone who is experienced, and to get a good book on the subject. You can get away with a book and no hands-on, or vice versa, but both is better.

Books & Videos

A good book will teach you how and also let you reference the important details that are easy to forget, help you trouble-shoot, give you a lot more ideas, options and the like. Brain tanning is not a complicated art, but you do have to do it right and the details are important. It's not something I could sit down with you, tell you how to do it and expect you to go home and have a chance in hell.

There are only four books that we know of
that can successfully teach you how:
  • Deerskins into Buckskins by Matt Richards
  • Blue Mountain Buckskin by Jim Riggs
  • Brain Tanned Buckskin by John McPherson
  • Wet-Scrape Brain Tanned Buckskin
    by Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder

We've provided online reviews and ordering information for these books and two videos.

There are several more books on the subject, many magazine articles, and many book chapters. None of them have enough detail and or expertise. If you've tried brain tanning, and it didn't work this is probably why. Here's a description of tanning books that won't teach you how to tan. There is also a page of useful tanning books that aren't complete on their own. If you haven't had success using a particular book, reading these might help you understand why.

Classes

Hands on instruction will give you a grasp of the more tactile aspects, such as how it looks when you are scraping off enough of the grain, or how it should feel as you are softening. We now have a growing schedule of classes being taught around the US and even the world. You can also go to the Braintanning Resource List and find out who teaches in your area and their contact information.

Tools

Having the right tools makes any job easier, and brain tanning is no different. We've found good inexpensive sources for the basic tools we recommend most. These are the same tools that we, and most tanners we know, prefer. You'll find descriptions, pictures and ordering info at The Braintan.com Store

Dryscrape vs Wetscrape

There are two main ways to go about scraping a hide. They are popularly known as "dry scrape" and "wet scrape". There are also a few different ways to go about the wet scraping process. We've put together a seven page primer that can help you decide which method (and thus which book, video or teacher) would be best suited for you. We recommend learning both eventually, but its easier to get your feet wet with just one.

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