How to Tan Hides: Tanning Animal Hides Using the Brain Tanning Method

Knowing how to tan hides can be a great skill to have if you suddenly find yourself living in post-apocalyptic America. There are different processes for tanning hides and the one you use will depend solely on the purpose intended. While brain tanning will produce hides for one purpose, bark tanning will produce them for a completely different use.

Two Methods of Tanning


When you’re learning how to tan hides, you should think about how you want to use your finished product. If you want to make your own clothes, bags, shoe laces and other small things, you’ll want to use the process of brain tanning. On the other hand, bark tanning makes very strong water proof leather goods for saddles, holsters, heavy duty bags, rifle cases, and other similar items.

While both processes will produce beautiful hand crafted hide products, knowing how to tan hides using the brain tanning process will ultimately be more useful to you in a post crisis, mainly because it is useful in creating products that will help meet your basic needs – such as clothing.

The Brain Tanning Process

Learning how to tan hides is slightly complex and you will need to follow the steps carefully and precisely without omitting anything. The nine steps to tanning hides using the brain method include:

1. Clean the flesh side of the hide with a knife removing all flesh and blood stains.

2. Soak the fleshed hide in clean water for a complete 72 hours. If you want a furless skin, attach the hide to a tree and scrape off the fur. Scrape against the grain of the hair.

3. Soak your hide in a mixture of brains and water. Each animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide. Simmer the brains in water with a little fat then rub on both sides of the hide. Roll up tightly and let it set overnight.

4. Twist the hide into a tight rope. Fasten one end to a solid stick in the ground and pull the other end so you can wring it out while twisting.

5. Using your hands and feet, stretch the hide out as far as you can. Then punch holes around the hide and fasten it to a wooden frame to further stretch it out.

6. Turn to hair side and work hide with a tool to soften it.

7. Once it’s soft, dry and pliable, it’s ready to be smoked. Sew up the hide to make a bag with a hole at one end. Invert bag over a hole about a foot wide and half as deep.

8. Build a small smoky fire in the hole to smoke the hide. The skin bag has to be positioned so the smoke goes in the hole. Once the inside has been smoked turn bag inside out and smoke more. A thin hide only takes about 10 minutes and a thick one about an hour.

9. Smoking the hide gives it its color. A non-smoked hide will stiffen up after getting wet.

Note: Each animal’s brain provides the right amount of matter to tan its hide. Convenient, huh?

Storing Your Hides

The last step in learning how to tan hides is also learning how to store them. If you’re not in a position to tan all your hides right away you will need to store them to keep animals and bugs away from them. The easiest way to store your hides is to freeze them. In order to save space, you might want to consider de-fleshing them first. If you want to dry the hide, you should scrape it first – otherwise it makes tanning much harder. Dry hides are storable for an indefinite amount of time.

Start Now to Learn How to Tan Hides

Like many skills that are useful in times of economic collapse and worldwide chaos, the time to hone your skills is not after disaster strikes – it’s now. Post crisis, you will have too many other things to worry about to try and acquire new skills. Learning how to tan hides long before you actually need to do it is the easiest way to be prepared with a means to make necessary items for family use or items to barter with to help your family financially.

Be extra prepared by storing a number of hides until you actually need them. You should also take on the challenge of learning both of the different processes and know what you can make from each process.

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