Braintanned Deerhide vs Commerically Tanned Deerhide
What is the difference between a Braintanned Deerhide and a commercially tanned Deerhide? It is all about process and the quality of the finished product. Commercial tanners use chemicals to soften and preserve the hide. When they are finished, the deerhide has a smooth (top grain) and a suede side. Sometimes these are ‘split’ to make a hide that has two suede sides.
Braintanning is a time consuming, hands-on process. Native Americans processed all of their Leather this way before the advent of commercial tanning. The saying is that every animal has a brain large enough to tan its own hide.
Before tanning can start, the hide must have the hair and membrane scraped away. This allows the brain mixture to penetrate and soften the hide. Tanners mix the brain with water to create a solution that they apply to the hide. They work this mixture into the hide until it starts to soften. It may take several repetitions to get the solution worked into the hide.
Next is the strenuous part. The tanner must stretch or ‘break’ the fibers in the skin to make the hide pliable and not stiff like rawhide. Most people work it across a beam or a line, pulling it back and forth.
Smoking Braintanned Deerhide
Finally, most tanners smoke their braintanned hides. This prevents the hide from becoming stiff if it gets wet and acts as a preservative. You may see unsmoked braintanned hides which have a lovely white color, but they are liable to harden if they become wet.
Finished braintanned hides are remarkably soft and a pleasure to work with. They have two suede sides and if they have been smoked, you will notice the smoky odor. Braintanned leather is more durable than commercially tanned leather. It is an excellent choice for clothing and accessories.