How to Tan a Hide

Tanning a hide by the methods used by Native Americans involves four steps: cleaning, braining, softening, and smoking.

You will need

  • A small animal hide
  • A knife
  • The animal's brain
  • A stove
  • A pot
  • Water
  • A blender
  • A brush
  • A storage area
  • A chair
  • And smoke

Step 1 Scrape the hide Remove meat and fat from the hide by scraping it with a knife. Scrape from side to side — not head to tail.

Step 2 Add brains Cook the animal’s brain — beef or pork brains can also be used — in a pot of water, then put it a blender with warm water and mix well.

Step 3 Apply the brains to the hide Moisten the hide until it feels like a sponge, and then apply some of the brain mixture to the flesh side with a brush. Let the brains sit on the skin for an hour before applying more.

Step 4 Store the hide overnight Roll the hide up with the brains inside and let it sit overnight in a cool, protected place.

Step 5 Apply more brains Apply another coat of brains in the morning before stretching out the hide.

Step 6 Soften the hide Run the hide over the back of a chair to soften it until it is completely dry.

Step 7 Smoke the hide Smoke the hide over an open fire. Smoking prevents the skin from turning hard after getting wet and discourages insects.