So we’ve made it through the skinning and drying process of learning how to make leather.
Because the goal of this process is to make a fur, just like Mario’s tanooki suit, I will not cover the de-hairing process. If you want to de-hair your animal skin do so before moving on to preparing the brain tanning solution.
To prepare the brain tanning solution you should, preferably use the brain of the animal that you are tanning the hide of since every animal has enough brains to effectively tan its own leather. If you do not have the brain of the animal then you can purchase pig brains from many butcher shops. You will need about 1 pound of it. I recommend Richard’s Meat Market on Kaaahi Place.
Step 1: While the hide is still dry, peel off the filmy layer that is over the top of the skin. We discussed this on the skinning and drying instructions so if you weren’t able to remove all of it in the beginning now is a good time to get it off.
Step 2: Cook the brain in 1 cup of water. The brain will become mushier than it was to begin with. Stop cooking it when it becomes tender.
Step 3: Pour everything in the pan into a blender (most people have a separate blender for this since it can smell pretty awful and others might not want to eat out of it) and blend thoroughly.
Step 4: Leave the brains sitting while you apply some water to the dry hide. Fill a 5 gallon barrel or trashcan with water and 1 ounce of baking soda per gallon of water and dunk the hide in it. You may want to let it soak for about 10 minutes then check on it and repeat until it’s pliable but still a little bit stiff. Be careful not to over-soak the hide or the hair will start slipping off.
Optional: If the hide is greasy, such as pigs or racoons, you can pour about a teaspoon of grease cutting dish soap into the water and dunk one last time and swirl it around really well. This will help cut the grease considerably and make it easier to work with.
Step 5: Place the skin on a flat surface and scud the skin. That is, scraping a knife back and forth over the skin side. This removes any remaining fatty bits, glandular tissue and dirt. If the skin begins to get dry while doing this go ahead and dunk it in the above solution really quickly and continue.
Step 6: Squeeze the water out of the leather. Squeeze, do not wring. Get as much water out as possible so the brain tanning solution can absorb thoroughly. You may also want to place it between two towels and press on it until those towels are fully saturated and repeat with new towels.
Step 7: Smash the mixture of brains into the leather on both sides. Get it in really well and smear it around. Since we’ve left the fur attached you want to press it into the fur moving with the grain of the fur. Do not go against the grain.
Step 8: Roll the fur up into a ball, stick it in a bag and place it in the refrigerator. It needs to soak overnight at the very least but at least 24 hours is preferable.
To continue once the brain tanning solution has soaked in, go on to the final steps for brain tanning hides.