i'm curious to know how brain tanning works and what makes it work, any help or direction on this is really appreciated.
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Go to www.braintan.com and you'll find a lot of info.
Although they probably were unaware of it - the Brain mixture used to impregnate the skins, actually breaks down and creates an "Aldehyde" type of light tan. This, plus the protective creasote from smoking - kept the skin intact.
Could you explain your Aldehyde idea further? My understanding
is that the natural oils in the brain only allow softening, like
any tanning oil, but don't actually tan the hide at all. After all,
eggs can be used in place of brains, with equal results. While
the natural formeldyhide in the smoke preserves the soft state
and allows the hide to be wet and dry soft.