Hide Tanning Part 1

Last week I began the seasonal process of turning a deer hide into a buckskin following steps similar to those used in cultures from the Cherokee to the Saxons and on almost every continent for thousands of years.


If your family hunts or is looking for a hands-on leap into the past, read on!


(Note: This is not THE way of doing things. This is how I learned and how I am currently doing the process. If you have ways that have worked for you, please share in the comments!)



Materials needed for the first few steps

1. Deer hide (preferably from a processor that uses a wench so the hide is solid rather than cut up)


2. Plastic garbage can and lye bath (put the water in first. I add lye until the water is soft. There's a definite measurement somewhere on the Internet/in a book).


3. Dull fleshing tool


4. PVC pipe (10") with wooden legs (or a smooth log)


6. Plastic apron, gloves, muck boots, and mask (tanning stinks)


Note: My instructor recommended doe or young buck to avoid the tougher skins of the older bucks.


The Process Thus Far


1. Soak the hide in a lye bath for 5-7 days (keep an eye on it to make sure it's not floating and to make sure it's not dissolving).


2. Remove the hide from the bath and spend a day scraping off the hair and the grain, starting from neck to tail (the grain is the layer of skin that holds the hair in place. Lye helps it bubble up so you can see it to remove it).


WARNING: Make sure you use a plastic apron if you use lye or you will get chemical burns!!!!!


I had to remove the neck/tail/legs from the hide before doing this, something I should have done at the beginning.


3. Once you have removed the grain, flip the hide over and membrane it. This means loosen up the membranes so that the tanning solution will soak into the hide.


4. STRETCH!!!! You need to loosen up your lower back after this, so find a few stretches that relieve the tension.


Next week, I'll go over the next few steps in the process and have two new buckskins to share!


If you or your family would like to make your own buckskins, join me on a four-day journey through the process December 2-5.


The workshop is at my house in Greer and includes the deer hide and access to all tools. Register by clicking HERE.







A buckskin purse I made last year. I forgot the oil in the braining process (essential!!!), so it's super dry and will probably rot.



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