Tanning Deer Hides
Don't Throw Out Your Deer Hides!
Tanned hides can be used as rugs, made into bags, a knife sheath, gun and bow cases, buckskin clothing or any creative use you might come up with.
Here is a step-by-step instruction on how to tan your own deer hides.
While skinning your deer try not to cut holes into the skin because this will be difficult to repair and can be hard to work around.
After the hide is removed from the carcass, be sure to skin the tail as well. The bones should be removed by making a cut along the underside of the tail.
Follow the 7 steps outlined below:
It is important that your knife be sharp and that every last bit of tissue is removed from the skin. If any tissue is left on the hide, it will not tan in those areas.
If you plan to tan the hide with the hair on, skip steps 2 & 3 and proceed with step 4. If you plan to remove the hair and tan the hide into a "buckskin", go to step 2.
In a large plastic garbage can mix: 1 gallon of hardwood ashes 2 pounds of household (slaked) lime 5 gallons of warm water
Stir the above mixture until it is dissolved. Completely immerse the deer skin in the mixture. Stir the mixture 2 or 3 times a day until the hair comes off easily. This will take 2 to 3 days.
If the hide is left in the mixture too long, it will begin to deteriorate. After you remove the hide, proceed to step 3.
Rinse the dehaired skin several times with clean water. Soak the hide for 24 hours in the garbage can in a mixture of 10 gallons water and 2 quarts vinegar.
Stir this mixture with the hide in it every few hours. At the end of this 24 hour period, empty the garbage can and fill it with clean water.
Soak the hide in the clean water overnight. Go to step 4
In a small plastic bucket, dissolve 1 pound of alum in one gallon of warm water. In the garbage can, dissolve 2 1/2 pounds of salt in 4 gallons of water.
Pour the solution from the small bucket into the garbage can and mix thoroughly. Immerse the skin and soak for 6 to 8 days.
Stir the mixture 2 times each day to make sure that all parts of the hide are exposed to the mixture.
After the soaking period, remove the skin and drain it thoroughly.
Rinse the skin with running water for approximately 15 minutes. Go to step 5
When the skin is almost dry, rub it with a light coating of warm neat's-foot oil. Remove it from the board and repeat the process on the other side. Remove excess oil from the hide with an absorbant cloth. Proceed to step 6
As the softening progresses SPARINGLY apply some warm neat's-foot oil to the hide. If you are working with a hide with the hair still on, only work on the flesh side. Proceed to step 7
Only do the flesh side of hides with the hair still on. When the hide takes on a smooth appearance, it is ready to be used as a rug, wall hanging, or sewn into some other type of useful item.