How to Tan Deer Skin While Leaving the Hair On

Written by g.k. bayne
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How to Tan Deer Skin While Leaving the Hair On
It will take some time, but you can learn how to tan deer hide. (deer image by Henryk Olszewski from

Making a soft and supple leather hide from a deer hide isn't difficult. Drying the hide takes some time, but then you can work it into a softer state while watching TV or simply sitting on the porch. Anyone can learn how to tan deer hide, it's a low intensity hobby.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 3/4-inch thick plywood, 4 feet by 8 feet
  • 50 nails, 6p
  • Hammer
  • Sharp knife
  • Sea salt
  • Deer hide

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    Tanning Leather: Deer Hide

  1. 1

    Lay the full sheet of plywood on the floor to give you plenty of room to work around the area. Lay the fresh deer hide or skin on the top side of the plywood. Start the hide about a foot down from the top edge. You'll stand the plywood on edge once the deer hide is attached.

  2. 2

    Attach the deer hide to the plywood by nailing it, hair side down, every three to four inches around the outer edge of the skin. The nails should be no closer than 3/8 inch from the skin's edge. Begin on one side of the hide, then move to the opposite side. Stretch the hide as tight as you can. As the skin dries, it will shrink and become tighter between the nails.

  3. 3

    Stand the plywood on the 4-foot side and lean it against the wall, preferably in a garage to protect the hide from hungry animals and allow for some air movement across the drying hide. Pull the deerskin from the surface of the plywood so the hair does not rest against the wood.

  4. 4

    Scrape and clean the hide of any remaining meat, using a sharp knife. You want a clean surface to remain on the inside of the deerskin.

  5. 5

    Rub sea salt over all of the bare skin surface. Thoroughly work the sea salt into the skin. Do this every day for four or five days, depending on the environment the hide is kept in. The drier the room, the faster the drying will occur. Once the hide is completely dry, it should be stiff and have no odour of decay. Remove the skin from the plywood.

  6. 6

    Roll the stiff deer hide up, then unroll and reroll it. This is the best way to work the deerskin to softness. The more you rub and roll the hide, the softer it will become. Some hair may fall out, but if the hide was fully cured with the sea salt, the hair pores should lock around each hair follicle. Continue to work the hide as much as needed.

Tips and warnings

  • Buy sea salt; it's preferable to regular table salt because of its purity. You can use iodised salt, but some discolouration may occur in the skin.

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