You can see our full tutorial on how to tan a deer hide at home here.
How do you break the hide (make it soft) after you’ve tanned it?
We haven’t had to break a lot of our hides as most of them have turned out pretty soft after some light sanding. That would be our first tip – sand the skin side of your hide with fine grit sand paper. This will also give the skin that nice velvet leather feel. If that doesn’t soften it enough, you might need to break it over a ridged surface. This is best done when you first dry the skin out. You can use just about anything from a tow ball to a wooden sawhorse or even a piece of PVC pipe, like we use in this video. Just be sure to work the skin side over the surface not the hair side.
We can’t lie – breaking a hide can be really hard work. We’ve been lucky to get pretty soft hides without too much work as most of them have been small or young deer. The bigger the animal and the thicker the skin, the harder it is going to be to break and get soft. Try to get the skin as thin as possible before you tan it (after you pickle and neutralise the skin). This can be done with a pressure washer or a dull hunting knife. Just be careful to stop when you start to see the small, dark follicle of the hair showing through (on the skin side).
How do I store a skin until I am ready to tan it?
There are two options – freeze it or dry salt. If you choose to freeze the skins, make sure to wash any blood and dirt off first. Fold it, place it in a bag, mark the bag with the species and date, and freeze. Alternatively, you can lay the skin out flat, cover it in salt (1-2 cm thick layer) and let dry. You will need to repeat the process a few times until the skin is completely dry and stiff. It can then be stored somewhere dry until you are ready to tan it. To rehydrate the skin, use the brine solution from our tanning tutorial.
What equipment do I need to tan my own hides at home?
A pressure washer is a really useful tool for cleaning the skins and thinning them out. If you don’t have one, you can use a dull hunting knife. Just be careful not to shave it too thin.
You will need a large bucket to soak and tan the skins. You can pick one up at your local hardware store, just like this one, for under $20.
You will of course need the tanning chemical and leather oil. We use the Leder Tanning Kit as it has everything in it. There are two sizes you can purchase. The 500ml bottles will do approx. 4-6 deer hides. (TIP: I Am Hunter members can get 10% off if they purchase through Mansfield Hunting & Fishing using the code in our Trophy Room).
Once you have tanned the skins, you’ll need something to pin them out on to dry. We use plywood boards screwed together with some timber planks.
Optional: sandpaper and a sanding block to soften the skin.
Can I wash a hide after I have tanned it?
You can if you tan it using a chromium-based tanning chemical (like Leder). We have washed ours a number of times.
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