To tan a deer hide at home, scrape the flesh off of the hide, salt it, soften it, soak it, oil it and stretch it. The process can take several days or more to complete.
To tan a deer hide, use the following steps.
- Scrape the hide
- Soften the hide
- Soak the hide
- Oil the hide
- Work the hide
Scrape all of the flesh and fat from the hide. Use a knife to cut away the larger pieces and then a butter knife to scrape the fine particles from the hide.
To soften the hide, spread the skin side with non-iodized salt and leave it to sit overnight. Then, soak the skin in a large garbage can for 2 or more hours until it begins to soften. Change the water frequently. Remove the hide and give the skin side another scrape with the back side of a knife.
In a garbage can, mix 4 gallons of water with 2 1/2 pounds of salt. Mix 1 gallon of water with 1 pound of ammonia alum in another bucket and then slowly add the mixture to the garbage can. Leave the hide to soak for 4 days, stirring regularly. To make an alternate solution, make a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar and add 2 pounds of salt per gallon. Leave the skin to soak for 3 days, stirring regularly. Then, mix 4 gallons of water with 2 cups of baking soda and soak the hide in the mixture.
Rinse the hide out well and towel dry it. Tack it down to some plywood with the skin side facing upwards and let it dry partially out of the sun. Coat the hide with tanning oil, cover the hide, and let it sit overnight.
To finish the tanning process, work the hide by stretching it back and forth over a wooden sawhorse or edge. Keep stretching it until it softens. If necessary, dampen the skin or add more oil.