Cleaning and tanning deer hides is an ancient art. Native Americans used brain matter to cure hides and wood ashes to remove hair. Deer hide is often the best hide to work with if you are just beginning to learn cleaning and tanning techniques, because it is thicker than rabbit hides, which require delicate care to avoid damaging the hide. Success with cleaning and tanning deer hides comes with patience, hard work and experience, but you will most likely see improvement with each deer hide you clean.
Things You'll Need
- 5-10-gallon plastic garbage can
- Large smooth board
- Hacksaw blade
- Baking soda
- Dishwashing soap
- Stirring paddle
- Single-edge knife
- Waxed thread or dental floss
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Soak the hide in a 5-to-10-gallon plastic garbage can, changing the water several times. Soak the hide until it is soft but do not soak it too long or the hair may begin to slip off. Soaking time depends on the condition of the skin; some skins need only two hours, while a greasy or heavier-coated hide may require up to three times as long.
Lay the hide on a smooth board with the skin side up, holding the skin taut and pulling it back and forth over the board to break up the adhering tissue and fat.
Scrape an old hacksaw blade against the shiny tight layer of tissue that lies under the tissue, then soak the hide in water and scrape it again with the hacksaw. Repeat this procedure again if necessary until you remove all of the tissue, being careful not to injure the true skin or expose the hair roots.
Place the skin in lukewarm water with 1 ounce of baking soda per gallon and stir with a paddle. If the skin is very greasy, you can add a tablespoon of dishwashing soap per gallon of water.
Lay the skin flesh-side up on a smooth board and scrape a knife against the skin to remove any tissue, dirt or debris still left on the skin.
Rinse the skin in lukewarm water and then gently squeeze out the excess water, being careful not to wring the hide.
Stitch any holes in the hide using a waxed thread or dental floss if the skin is thin.