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DIY buck skin

Gabriel James

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So between now and the end of deer season there will be a lot of deer killed (hopefully by me)... and something I've always wanted to try but haven't garnered the courage to attempt just yet, is to make my own leather buck skin.


What are the bare essentials that i need to complete the task? Ive looked but cannot find a simplified version. Has anyone done this? or Do this regularly?


Skin deer

Remove the fat from the HIDE

Soak in salt water and ______ to remove or loosen the hair?

remove the hair

apply brain mixture to both sides of stretch hide


work the leather to soften it up



Is this the correct order of operations?

Edited by Gabriel James
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Since you have never brain tanned before I would HIGHLY recommend the book "Deerskins into Buckskins " by Matt Richards - it will not answer the questions you asked but also answer those you haven't.



BTW - I have a friend who tans full time and a few years ago she started using a pressure washer to clean off any meat or fat as well as de-hair the hide. Just stretch the green hide and holding the spry head at a 30-45° angle and sluice the crap off the hide.


Be prepared - properly tanning and softening is hard on the back and arms especially - softening/working the hide is done through out the process..


PS you do not soak in salt water to de-hair it's counterproductive - its usually soaked in a mix of wood ashes and water or lye and water. After that you need to re-acidivize the leather. As noted get the book - IMNSHO in will make the job easier in the long run - only thing better is finding a good tanner to show you the ropes. (I say good tanner because there is a lot of crappy brain tan out there.)

Edited by Wild Rose

Chuck Burrows

Wild Rose Trading Co



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There are several methods out there, braintan.com lists several. I have tried a few and I like the pre-smoking one the best. It didn't make a huge difference in the finished product, but it was nicer working with a smoky brain solution. Whichever one you use, make sure you remove the outer epidermis layer prior to braining. when soaking, don't use chlorinated tap water, supposedly it interferes with how the brain interacts with the hide's fibers. I second Wild rose's point about it being hard work on hands, arms, back..... Enjoy!

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And if Wild rose decided to teach me the leather working skills to go with it that be awesome! You do some crazy work! Luckily the 2 non chef knife orders ive had so far the guy said he wanted to make his own sheath-- i still havnt even dabbled in it yet, but it's always something i wanted to try. I also really despise killing a deer for the meat and throwing away the hide every time -- its very wasteful! As soon as the holidays slow down a bit im going to read up more information. Also I just happen to be making lye in my back yard at the moment i hadnt planned on using it for any specific purpose yet either :P

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  • 2 weeks later...

I also really despise killing a deer for the meat and throwing away the hide every time -- its very wasteful!


You could always take them to a tanner/taxidermist. Most will even pay you for them (though typically only a few dollars, and sometimes in store credit). One place I've taken mine to would trade you a pair of leather gloves for a deer hide (they no longer do that), another gave me $4, which I used to get some elk leather scraps.

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well those are great ideas but i would much rather keep the leather for myself! bahaha! Sadly i think my dogs are the reason for me not seeing any deer this year :( I just picked up some leatherworking tooling and a piece of horse hide butt 5-7 oz

10 pack of needles

waxed nylon thread

5/32 4 pronged diamond punch

stitching chisel and groover

edge beveler

and some contact cement from a leather store

Im hoping that's all i need to make sheaths with!? I will be studying how to make these as my next knife for a Preacher friend of mine wants an EDC with a sheath :(


Wild rose do you use a tool to carve with or do you trace and burn with a soldering iron type device?

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Also, I have a couple books I picked up on how to tan because I wanted to keep them too. Like smelting, it is by no means cost effective. You really only should be considering it for the cool points/satisfaction. Someday I will be tanning my own hides and smelting. Stupid? Maybe. Crazy? Probably. Sounds awesome? Definitely. B)


I seem to recall reading somewhere that brain tanning using the deer's brain is not a good idea though. Something about a disease that is spreading among deer that apparently we humans want nothing to do with. Safe brains should be really easy to get, maybe even free, from a butcher/slaughter house. Cow and pig should work fine (no first hand experience here).

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  • 1 year later...

I've done some braintanning and was taught by some guys that had done a ton with great results. They didn't like using wood ash because it would get stuck in the fibers and create a rougher texture in the final product. Their method was to soak the deer skins in water for a few days, wet scrape the hair off, soak overnight 5 gallons water/1 cup dish soap helped loosen the dermis and epidermis layers which where then scraped off. If the hide is held up to a light at this point you should see no yellow colors just bleach white. If there is any yellow there is still dermis or epidermis layers and these spots will come out like rawhide. Once all is well here it is now ready for the brains. One brain ran through a blender and put into enough water to submerse the hide, soak, mix....... Now the most labor intensive part..removing moisture. Ringing, and working the hide over 2 ropes until the hide is DRY. Dry enough you can breath through the hide. It's now ready for smoking which closes the pores and helps to keep the leather nice and supple. If you are going to dye the leather I'd do it before all the ringing out and working to dry the hide. If all is done well the finished product is very supple and feels like velvet. Using this for a knife sheath would require a rawhide liner or something similar. For me a hide took about 8 hours of work and a small hide took almost as long as a larger one. Edges come out tough because it is hard to scrape and work them down well. Most trim them off and use them for lace. The price often runs $15-$20 per square foot with good reason.

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