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  • No chemicals.
  • Natural, renewable resource. We gather our deer hides by skinning deer for local hunters.
  • Unlike modern leather, brain tan breathes, and is stretchy, so it moves like your skin.
  • It has been used globally for centuries.
  • It’s great for bushcrafters, Native American dancers, historical re-enactors, mountain men, long hunters, Vikings, leathercrafters, and more!

If you’re looking for the perfect material for a war shirt or pow wow outfit, we’d sure like to help!


I’ve been dabbling with various hide tanning techniques since I was a boy. Later in life, I wanted to learn more about brain tanning hides the right way from those living a primitive lifestyle. I attended Rabbit Stick Primitive Skills Gathering in 2016, and was able to observe several instructors share how they tanned hides. This greatly improved my technique, and helped me overcome some flaws in the process. The fall of 2016, I tanned 13 Mule Deer hides from Eastern Montana. I also made moccasins and pants, and was encouraged by some friends from mountain man rendezvous’ to tan more to sell. The fall of 2017, I ended up finishing 37 hides, and thought to myself ,”what a season!” The year after it became 70 hides. I haven’t stopped tanning hides since! 


Finding the Perfect Hide
Where do I find these wonderful hides? It begins in the fall in Northern Minnesota. I talk to local hunters about skinning their deer in exchange for the hide. To ensure a higher quality leather, I skin the deer within hours of it being shot to minimize the amount of scars and holes in the final product. In the past, there were either local drop off bins for the unused skins, or hunters could exchange them for gloves, but increasingly this is becoming a thing of the past, so it’s been my privilege to be able to reuse and recycle these hides, as well as “chew the fat” with local hunters.
Fleshing the Hide
I use a draw knife to remove meat and loose membrane from hide. The hide is then frozen flat and stacked with others.
Removing Hair
I soak the hide in an alkaline solution, which would have traditionally been wood ash, but I use hydrated lime. It is soaked from 3-10 days. When the hair starts to loosen, I remove the membrane, along with the hair. Most people I’ve talked to agree that this is the least enjoyable part of the process.
The hide is rinsed in a slow-moving stream or bucket with slow running hose to remove mucus and lime left in hide. In cold conditions, this takes 2-3 days.
Not all tanners do this step, but it helps with softening the hide. Traditionally, sour brains or buffalo dung was used, but I use a vinegar and water solution, which does the same thing. It is soaked for 15 minutes, then dried.
Dressing the Hide
This can be done with brains, eggs, or soap. The oils in these coat the fibers in the hide, and keep them from sticking together, so it is soft and flexible. I soak the hide in a brain solution until saturated. I then stretch, ring, and resoak the hide several times this way. I do this until is reminds me of well-cooked spaghetti in texture.
The hide is laced onto a wooden frame, and worked with a blunted axe handle until dry and soft. When working in my shop, I start the wood stove to get the temperature up to 85 degrees to speed up the drying process. This takes anywhere from 2-8 hours depending on temperature and humidity.
Smoking the hide not only gives it a great color and awesome smell, it makes it so it can be washed (with a little stretching as it dries) and retain its original softness. There is a wide range in the leather’s finished color and undertone, which can depend on everything from that day’s temperature and humidity, to the kind of punky wood used to smoke it. Variation in the leather color ranges from white unsmoked, to smoked being pale yellow, golden tan, golden orange, tan, to dark brown!