How To Make A Buckskin Shirt [PICS]
By Toby Trigger

Posted: November 30, 2014

Watch the brain tanning process real time. Each week as the hides from two deer I took with my bow are transformed into a buckskin shirt you’ll see the progress as it happens.

You’ll see it all, the mistakes, hard work and hopefully a successful outcome!
Brain tanning hides was once as common a house hold activity as sweeping the floor in America. Brain tanning is a process that involves removing the hair and grain from hides, then applying a dressing made from the animal’s brain and working the hide systematically to create a fine buckskin.
The first step in brain tanning is to acquire a hide. This may be the most enjoyable part of brain tanning! I was able to shoot two bucks with my bow. I tagged the first one with a deer B either sex archery tag and the second with my A tag.


The skinning process was simply a cut up the belly from anal vent to esophagus and across each leg up to the knee joint. The hide was peeled back until I had two full skins.

Next I fleshed off all the meat and fat using a fleshing beam and a fleshing knife. This could be done using your hunting knife. I just got the majority of “stuff” off. It took about 40 minutes for each hide.

As I was doing this dirty work I also removed the brains from both bucks and put them in a container and froze them to make the  dressing later. I cut the back of the skull off using a saws all and scooped the brains out with a spoon.
A solution using 2 pounds “hydrated lime” available from any feed store was added to ten gallons of water in a plastic container (Plastic must be used, NOT metal). Wood ashes can also be used to make a solution to remove the hair. Add ashes into a bucket of water until an egg will float in the solution to test that it is strong enough.
Either solution will cause the hair to fall out easily in a few days and expose the grain of the hide, allowing the brain tanner to scrape it clean.

I placed the two deer hides into this solution. The hides floated because deer hair is hollow and buoyant. Using a big rock, I was able to sink the hides. I will stir this solution each day for four days and check how well the hair is slipping.

Next week I’ll show photos of my progress.  Bucking, graining and rinsing the hide. If you have a hide and want to try this, post questions and try it with me.  Making buckskins is a great way to use more of the animals we hunt.


Feature photo by (Trigger hopes his shirt turns out this good!)  All other photos by Trigger.

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