Transform a deer hide into buckskin with your own hands
and often results in a finished product that is less than hoped for. The Online Hide Tanning Course will hold your hand every step of the way, demystifying and simplifying the process with:
All of these fantastic resources are yours to keep for life, and refer to whenever is convenient. With the Online Hide Tanning Course, you can move at your own pace, taking advantage of any available time you’ve got to work on hide tanning. This flexibility means you can tailor your learning experience to your unique lifestyle and schedule.
Hide tanning is one powerful, tangible way you can reconnect with the interrelationship between human beings and the natural world. Feel your own strength and proficiency as you transform a raw deer hide into one of the most ancient, beautiful, and useful materials. Proudly share the fruits of your creativity and hard work with your friends and family.
From times immemorial, people all over the globe practiced various forms of hide tanning. Turning animal skins into leather is part of a collective knowing. The form of tanning this course covers has its origins in what is now known as North America. Here, it is still practiced by Native (Indigenous) people today, of many tribes across the continent. Similar methods have been practiced in Scandinavia and Southern Africa.
We acknowledge and celebrate the rich traditions, technologies, cultures, and resilience of Native people throughout history and in the present. We also acknowledge that Native communities have been, and continue to be oppressed and exploited by systemic racism, white supremacy, broken treaties, violence, and cultural appropriation that benefits us as white settlers. Specifically, loss of access to hunting territory, deliberate cultural erasure through boarding schools, encroachment on wildlife habitat by development, and sometimes violent punishment for maintaining traditional practices have made hide tanning difficult to keep alive in Native communities. We also recognize that despite these barriers, Native communities and knowledge-keepers have found ways to preserve and promote these skills.
We are an organization led by white people, situated on occupied Cherokee (Ani’yunwi’ya) territory. In order to teach earth-based skills with respect for their roots, we try to let go of the false concept of perfection, and continue to commit to the ongoing process of deepening awareness and action around privilege, power, accountability, equity, acknowledgement, and growing right relationships with the Landscape, humans, and other-than-human-beings.
A portion of proceeds from the course goes to support the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project, a local Native led organization.
If you are a Native person and you would like to take this class, please contact us here about full scholarships.
Instant access to clear, high-quality videos with step-by-step guidance to tanning a hide
Explore how brain tanning works to create a beautiful hide, what equipment you need to get started on your journey, and how to prepare your materials for the first steps.
Learn how to flesh a hide, prepare the hide for scraping, scrape the hide, and prepare for wringing.
Set up your own wringing station, make a hide stake, and wring and open your hide.
Make a brain or egg solution to brain your hide, and then wring and open and brain again and again and again!
Prepare your hide for softening, learn the techniques to use on dry or wet hides, and discover the simple trick to know when the process is done.
Clear steps for smoking your hide and ensuring that it is preserved, supple, and ready to use.
The course videos, along with the manual, are all yours for life. You can refer back anytime and revisit anything you need extra guidance on. Plus, you can take your time and dive into the bonus material (see below) months or even years down the line, if you like.
This complimentary bonus module will up your hide tanning game
Sewing with buckskin isn't easy, but this bonus will show you step-by-step how to work with your finished hide to make something beautiful and useful.
"The course was definitely one of the most rewarding and magical experiences I’ve ever had. It offered a ton of flexibility, as well as really high-quality, in-depth information. Transforming a deer hide into something as supple and beautiful as buckskin, that can then be transformed into anything you want, was really powerful for me."
"I was incredibly impressed with the quality and quantity of information contained in this course. Natalie's wealth of experience was evident in each segment. This course is, in some ways, better than taking a course in person because of the amazing amount of reference material and the fact that it is available on one's own schedule. I have now tanned six hides and can't wait to get my hands on more!"
"Natalie gives very clear instructions and lots of support along the way, and by the end I was SO proud of my finished hide!”
Firefighter and Hunter
"Wild Abundance gave me the skills needed to fully utilize the animals I harvest. I’m no longer troubled by the fact that I’m wasting a valuable part of the deer. I tan my own hides now and, thanks to Wild Abundance, I have the confidence, ability and knowledge to do so in my own backyard."
We have answers!
A book might get you started, but hide tanning is a tactile skill, and it’s very hard to learn without seeing examples. You will probably struggle a lot with a book and won’t have the support that our expert team can offer you. With the Online Hide Tanning Course, you’ll see the detail you need to tan a hide right the first time.
There are a lot of ways to get a hide. Here are a few:
Half of our hide tanning students have lived in the city or the suburbs and have been able to make it work. If you have access to a yard (or a quiet patch of city park), you won’t have a problem. It’s helpful to have a hose or shower on hand, a freezer to put your hide on “pause” so you can come back to it later, and a drill. If you truly want to turn a deer hide into supple buckskin, we’re sure you’ll find a way.
In-person learning can be better for this kind of hands-on activity, but it’s simply not accessible to everyone who wants to tan a hide.
The Online Hide Tanning Course is actually a much better option for many folks. You get lifetime access to the course material so you can always come back to it, making it easy to revisit instruction for the challenging steps. You’ll also receive the Hide Tanning Course Manual, an extensive PDF download. The manual includes details about when you can put your hide on pause throughout the process, plus a special section in each module that highlights common mistakes and how to avoid them. This written material supplements the videos and clarifies the process to turn your buckskin dreams into reality.
We’ve found that folks who start doing these things at home tend to keep doing them. Taking the online course will make it easier to integrate hide tanning into your busy life.
Brain-tanned buckskin is uniquely beautiful, chemical-free, and both stronger and softer than commercial leather. It’s also more breathable and molds to the body, making it ideal for clothing. So-called “buckskin” that is commercially tanned may contain toxic chemicals. What’s more, it won’t hold up to heavy use, cannot be used as thong to sew strong seams, and doesn’t have the look or feel of the real thing.
You can buy brain-tanned buckskin, but it’s extremely expensive and costs 5 to 10 times as much per square foot as commercial leather. Learning to make your own buckskin takes time and energy, but will save you money.
All of those reasons aside, hide tanning is a rewarding and and useful ancestral skill. Using buckskin that you have tanned yourself creates a deep connection to the object that you are making, whether a that’s buckskin bag, shirt, or moccasins.
Definitely! Hide tanning does require some serious physical work, but we have had plenty of students in their 50s and 60s, and even a couple in their 70s. It all depends on your physical ability or your ability to rope a friend into helping you (this might actually be a great opportunity to engage with a teenage grandkid in a really cool way). Most of the process is pretty mellow, but there are a few parts of the journey that are quite physically rigorous.
If you’re older or uncertain about your physical capacity to tan a hide, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Hide tanning is totally family friendly. We love seeing families tanning hides together! Depending on the age of the kids, their physical abilities, and their motivation, it might make more sense to tan the hide together, or to let them loose on it themselves. Tanning together can be an awesome bonding experience, and is great to do with kids of all ages. We’ve had students as young as 11 and 12 tan hides on their own, but you will need to be the judge of whether this makes sense for your kid. If you and your children are exploring wildlife, ancestral skills, indigenous peoples, homesteading, survival skills, chemistry, hunting, or history, hide tanning can work into your learning smoothly.
Yes, we generally tan hides in the winter. As long as you have a few days above freezing for scraping and wringing, and a sunny-ish dry day with a fire (or an indoor heated shop) for softening, you are set!
The difference here is in the scraping process, as may be evidenced by the names of the two tanning methods. Natalie Bogwalker, the Online Hide Tanning Course creator, started with dry scrape, and quickly switched to wet scrape because she found it made a lot more sense in her climate and was much more efficient.
Here's a quick comparison of the two methods.
Wet Scrape Method:
Dry Scrape Method:
Forever! Upon purchasing the Online Hide Tanning Course, you’ll have access to all of the materials associated with it: the videos, the course manual, and the bonuses. You can reference and revisit them for the rest of your life, or as long as the internet continues to function.
Your imagination is the only limiting factor to what you can make. Many beautiful things can be made with one hide: hats, possibles bags, pouches, moccasins, buckskin bikini tops, and even skirts, shorts, vests depending on the size of your hide, and the size of your body. After you’ve tanned multiple hides you could make a buckskin jacket, pants, dresses, a long skirt, a backpack, and more! You’ll have access to the course material for life, so if you’re motivated, you’ll be able to tan many, many hides and make everything you can dream up.
We’ve used (and seen others use) this method for tanning hides from deer, antelope, elk, caribou, moose, racoon, bison, goat, and sheep. It’s likely that it would work with kangaroo hides, but we haven’t had a chance to try (can you help us out, Australian friends?). Wet-scrape brain tanning (the specific hide tanning method this course covers) is ideal for deer, antelope, and goat hides.
If you use it to tan the hide from a thinner-skinned animal such as sheep, you need to take extra care in the scraping steps since vigorous scraping can tear the hide.
On the other hand, if you choose to brain tan a larger, thicker hide ( like elk, bison, moose, or caribou), the scraping and softening processes will be very laborious due to the size and thickness of the hide. To help ensure your success with a larger animal, it can be a good idea to collaborate with a friend and share the hard work.
In order to do hair-on (a.k.a. fur-on or pelt) tanning, the process that we present in this class must be adapted. At this point, this course will not walk you through the exact process for tanning with the hair or fur on, however many of the steps, techniques, and tools are quite similar.
No! We’ve had students express interest from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Holland, South Africa, the U.K. and beyond (which is pretty exciting). This course is great for you, no matter where you live. Brain tanning is an ancient method that has actually been practiced all over the world. The video content and extensive course manual will always be available to you, as long as you have the ability to access the internet through your phone, tablet, or computer.
Two days to one year. But seriously, an experienced tanner can tan a small to medium deer hide in two days if it’s all they focus on during that time, and the weather is conducive. At the other end of the spectrum, there are several points in the process when a hide can be “put on pause” to be revisited at a more convenient time (we make notes of these opportunities throughout the course material). It’s usually a good idea to un-pause and complete the process within a year. For a beginner, if you’d like to go start-to-finish without taking long breaks, you can expect to tan your hide in 3-4 days. If you’ll be tanning on weekends only, you can expect the process to take 2-3 weekends, depending on how fast you work and on the weather.
There are a few specialized tools and some equipment you’ll need to tan a hide. The course includes an extremely detailed materials list, with clear direction for what you’ll need at beginning of each step. We suggest various low and no-cost options for every tool, and give detailed instruction about how to make your own equipment from inexpensive or foraged materials. Many of our past hide tanning students have easily created their own setup at home after taking an in-person course with us, which is is a testament to the thoroughness of our materials list and instruction.
Here’s an abbreviated list of special tools you may need to buy or borrow:
The only brains you absolutely need to tan a hide are your own! It’s true that the method of hide tanning covered by this course is called “brain tanning,” but you do have other options for adding fat and lecithin to your “braining” solution (fat and lecithin being the important ingredients that the brains contain). Using the actual brains of the deer whose hide you tan can be very powerful, connective, and efficient. For you hunters, this is a no-brainer (haha), since you’ll have the whole animal to work with. If you’ve gotten a deer hide through other means, it’s likely that you didn’t also get the brain. In this case, egg yolks can play the same role. In the course we describe exactly how to brain tan with and without brains, including specific recipes for each option.
Yes, but you have to be strategic. There are many points in the process of tanning a hide when you can put your hide “on pause” and take a break without compromising your work. Throughout the course material we highlight these opportunities, including a list of all of them in the course manual appendix. This guidance will help you plan your tanning projects based on your available time and physical stamina. There are certain steps that, once they’ve begun, need to be completed without taking a long break. So, if you know that you’ll need some breaks, take a look at the course manual to plan out when you’ll take them and when you’ll push on through.
This hunter and firefighter has a new relationship to his harvest.
Natalie is a hide tanner, craftswoman, builder, teacher, mom, and gardener. She founded Wild Abundance 10 years ago because of her passion for sharing real, practical skills that get people closer to the Earth. Hide tanning was one of the first earthskills that she learned, and it changed her life profoundly. That was over 15 years ago! Since then she's tanned uncountable hides, but more importantly, she's taught hide tanning to hundreds of students.
Natalie knows what usually trips people up who are new to hide tanning. In this online course she shares a thorough, step-by-step guide to hide tanning, including numerous tips and tricks that will help you succeed.