Deerskin to Buckskin: The Art of Hide Tanning


Transform a deer hide into beautiful, strong, velvety-soft buckskin--an amazing fabric that’s perfect for making moccasins, bags, clothing, and more.

From 10 am until 5 pm (all 3 days)

$240 - $360 sliding scale (explanation below)

Discover how to make your own soft, durable cloth using local, natural, renewable resources! In this three-day hands-on class you’ll learn the ancient art of transforming deer hides into buckskin.

Buckskin is an amazing fabric--strong, supple, and breathable--that’s easy to hand-stitch and perfect for making bags, pouches, moccasins, shirts, pants, dresses, and more. We’ll start with raw deer hides from last hunting season. Using “wet-scrape brain-tanning” techniques that have been refined by our ancestors for thousands of years, we’ll soak, scrape, wring, soften, and smoke the hides. The transformation of deerskin to leather beneath your own hands is an almost magical experience--the process is fascinating, and the finished product is delightful. Each participant will take home a finished buckskin, and of course the knowledge and skills to make more. No previous experience is necessary, and we’ll provide all the tools and materials.

During the class you can expect to:
- Learn about the historical significance of buckskin throughout the world.
- Get a little sweaty, dirty, and messy working with raw deer hides.
- Use a combination of traditional and modern tanning tools.
- Get a good upper-body workout as you scrape and soften your deer hide.
- Learn every step of the tanning process so you can make more buckskin at home.
- Leave the class with useful, hand-made leather you’ll be proud of!

Important notes:
- The class will run on “nature time,” not “clock time.” Making buckskin involves a lot of variables: the weather, the size and thickness of each hide, the speed at which each individual works, etc. Though we will do our best to stay on schedule, it’s possible that you may have to stay late some afternoons/evenings to complete necessary steps in the process.
- This class will be somewhat physically demanding. Making buckskin requires moderate hand and wrist strength. The average person will be fine, but if you’ve recently injured an arm or wrist, please call for more information about what the class entails.

About the instructor: Kevin MacDonald tanned his first deer hide in the fall of 2003 after learning about the process during a week-long wilderness survival class he attended. While working at a boarding school in North Carolina from 2004 to 2009, he taught a semester-long buckskin tanning class twice a year to high school students. All together, Kevin has taught dozens of people how to make buckskin, and he’s made two shirts, several pairs of moccasins, and numerous bags, pouches, juggling balls, and practice poi from the hides he’s tanned.

WHAT IS A SLIDING SCALE? In order to make our classes available to a broad and diverse audience, we use a sliding scale payment model, which means YOU CHOOSE how much to pay, within a given range. Paying lower in the scale is like receiving a scholarship. Paying higher in the scale helps cover the true cost of the class. You can pay MORE than the high end of the scale: this “extra donation” helps make our sliding scale possible. Thank you for considering your situation and resources carefully as you make your decision!


See Complete Class Schedule