How to Soften a Hide With Hair

Softening a hide with hair is an age-old technique that’s been used for centuries by tanners and leather artisans around the world. This traditional method, rooted in craftsmanship and skill, allows individuals to transform raw animal hides into supple, soft materials ready for various applications. Whether it be for creating luxurious leather goods, durable clothing, or intricate works of art, softening a hide with it’s hair intact requires a delicate balance of time, technique, and patience. By following a precise set of steps involving cleaning, soaking, fleshing, and stretching, one can gradually remove the excess hair follicles and the stiff nature of the hide, yielding a supple, workable material with a luxurious feel. This time-honored process not only preserves the inherent beauty and natural characteristics of the hide, but also ensures longevity and durability in the final product. So, if you’re keen to learn the art of softening a hide with hair, read on as we uncover the essential steps and techniques required to master this skill and unlock endless possibilities in the realm of leatherworking.

How Do You Soften a Deer Hide With Hair on It?

When it comes to preserving and softening a deer hide with the hair still intact, there are a few techniques to consider. One traditional method is to soak the hide in warm water to soften it before further processing. It’s important to closely monitor the hide during this process and remove it as soon as it reaches the desired level of softness. At this stage, the hide should be easily squeezable and flexible, making it easier to work with.

Another technique that can be used to soften a hide with hair is known as “brain tanning.”. This method involves using the natural oils and fats from animal brains to soften and condition the hide. To do this, the brain is first removed from the skull and then mashed into a paste-like consistency. This paste is then applied to the flesh side of the hide and worked into the fibers using a rubbing or stretching motion. The hide is then left to dry, and the repetition of this process helps to further soften and condition the hide. While this method requires more time and effort, it can result in a high-quality, supple hide.

One option is to use a commercially available hide softener, which is specifically designed to relax the fibers and make the hide more pliable. These softeners often contain chemicals that help break down the proteins in the hide, making it easier to work with. It’s important to carefully follow the instructions on the product and test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the hide before applying it to the entire surface.

Another technique that can be used to soften a hide is known as “pulling,” which involves stretching and pulling the hide to break down the fibers and make it more supple. This process can be accomplished by attaching the hide to a sturdy frame and using your hands or a tool to stretch and pull the hide in different directions. The pulling process should be done slowly and gradually, being careful not to overstretch or tear the hide.

The Process of Tanning a Deer Hide With the Hair On

Tanning a deer hide with the hair on involves several steps to soften and preserve the hide. First, the hide needs to be fleshed and cleaned thoroughly to remove any excess fat, meat, and other debris. Then, it needs to be soaked in a mixture of water and a tanning agent like alum or salt to start the preservation process.

After soaking for a few days, the hide is stretched and dried carefully to prevent it from becoming hard and stiff. Once it’s completely dry, it needs to be softened by either rubbing it with oil or using a commercial hide softening product. The oil or softening agent is applied and worked into the hide until it becomes supple and pliable.

Regularly working the hide, such as stretching, twisting, and folding, will further help to soften it. Finally, the hide can be conditioned with a leather conditioner to keep it soft and prevent it from drying out or becoming brittle over time.

Softening a deer hide with the hair on can be a time-consuming process, but it’s essential to ensure the hide remains supple and usable for various purposes such as making clothing, accessories, or decorative items.

There are also several methods you can use to soften a stiffened tanned hide, such as soaking it in water, using oils or conditioners, or even using mechanical methods like rolling or kneading. These techniques can help restore flexibility and make the hide easier to work with for various projects such as leathercraft or upholstery.

How Do You Soften a Stiffened Tanned Hide?

To soften a stiffened tanned hide, the first step is to “break the skin” in order to make it pliable. This process can be achieved by utilizing a breaking tool or creating one if you’ve multiple hides that need softening. For a single hide, a firm and somewhat rounded edge can be used to gently buff the hide until it becomes soft and flexible.

When using a breaking tool, it’s essential to have a tool that effectively breaks the fibers of the hide without causing any damage. One option is to use a metal rod with a slightly rounded or beveled end. This can be done by bending a metal rod into the desired shape and ensuring the edge is smooth to prevent any tearing or scratching of the hide.

To break the stiffened hide, hold the end of the breaking tool and apply firm pressure against the skin, moving it across the surface in a back and forth motion. This process helps to break down the collagen fibers, making the hide more malleable. It’s important to maintain consistent pressure and avoid excessive force that could lead to tearing or stretching the hide.

Start by buffing the hide with the edge, moving in circular or back and forth motions until the stiffness begins to subside.

With both methods, it’s crucial to be patient and persistent. The softening process may take some time, especially for heavily stiffened hides. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the hide is properly moisturized during the softening process to prevent drying and cracking. Regularly applying a leather conditioner or a mixture of water and glycerin can aid in keeping the hide supple and soft.

Once the hide has been properly preserved with a layer of non-iodized salt and sealed in an airtight container, it’s crucial to rinse it thoroughly before moving forward with the tanning process. This ensures the removal of excess salt and prepares the hide for the next step in achieving a high-quality tanned finish.

How Do You Preserve a Hide for Tanning?

Preserving a hide for tanning is a crucial step in achieving a soft and supple finished product. One effective method involves covering the flesh side of the hide with a generous layer of non-iodized salt. This helps to draw out excess moisture, preventing the hide from rotting or developing odors during the preservation process. Furthermore, the salt creates a barrier between the flesh side of the hide and the air, inhibiting bacterial growth that can cause the hide to deteriorate.

Once the hide is covered in salt, it’s important to tightly roll it with the fur side facing outwards. This rolling process helps to evenly distribute the salt, ensuring that it comes into contact with every part of the hide. Additionally, rolling helps to compact the hide, making it easier to handle and store during the preservation period. To maintain the effectiveness of the salt, it’s vital to store the rolled hide in an airtight container. This prevents moisture from entering and the salt from becoming saturated, maximizing it’s preservation properties.

Methods for Removing Excess Moisture From a Hide Before Preserving

Before preserving a hide, it’s important to remove excess moisture to prevent rot and decay. One common method is air drying, where the hide is hung in a well-ventilated area and left to dry naturally. This process can take several days or even weeks.

Another method is salting, where the hide is coated with a layer of salt. The salt helps to draw out the moisture from the hide. After salting, the hide is left to dry for a period of time, typically around 24 hours. The salt can then be brushed off before further preservation techniques are applied.

If time is limited, a hide can be dried using heat. This can be done using a hairdryer on a low heat setting or by placing the hide near a heat source such as a heater or a fire. However, caution should be taken to avoid overheating the hide, as this can damage the hair and texture.

Overall, removing excess moisture from a hide is an important step in the preservation process, and there are several methods to choose from depending on time, resources, and personal preference.

Source: How to Tan a Deer Hide | MeatEater Wild Foods

Once a hide has been tanned, removing the hair becomes a meticulous process. The usual outcome is a two-sided suede skin, as the tanned hide would require the epidermis to be sanded off. To achieve this, the hair must be carefully cut or shaved off before sanding the hair side to remove the outer layer.

Can You Remove Hair From a Tanned Hide?

Can you remove hair from a tanned hide? This is a question that often arises when dealing with hides that have already undergone the tanning process. The epidermis, which contains the hair follicles, would have to be sanded off in order to achieve a completely hairless result. Therefore, the best one could expect is a two-sided suede skin, with one side being hairless and the other retaining some hair.

The most straightforward method is to simply cut and/or shave off the hair using sharp tools like a knife or a razor. This can be a time-consuming process, especially if the hide is thick or if there’s a large area to work with. It’s important to exercise caution and precision while removing the hair to avoid damaging the underlying hide.

After the initial hair removal, the next step is to sand the hair side of the hide. This helps to remove the outer layer of the hide, revealing a smoother and more uniform surface. Sanding can be done manually using sandpaper or with the aid of a sanding machine. The intensity and duration of sanding can be adjusted depending on the desired softness and smoothness of the finished product.

While sanding, it’s important to be mindful of the hides condition and thickness. Applying too much pressure or sanding for too long can result in thinning or damaging the hide. It’s advisable to proceed gradually and periodically check the progress to ensure a balanced outcome.

By carefully cutting, shaving, and sanding the hair side of the hide, it’s possible to soften the hide and create a more desirable finished product.

Tanning hides is a sophisticated process that involves numerous techniques to transform raw animal skins into durable and supple materials. Within this intricate system, one vital step lies in the hands of professional tanneries: making the hide soft. Employing large tumblers filled with sawdust and harnessing gravity and tumbling, these experts diligently work to bestow the sought-after qualities of softness and pliability upon each tanned hide.

What Makes a Hide Soft?

The process of softening a hide with hair involves several key factors that contribute to it’s desired texture. One crucial aspect is the use of professional tanneries, which employ specific techniques to ensure a soft and pliable final product. These tanneries often utilize large tumblers filled with sawdust, where the hides undergo a series of treatments.

The combination of gravity and tumbling plays a crucial role in making the hide soft. As the hides spin and tumble inside the tumbler, the sawdust gently rubs against the surface, helping to break down stiff fibers and promote flexibility. This mechanical action, combined with the weight and motion of the tumbler, aids in softening the hide and preparing it for further processing.

Furthermore, tanneries employ specific timing and temperature control during tumbling to achieve optimal softening results. The duration of the tumbling process can vary depending on the tannerys methods and the hides initial condition. Additionally, carefully monitoring the temperature ensures that the hide isn’t subjected to excessive heat, which could potentially damage it’s structure or alter it’s aesthetic qualities.

The Role of Chemicals in the Softening Process: Explore How Tanneries Use Various Chemicals in Combination With Mechanical Action to Break Down Stiff Fibers and Create a Soft Hide.

The softening process of a hide often involves the use of chemicals in conjunction with mechanical action to achieve desirable results. Tanneries employ different chemicals to break down the stiff fibers of the hide and transform them into a softer texture.

Once the hide has pickled for a few days, it’s time to remove it from the solution, rinse it thoroughly, and then apply a tanning oil to soften and preserve it.

How Do You Tan a Deer Hide and Make It Soft?

To prepare the deer hide for the tanning process, you first need to remove any excess flesh and fat from the hide. This can be done by scraping the hide with a sharp knife or specialized fleshing tool. Be sure to remove any gristle or membrane as well, as these can cause the hide to become stiff and less pliable.

Once the hide is clean and free of excess tissue, it can be soaked in a pickling solution. This solution helps to remove any remaining hair and helps to condition the hide for the tanning process. The pickling solution is typically made using a mixture of water and an acid, such as white distilled vinegar. The hide should be completely submerged in the pickling solution for several days, allowing the acid to break down the hair and soften the hide.

This helps to remove any residue and neutralize the acid. Once rinsed, the hide can be stretched and placed on a frame to dry. This stretching process helps to further soften the hide and prevent it from shrinking or becoming misshapen as it dries.

During the drying process, it’s important to periodically massage the hide to keep it pliable. The more you massage the hide, the softer and more supple it will become.

Once the hide is completely dry, it can be further softened by “breaking” or flexing the hide. This can be done by repeatedly folding and unfolding the hide in different directions, similar to how you’d break in a new pair of shoes.

Additionally, applying a hide-tanning oil or conditioner can also help to soften the hide and make it more luxurious to the touch. These oils can be brushed or rubbed onto the surface of the hide, and allowed to penetrate the fibers. This provides additional moisture and suppleness to the hide, making it even softer and more pliable.

It’s a labor-intensive process, but the end result is a beautiful and versatile material that can be used for various crafting projects.

Different Methods of Tanning Deer Hides

There are various methods for tanning deer hides, but one common approach is to soften the hide with hair intact. This method involves scraping off the flesh and fat from the hide, soaking it in a solution of water and baking soda or wood ash to remove the hair. Afterward, the hide can be stretched, dried, and then worked by rubbing and pulling the hide to soften it. Using oils or soaps during this process can help in ensuring the hide becomes supple. This traditional method of tanning preserves the natural hair on the hide, resulting in a unique and rustic appearance.


By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively remove excess hair, cleanse the hide, and facilitate the breakdown of connective tissue for a softer and more pliable end result. It’s important to remember that patience, practice, and attention to detail are key factors in achieving the desired outcome.

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