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How to Tan a Hide

I have had four lamb hides saved since the fall of 2009. I originally planned to tan them last year, but with moving, I never got around to it. They did, however, make the trip with us and have been sitting in our garage for almost a year. That, I decided, was long enough.

So last month I started the process of tanning. This was a first for me, so I wasn’t sure how, or if, they would turn out. Rob and I put the first hide on a table in the garage and scraped some of the dry salt off.


I then soaked the hide in a large garbage can. I ended up changing the water over a dozen times in my attempt to get as much of the dirt out as possible.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen I boiled bran flakes in several gallons of water. Once they had simmered their allotted time, I strained out the bran flakes, leaving only the brown water.


I put 16-cups of salt in another garbage can. I added four gallons of boiling water to dissolve the salt, then I added the brown bran liquid.


I needed the water in the can to be lukewarm before I could add the main ingredient, so I used this time to continue rinsing my lamb hide. Once I was able, I finished my brine and then put my hide in to soak for about 45 minutes.

When the soaking was complete, Rob helped my hang the hide up to dry a little bit. We then nailed it fleece side down onto a pallet. When the skin side was mostly dry but still a little tacky, I applied a layer of Neats Foot Oil.


All that was left to do now was wait. After a couple of days, we removed the nails from the hide and flipped it over so the wool could dry. It took a few weeks for the entire hide to dry completely.

With a wire brush, I sueded the skin side of the hide. I still have a little more brushing to do, but only around the edges.

I then flipped it over and brushed out the wool. Rob helped trim the sides so that they are even. What absolutely amazes me is how something that started out looking like this:

Could end up looking like this:

I am really excited about how well this hide turned out, especially since I had never done any tanning before. I started my second hide today, and hopefully it turns out even better. Remington was kind enough to inspect my work this afternoon. I can’t be certain, but I think he liked it… 

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