Brain Tanning

November 7 - November 10, 2019

Overview: How to Tan a Deer Hide

In this three-day workshop near Asheville, NC, you will learn the ancient art of leather making and how to tan a deer hide. Each student will learn and practice the wet-scrape braintan process to transform deer rawhide into soft, supple, natural, beautiful wearable leather.

Please note that this is a physically intensive class.

We also offer an Online Hide Tanning Course, which provides comprehensive, video-based instruction, plus a very thorough course manual and an online community of support.

deer drawing

scraping hair off a deer hide for brain tanning
women scraping beams brain tanning

What to Expect: Tanning Hides Start to Finish

Friday: Discussion About How to Skin a Deer and Begin Scraping Your Hide

We will start on Friday at 9:30 am with a discussion of the hide-tanning essentials: how to skin a deer, a fleshing demonstration, discussion of hide preservation and an overview of tanning techniques. Each student will be given their own hide, and the day will be spent learning and practicing the art of removing hair and grain. Everyone will remove the hair, grain and membrane during this first day. Some students will begin “braining” their hides.

stretching a deer hide for brain tanning

Saturday: Brain Tanning

Students will spend the day learning the techniques of brain tanning: soaking the hides in a brain soup! Braining, wringing, braining, wringing… You may see a pattern here…. and softening. This process involves many specialized tools that you will learn to make or set up at your own place. This day is fairly strenuous, but you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about how to braintan a hide.

smoking a deer hide for brain tanning

Sunday: Smoking Hides

Some folks will be finishing up with softening; others will be sewing their hides into tubes and preparing them for the smoking process, which preserves the super-soft character that the hides have taken on, gives them a that lovely honey color and prevents them from turning back into hard rawhide. The class may go on until fairly late. This often involves much merriment as we wait for our hides to smoke, feeding our coals frequently with “punky” wood. Those that need to get going earlier may be able to leave by 8:30pm, while some students will be smoking their hides well into the evening.

Walk away with a finished brain-tanned buckskin, knowledge of how to tan again and a booklet written by Natalie for easy reference when you tan in the future.

“Thank you so much for offering the hide-tanning class. It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience. I came expecting just to learn new skills but I left with…a new passion and a new-found appreciation for hide-tanning. It was so fun and enriching working with people of all different ages and skill levels. There was plenty of time to get to know the group and share stories and laughter while working on our hides. The instructors made it really easy to understand and were available for plenty of one-on-one help. At the end of three days, they had helped us all turn our hides into beautiful works of art and left us with the knowledge to continue on our own! Hide tanning at Wild Abundance is an experience that anyone will enjoy and leave wholly enriched.” – (Trudie Henninger, 2015)


Natalie Bogwalker

Natalie is the founder and director of the Wild Abundance.  She’s passionate about teaching and sharing skills that are essential for living harmoniously within the natural systems of the earth. She and her family live at the Wild Abundance homestead campus in the Southern Appalachians. Natalie spends her time harvesting in the wild, building, gardening, ...

Tyler Lavenburg

Nose to the grindstone (sometimes literally), Tyler lives for unraveling the mysteries of the Earth. He first fell in love with Southern Appalachian ecology as a student at Warren Wilson College, graduating with a degree in Environmental Education. Beginning as Natalie’s first apprentice in 2009, he has since traveled around the Eastern US learning and ...

Local Accommodations

While some locals prefer to commute to Wild Abundance from Asheville, students from the area and out of town are welcome to pitch a tent in one of our flat camping spots in the woods or field, or to tie a hammock in the forest on our seven-acre property. We strongly suggest bringing a very warm sleeping bag and bedding. We do have a fully functioning outdoor kitchen and bathroom, though in extremely cold weather, sometimes one or both are out of operation due to the water freezing.

If you prefer something more conducive to creature comforts, we suggest browsing Airbnb or checking out some of the local motels and B&Bs within a 10-15 minute drive to Wild Abundance.

Below are a few local accommodations you might find to your liking:

Comfort Inn in Mars Hill, NC

Registration Info

We strive to make our classes accessible to those who wish to learn. Please pay on the sliding scale what you can afford, given your income.

November 7 – 10, 2019

  • Early-Early Bird Price: January 1 – June 12, 2019: $350-$550
  • Early Bird Price: June 13 – August 14, 2019: $400-$600
  • Regular Bird Price: August 15 – November 7, 2019: $450-$650

The following are included in the price of the course: instruction, optional camping, and facility use (kitchen, bathroom).

To register, please complete the online registration by clicking on the “Register Now” button and then make your payment. Registration will be processed upon receipt of payment.

Expect to receive a confirmation email within one week of sending payment. Additional emails will cover logistical details as the date approaches.

Click here to see our policy on refunds, payment plans and work-trade opportunities.

Also, feel free to read our Frequently Asked Questions.