Deer Skin Tanning Course

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  • Course: Deer Skin Tanning Course
  • Dates: 18-20 June 2021
  • Venue: Devon (Near Exeter - EX11 1LU)
  • Times: 9am on the Friday - 5pm on the Sunday
  • Ages: All ages above 14 years welcome.  Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Special Deal: If 2 people want to work on the same hide then please call us on 01453 752220 for discount prices.


Deer Skin Tanning Course with Dr. Theresa Emmerich Kamper

Course Description: Before the advent of modern tanning agents, humans were turning raw skin into usable leather products using very basic techniques and materials. Learn to produce incredibly soft, strong and durable leather from raw animal skin using one of human kind’s earliest tanning technologies! Utilising materials readily available in the surrounding environment we will walk through the steps of this transformation.

Over 3 full days this class will focus on tanning deer skins with a variation of fat tanning using brains as the dressing agent*. Whilst not for the squeamish the end product is worth the work! The class will cover, de-fleshing, de-graining, dressing and softening the deer skins, as well as smoking them so they can be easily washed.

In addition to enthusiastic instruction I provide comfortable, easy to use tools and detailed handouts covering the tanning process, as well as ethnographic anecdotes and a list of helpful literature for those who wish to further their own knowledge of tanning! So, please join me for a course sure to contain plenty of memorable moments, lots of practical information and, if you put in the work**, one that will see you heading home with a beautiful, unique and usable traditionally tanned piece of leather!


* a brain substitute will be available for those who truly prefer not to use brain tissue. ** Please be aware that a reasonable amount of fitness is required for this course. I will provide instruction on good technique and timing with the skins, but you will need to be able to be on your feet and active for 6 to 8 hours per day. Any serious injuries need to be discussed with me prior to booking onto the course please!

Theresa's Instructor Bio: I am an avid practitioner of traditional living skills and primitive technology of all kinds. An interest which came in part from growing up in the Rocky Mountains in the USA, where backpacking, hunting and fishing were part of the culture. I have followed this interest into the academic field of Experimental Archaeology in which I hold a PhD from the University of Exeter in the UK. I have been tanning skins using traditional technologies for over 25 years. Learning to tan was a natural offshoot of the attempt to use as much of the animal as possible and had the added bonus of producing a beautiful end product. I include in my instruction a diverse range of information, from skin morphology to helpful hints in dealing with the numerous and frustrating problems which are often encountered when first learning to tan.

Cost of course:£299.00 per participant (Student £200.00- discounted price requires a valid student card)

Location:Escot Park, Exeter, EX11 1LU

Self Catering!:I don’t and can’t cook for you…. It is better this way trust me…so you will need to provide your own food. Mains water is available at standpipes in the woods.

Accommodation Options:Most participants (and myself) will camp on site. Feel free to stay in a nearby hotel or BnB! However, alternatives are at your discretion and need to be booked personally.


Contact Details for: Dr. Theresa Emmerich Kamper

DAYS AND TIMES 9am Saturday to 5pm Monday
From Exeter, take junction 29 on the M5 and head towards Honiton on the A30. About 8 miles from Junction 29 you will see a brown road sign showing the turning for Escot. Turn left off the dual carriage way, turn right off the slip road, turn right after you pass under the dual carriage way, take the second turning on the left following signs for Fairmile (do not go back onto the dual carriage way). Turn right opposite the Fairmile Inn. Drive into Escot (between the stone pillars) and then take the left hand fork to the restaurant car park.
Follow the A303 to the A30. Drive past Honiton. When you leave the built up area of Honiton, take the first slip road off the A30. Escot is marked on a brown road sign. Turn left at the end of the slip road. Keep going until you drive past a Memorial. Take the next left following signs for Fairmile (do not go back onto the dual carriage way). Turn right opposite the Fairmile Inn. Drive into Escot (between the stone pillars) and then take the left hand fork to the restaurant car park.

Brain Tanned Deer Skin Course 

Rough Schedule of Activities
  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Morning Start time 9 AM!!


-Basic overview of tanning and skin morphology


-De-Flesh Deer Skin


-Begin De-graining skin



-Remove skins from Alkaline solution, rinse, neutralise and check for grain remnants.


-Remove grain remnants


-Membrane the skins


-Mix dressing solution

(lecithin solution will be used but, making a brain solution will be covered)


-Brain/Oil and wring skins


-Begin the softening process.

-Finish sewing skins into bags


-Smoke the skins

(takes 1.5 hours per pair of skins)


This day can also be used to finish softening any skins that were not finished the day before. However, we may not have time to smoke these skins.


Go through the handouts and answer questions


Afternoon -Finish De-Graining Skins (2-4 hours)


-Mix up Alkali solution using Sodium or Potassium Hydroxide,

Put skins in alkaline solution overnight.


-Theory of making an alkaline solution from wood ashes will be covered.


-Continue softening skins (takes from 4-6 hours in total)


-Multiple softening techniques and tools will be covered.


-Smoke the skins

(takes 1.5 hours per pair of skins)



Evening Have Dinner, Relax



Begin sewing skins into bags to smoke them the next day. Clean up the site and head home!


Course usually ends between 5 and 6 PM.


Suitable outdoor clothing (see below)
Sleeping bag
Insulated sleeping mat
Knife, fork, spoon, mug, bowl and plate
Water bottle (1 litre mineral water bottle will do)
Head torch with fresh batteries & 1 spare set
Wash kit & towel
Pair of gardening gloves or similar for shelter building
Personal toiletries & medication (to include toilet paper, sunscreen, insect repellent and lip salve)
Antibacterial wipes/soap
Tea or Coffee + whitener
Small first aid kit (plasters, bandages, headache pills etc.)
Spare change of clothing
Camera + Notebook + pen (optional)
Hammock, Tarp or Tent
Billy Can and Stove
2 x Large Towels. Old towels are best as they will be used for drying the skins
1 x Pair of close fitting gloves, preferably with rubber palms

Outdoor clothing

Outdoor clothing should be tough and comfortable. Wearing several thin layers is better than a few thick layers. A waterproof jacket and several sweatshirts underneath are sufficient. Jeans should not be worn, as they are slow to dry, clinging and cold. Natural colours or camouflage will give you a better chance of spotting wildlife. Walking boots are ideal, but wellies in wet weather and trainers in dry weather will suffice.


You will also need to bring food for the weekend (2 x breakfast, 3 x lunch and 2 x evening meals). You can cook over the camp fire, or you can bring your own stove. Hot water is provided as the kettle will be over the fire all through the course.



You will not be posted any instructions.  Everything you need to attend the course is on this webpage and on the email that you will receive.  If you require anything further, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we'll be glad to assist.

Feedback and Complaints

Any feedback from you course is always welcome. If you have a complaint it should first be raised with the instructor running the course. If you are still not happy, please contact us in writing at the address above. We will always strive to amend our courses for the best experience for all concerned.


Our public liability insurance is with Lloyd's and the policy number is B133817SCE0007.

Post Course Reading List

For a list of suggested reading material please click here: Recommended Reading