How to Make a Hide Tumbler

Whether you're an aspiring taxidermist or want to tan the hide from a recent catch, make a hide tumbler machine. Hide tumbler machines rotate the hide in a barrel with a mixture of sand to soften the hide. Hides need to be tanned, since they dry out and turn hard. Homemade tumblers are less expensive than store-bought tumblers to tan hides for yourself and your friends. You can even charge a few bucks to offset the cost of making the machine.

Things You\’ll Need

  • 2-By-4 Wood Planks, 2-Foot Lengths (2)

  • 5-Pound Sandbags (8)

  • Power Drill

  • 1-Inch Drill Bit

  • 1-Horsepower Motor, 3-Inch Pulley

  • Hand Saw

  • 8-Inch-Diameter Pulley, 1-Inch Ridge

  • 50-Gallon Plastic Barrel With Lockable Lid

  • Wood Nails (6)

  • 36-Inch-Circumference Motor Belt, 1 Inch Thick

  • 2-By-2 Wood Planks, 3-Foot Lengths (2)

  • 1-Inch-Diameter Metal Rod

  • Hammer


Step 1

Remove the lid of the barrel. Drill 1-inch-diameter hole through the center of the lid using a power drill and 1-inch drill bit. Place an 8-inch-diameter pulley on the center of the outside of the lid. Drill four screws through the inside of the lid into the pulley to hold the pulley in place.

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Step 2

Drill a 1-inch-diameter hole through the center of the bottom of the barrel using a power drill and 1-inch drill bit.

Step 3

Insert the metal rod into the pulley, through the barrel and out the bottom of the barrel. The metal rod should be 4 inches greater than the length of the barrel. The rod extends 1 inch outside the lid of the barrel and 2 inches outside the bottom of the barrel. The barrel is placed horizontally when the tumbler is fully assembled.


Step 1

Cut a wooden 2-by-4 into two 2-foot lengths for the base pieces.

Step 2

Cut a 2-by-2 wood plank into two 3-foot lengths for the stand pieces.

Step 3

Drill 1-inch-diameter holes through the side of the stand pieces, 1 foot from their ends. These will be the rod holes.

Step 4

Assemble the foundations. Place one base on its 4-inch side on a level surface. Place the end of one stand in the center of the base piece. The pieces make a "T" shape. Nail through the side of the base piece into the end of the stand using a hammer and three wood nails. Connect the other base and stand pieces to make the other foundation.


Step 1

Place the foundations parallel to each other on a level surface. Place the motor on the base piece. Drill through the mount holes in the motor to secure the motor to the base piece. Place sandbags or weights over the rest of the base pieces to support the weight of the barrel.

Step 2

Insert a motor belt around the motor pulley and lid pulley. Adjust the circumference of the belt to match the distance between the pulleys.

Step 3

Insert the metal rod near the lid into the rod hole on the left foundation. Insert the metal rod near the bottom of the barrel into the rod hole on the right foundation.

Tanning Process

Step 1

Remove the rod and lid. Insert 10 pounds of sand into the barrel. Insert the hide into the barrel.

Step 2

Shut the lid and lock it. Attach the belt to the lid pulley and insert the rod into the rod hole.

Step 3

Plug in the motor to start tanning the hide.


Check the hide every 24 hours until it reaches the desired softness.

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