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Thread: Skull help in a pickle

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    Member fishingyoda's Avatar
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    Default Skull help in a pickle

    Not sure if this picture will show up but I'm trying to do a DIY European mount of my moose and I'm having trouble cleaning the skull. I tried boiling it but didn't have anything big enough so I just got the very tip. I've tried peeling with pliers and knives to get the rest. It wasn't working out so my dad said salt should dry it up and it'll come off easy but it's been so humid and wet outside that I'm getting worried. Can I put a jet heater on it and dry it that way without ruining the antlers or what is my best option at this point?
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    I can off a 55 gallon drum and made a slot for the antlers, boiled using a camp stove. Cleaned using a pressure washer, like they use at a car wash. I used a sawsall and cut the teeth off and used peroxide to whiten then sealed it with plastic, but elmers glue thinned with water works well too to seal and protect the bone.





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    Member fishingyoda's Avatar
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    Thanks I tried that but the drum I used was about 6 inches tall. Someone pet me borrow it. I don't have a torch or sawzall to cut one. I'm not sure if I still can go that route it's been sitting a few weeks

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishingyoda View Post
    Thanks I tried that but the drum I used was about 6 inches tall. Someone pet me borrow it. I don't have a torch or sawzall to cut one. I'm not sure if I still can go that route it's been sitting a few weeks

    A good long soak and pressure wash will do wonders. Go slow with the pressure washer it can cause damage.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishingyoda View Post
    Thanks I tried that but the drum I used was about 6 inches tall. Someone pet me borrow it. I don't have a torch or sawzall to cut one. I'm not sure if I still can go that route it's been sitting a few weeks
    There are a several DIY skull threads on here and other sites, including Youtube.

    Having said that i'll give you a few of my thoughts, I'm not taxidermist but I've successfully done ONE DIY skull and I'm working on a few others.

    First off, I would get that salt off the skull ASAP. Salt is a preservative and you don't want to preserve the flesh that's stuck on there, in fact you want to do the opposite, you want it rotting or eaten off of there.

    Since you can't cut a container for the skull and you've left the horns on, I'd say your options are super limited. I'm sure its not what you want to hear but I would let a pro finish the job, if they'll take it with that salt on there. If you REALLY want to do it yourself your going to have to invest in some tools OR a vessel big enough to put that rack in.

    You might try using a very big plastic tote, you could use a utility knife to cut horn slots and then try the maceration method, google it if your not familiar with it.

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    Just finished up a cow moose skull via maceration - super impressed with the results. Harder to do with antlers in the way, though.

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    If you know anyone who has a hot water pressure washer you might give that a try. You might be able to rent one. You do have to be careful with pressure washers - some have a LOT of pressure than can even eat away bone or break it.

    If you continue the boil method try adding a bit of dishwasher detergent to your water...boil for 20-30 min at a time, remove, pressure wash, replace in water...try to get as much stuff off as possible when pressure washing to save from overcooking the skull. OR use the maceration method, which takes longer but is gentler on the skull.

    Moose are a major pain in the patootie to do europeans on. Which is why most taxis charge accordingly.
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    To ad to Juli's suggestion of detergent. I use Dawn and then ad a cup of Tide Liquid(important not to use powder) with bleach/bleach alternative. This will degrease skulls like moose to a great extent.
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    Member fishingyoda's Avatar
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    Does anyone in the palmer or wasilla area have an already cut drum I could borrow?

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    I wouldn't let the weeks worry you, some guys bury the things for a year to let it all rot off. But, I did one last year and used a 55 gallon drum but cut the long way. It took a lot of propping to keep most of the head submerged. Surely you have a buddy with a sawzall, and scrap barrels are not hard to find. I'd just reboot and start over, nothing is ruined, so try to relax, though I understand your frustration.

    I've done several deer and a moose to good result and the key is to get as much submerged as possible. Lace the water with a ton of dawn and borax to degrease it, let it simmer (not boil) for several hours before getting to picking at it.....then every 20-30 minutes is a good idea but the head is so awkward that you may want help for that. I used an electric power washer which as I recall they do not have as much oomph as a gas one. Either way avoid the nose (the cartilage there will just fall out after a hours) but it's great for the area around the antler bases and brain cavity and all those picky little connectors on the back and underside of the head.

    Avoid bleach, and then you don't have to worry about the effect of steam on the antlers, folks say it lightens them but all areas of the antlers I've done this to have actually darked.....don't know why, but the effect is minimal and only affects what is directly over the steam, you can cover with tinfoil if you wish. The bleach also degrades the bones. European mounts to me are a prep, patience, and beer drinking kind of thing. Expect to spend the better part of a day prepping, and babysitting it. It's important not to boil as your bones could end up like those in pressure cooked rib recipes....brittle and stained.

    Once the nasty part is done, scrap with little bits you couldh't power wash (there won't be much if you simmer long enough) and the finish can be done PO BOY style by getting regular peroxide and a bunch of paper towels. Layer the towels on the skull, with the bases either taped or something so you don't splash the peroxide on them. Douse the towels with peroxide, redouse once a day for a few days then remove and rinse. It leaves a pretty natural but clean and bright bone and I haven't treated any of mine beyond that, but I like the Elmer's idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch It View Post
    I wouldn't let the weeks worry you, some guys bury the things for a year to let it all rot off. But, I did one last year and used a 55 gallon drum but cut the long way. It took a lot of propping to keep most of the head submerged. Surely you have a buddy with a sawzall, and scrap barrels are not hard to find. I'd just reboot and start over, nothing is ruined, so try to relax, though I understand your frustration.

    I've done several deer and a moose to good result and the key is to get as much submerged as possible. Lace the water with a ton of dawn and borax to degrease it, let it simmer (not boil) for several hours before getting to picking at it.....then every 20-30 minutes is a good idea but the head is so awkward that you may want help for that. I used an electric power washer which as I recall they do not have as much oomph as a gas one. Either way avoid the nose (the cartilage there will just fall out after a hours) but it's great for the area around the antler bases and brain cavity and all those picky little connectors on the back and underside of the head.

    Avoid bleach, and then you don't have to worry about the effect of steam on the antlers, folks say it lightens them but all areas of the antlers I've done this to have actually darked.....don't know why, but the effect is minimal and only affects what is directly over the steam, you can cover with tinfoil if you wish. The bleach also degrades the bones. European mounts to me are a prep, patience, and beer drinking kind of thing. Expect to spend the better part of a day prepping, and babysitting it. It's important not to boil as your bones could end up like those in pressure cooked rib recipes....brittle and stained.

    Once the nasty part is done, scrap with little bits you couldh't power wash (there won't be much if you simmer long enough) and the finish can be done PO BOY style by getting regular peroxide and a bunch of paper towels. Layer the towels on the skull, with the bases either taped or something so you don't splash the peroxide on them. Douse the towels with peroxide, redouse once a day for a few days then remove and rinse. It leaves a pretty natural but clean and bright bone and I haven't treated any of mine beyond that, but I like the Elmer's idea.

    Despair you should not, reboot you should, a beer you should grab......
    This is great advice!


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    Thanks so much everyone. And catch it I was stressing and I appreciate your detailed response. Here's what I'm doing. It's the best I can come up with without buying or running around borrowing
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    Ha! I used jackstands too.....funny.

    if you are hell bent on doing this with what you've got, put some boards over the head to keep the heat in, it's more the heat than the actual water that cooks the sinew and meat off.

    Even a tin snips could but some notches if it's deep enough, but I'm thinking your set up is not.

    It will not hurt anything to stop now, get the right stuff, and do it again tomorrow, next weekend whatever. WIth a sawzall and a barrel it would only take an hour or less to get it cut to do this much easier. But I don't know your schedule etc. but the boards (or sheet metal) will maximize what you've got.

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    Wife won't let you use the kitchen sink huh?

    As others noted make sure you keep peroxide or bleach seri ties off the horns, especially at the bases.


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    Quote Originally Posted by fishingyoda View Post
    Thanks so much everyone. And catch it I was stressing and I appreciate your detailed response. Here's what I'm doing. It's the best I can come up with without buying or running around borrowing
    Looks like that will work...I would suggest draping a white cloth (an old 'clean' game bag will do) over the part of the skull that isn't in the water, this will help keep it from drying out and maybe speed up the process, not sure about cloth on the nose part hanging over your cooking pot, as it may catch fire. A colored cloth may discolor the skull. I have used tinfoil before to help keep the heat in, but the tinfoil that touched part of the skull turned it green, so if you do use tinfoil, be sure to keep it off the skull. Never use bleach on a skull.
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    Not sure what type of 'bleach' everyone is referring to.
    I don't recommend using regular bleach on skulls - not for cleaning or for whitening. (for sure not whitening). I suppose the minimal amount of bleach that is in laundry soap isn't going to be enough to eat the bone...but soaking a skull in 'bleach' WILL.

    When you get to the 'whitening part' - get yourself a bottle of hydrogen peroxide (40 volume) at Sally's beauty supply and some simple white (also at Sally's). Make a nice goopy paste and paint it on the skull with a brush - WEAR LATEX GLOVES, LONG SLEEVES and EYE PROTECTION (it will burn your skin). Make sure you are outside or in a very well ventilated area. Let it air dry, and then hose it off. I like to get a bucket of water with a handful of baking soda in it to wash skulls down with (or submerge them in) to neutralize the acid of the peroxide.

    Just an FYI

    If you do end up with the antler burrs/bases losing color, you can get a bit of burnt umber acrylic paint (watered down a bit) or provincial colored wood stain to touch them up. Potassium permanganate will work too, but I think it is more a pain to deal with for smaller areas that need touch up.


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    The bleach I am referring to is the liquid (clorox) kind that is sometimes added to laundry, one of the worse things you could do to a skull.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JuliW View Post
    Not sure what type of 'bleach' everyone is referring to.
    I don't recommend using regular bleach on skulls - not for cleaning or for whitening. (for sure not whitening). I suppose the minimal amount of bleach that is in laundry soap isn't going to be enough to eat the bone...but soaking a skull in 'bleach' WILL.

    When you get to the 'whitening part' - get yourself a bottle of hydrogen peroxide (40 volume) at Sally's beauty supply and some simple white (also at Sally's). Make a nice goopy paste and paint it on the skull with a brush - WEAR LATEX GLOVES, LONG SLEEVES and EYE PROTECTION (it will burn your skin). Make sure you are outside or in a very well ventilated area. Let it air dry, and then hose it off. I like to get a bucket of water with a handful of baking soda in it to wash skulls down with (or submerge them in) to neutralize the acid of the peroxide.

    Just an FYI

    If you do end up with the antler burrs/bases losing color, you can get a bit of burnt umber acrylic paint (watered down a bit) or provincial colored wood stain to touch them up. Potassium permanganate will work too, but I think it is more a pain to deal with for smaller areas that need touch up.


    Juli
    Everything Juli says is correct. Also a dust mask or resperator will help. That peroxide is rough on the nostrils(yours).
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    I find a few weeks in regular cut and scrape peroxide works just fine and I'm not afraid of killing myself with it!


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    Member JuliW's Avatar
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    "Also a dust mask or resperator will help. That peroxide is rough on the nostrils(yours)."

    Good point Hugh!
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