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Thread: Bear Skulls

  1. #1
    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Bear Skulls

    So I got a few bears this year. So to save a few bucks I decided to clean my skulls at home. First let me say that boiling is not the way to go for a record animal. It is hard on the bones. So take your trophies to an expert. But for your everyday bear here is how I did these 3 bears. I boiled them in a large pot with water and dish soap. The dish soap helps break up some of the oils. Boil it only as long as you have to get off all the flesh.

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Skulls

    After you get out all the brains and remove all the flesh and please boil it outside only
    It is a very stinky process. If you don’t like nasty pay someone to do it. Anyway time to degrease it. I tried several different methods; the one that worked best for me was soaking the skulls in lantern fuel.

    It took up to 2 weeks for one of them. I took them out and let them dry. You can see the oil start to stain the bone yellow if you still need to soak them longer. Please be careful with flammables. Another way was to soak them in a strong solution of dish soap and water. Takes longer did not use it myself. After they were completely degreased and I mean completely, I whitened them using peroxide and a powered whitening agent. You can buy these at a beauty store.

    PM me for the ones I used.
    Last edited by stid2677; 10-16-2010 at 17:03.

  3. #3
    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default SKulls

    I let them dry and sit in the sun for as long as possible. The sun really made a big difference it really whitened them. After they were dry and white I painted the entire skull with Elmer’s glue to seal the bone and to bond anything that the boiling loosened. Glue in any teeth that may have fallen out. The bone will suck up the glue so use 3 to 4 coats. Take care to brush out runs.

    You can leave them like this or do as I did and spray them with a light coat of high quality poly.


    Total cost for all three was about 50 bucks. Most of that was the lantern fuel and it will do many more projects. Again just one of many ways to do this. Be safe and remember I said it was STINKY!!!! Mine have no smell at all now that they are finished.

    Steve

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Default

    Steve your skulls came out really nice! Never thought of using Elmer's glue or lantern fuel.

  5. #5
    Member Casper50's Avatar
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    Default

    I restore antique guns and use acetone to remove all of the oil from the butt stock. It works great. It might work on skulls also.

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Solvents

    I'm quite sure that most anything that will break down that bear fat will work. I used what I had read would work and went with it.

    Steve

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    Steve: Thanks for the tips and they look great! Nice job. J.

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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Default Steve:

    Duncan Gilchrist's "Complete Guide To The Field Care Of Trophies" used the following method:

    ° Soaked skull in saturated brine solution for several hours to pull the blood out which he claims to stain the finished skull. (Usew plastic bucket)

    ° Take cooking bucket & add 1/2 cup Joy and a 1/2 cup of washing soda.After the water boils put the skull in for about 10 minutes suspended on a wire. Never over boil! After initial booiling he was able to scrape away most of the heavy meat. He said other taxidermists suggest that instead of boiling you should let the skull simmer for a longer period; as much as several hours for a large bear skull. he says the Joy and the washing soda mixture seems to actually lift meat from the bone. Scoring the heavier meat before cooking seems to also help pull the meat away from the bone.

    ° At this time remove the brains by stirring with a stick around in the brain cavity. He says brain material is very greasy, so should be removed no later than the 1st boiling to avoid water contamination. It helps if you can get out as much even before the intial cooking. He says part of the secret is to boil it a second time in clean water, plus adding the Joay and washing soda mixed as before. The second boiling should be for 10 minutes or less.

    ° He says with time every scrap of flesh can be picked off with a pocket knive.

    ° He says commercial peroxide (35%) works real well. He got it through a druggist. When bleached and dryed he says spray on an acryllic finish coat to prevent yellowing.

    ° He also discussed using solvent, so you might be right on with your method.

    All-in-all, your skulls look great, but thought I'd share the above.

    Shoot Straight.

    kingfisherktn

  9. #9

    Talking

    i have used water and bleach and that seemed to work great. it whitenes while it boils..

  10. #10
    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Great Info

    kingfisherktn,

    Great additional info. I can confirm that the brains are very oily. I tried the plain 40 % peroxide without the whitener and had no luck. I did get better with each one. You learn as you go. The grizzly had a hole in her skull near her right eye, I don't remember seeing anything on the hide in that area. Cool to see how it was healing, tough animals.

    I have seen that the chlorine in bleach will cause the bone to get chalky and start to flake. I have helped save some deer skulls from Texas by painting them with the Elmer's.

    Steve

  11. #11

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    If you get a spring bear throw the skull in the shrimp pot overnight every last piece of flesh will be gone.

  12. #12
    Member schmidty_dog's Avatar
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    Is that a Dallas Cowboys helmet I see? Come on, not more Cowboys fans up here in Alaska!!!

    Go Packers!!!

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    Hey Stid....If ya wanna check out my skull come by the house,Ill explain what I did.I learned this off my Taxidermist.I have a thread around here some place with my Skull I did.In-Fact Im working on one right now and momma made me lite a candle hahaha! Daniel

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    Member JustinW's Avatar
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    Default

    Some helpful hints to make the boiling process a lot less harsh. Using these tips you shouldn't have any bone damage and minimal shrinkage equivalent to that of using beetles.

    -Keep the skull chilled, don't let any of the meat spoil, it deteriorates the bone. I've salted them down when I can't refrigerate or freeze it, but I'm not sure if it helps or not, it certainly keeps the nasal passage bones in good shape.
    -Remove all of the meat that you can first with a knife. You should be able to manually remove around 80-90% of the meat off the skull. Agitate the brain cavity and remove as much of the brain as you can.
    -Preheat the water and get it going to a boil before adding the skull. Use some wisk laundry detergent to help break up the oils and loosen the meat. Do not use washing soda, it is really harsh and can damage the bone.
    -Boil a minimum amount of time and use a pressurewasher to blast the meat off the skull in leu of extra boiling time. Don't get the pressurewasher too close or it will etch the bone. This can cut your boiling time down quite a bit. Don't use the pressurewasher in the sinus cavity.
    -After boiling remove any teeth that may easily fall out and lay them out in order
    -Soak the skull in fresh acetone and cover for 24-72 hours or until you see the oils all leached out.
    -After the bone has dried out from the acetone, soak in hydrogen peroxide. This works better than the normal peroxide and whitening agent. Take 35% peroxide and dilute in half with water, soak the skull for 24 hours keeping the container closed off from free airflow and away from light. Peroxide soaking not only bleaches the skull, but will dissolve any bits of tissue that might have been left over from boiling.


    Hope these help. You should be able to boil a skull yourself with the same results of sending it off someplace if you are careful. Don't overboil, you should have to work to get the last bits of meat off.

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    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    Default Unleaded gas also

    Great topic and advice. I boil the skull, then powerwash it also down at the local car wash. Be careful when powerwashing and do not lose the teeth. After it was cleaned, I soaked it in regular gas (87 octane from the pump) for 10 days to degrease it. The finished as others have mentioned. Works great, inexpensive, and easy to do.
    BK

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    Talking

    I've also used the Coleman fuel for bear heads and it works great.

    Stid, that's a very nice display you have there. There's only one little problem with it though, that little gray thing with the star on it. Yep, throws the whole ensamble off....HA.. Go Steelers!

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    Default Da Boys

    The wife is the Cowboys fan. Have to keep the wife happy. All I will say is that my team is has a perfect record. NO WINS....

    Steve

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    Member JustinW's Avatar
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    If you are going to soak the skull in some sort of solvent, choose a solvent that won't leave an oily residue. unleaded gas does leave an oily residue, and the smell of gasoline on porous bone will linger around longer than acetone which tends to dry nearly residue free. Acetone or lacquer thinner tend to be good choices that can cut grease easily. Paint thinner doesn't seem to be strong enough to do the job.

  19. #19

    Default skulls

    Another easy way without boiling the skull, is to put it in bucket of water and forget about it for a few weeks. It helps to have a good lid to keep the aroma away from neighbors. You can also change out water every week. The process is called maceration, bacteria does the work.
    Only have to rinse off with garden hose or in sink being carefull not to lose any teeth. Degrease and finish like other posts being sure to use duco cement on the canines to bond them or they will split like cordwood after time..

  20. #20
    Member Tearbear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan g View Post
    i have used water and bleach and that seemed to work great. it whitenes while it boils..
    Bleach is a big no no, as it will deteriorate the bone. Maceration is one of the best ways to go for a greasy bear or pig skull...even works on a tiny trophy mouse!


    European Mouse sm.jpg
    "Grin and Bear It"

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