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Euro mounts: problems after boiling?
I've been preparing for a trip this summer.
I had someone who has a "beetle business" and does Euro mounts that the skulls he has seen come back from Africa are boiled so much that they're hard to get white for a good Euro mount.
Any opinions or suggestions?
Boiling can not only leave an off color that is hard to get rid of, it can easily weaken the connective tissue in the nasal cavity and the skull can just fall apart. I learned that the hard way. Ever since then, I just skin the skull and take it to the beetle guy. They come back in museum quality.
I guess I'm missing something then. What does a "DIP" guy do then, if not boil them clean so they can get into the U.S.?
The "Dip" guy boiled my skulls that were going to be sent here for shoulder mounts.
Although I have not received it yet, I had the taxidermist over there do my Euro on my warthog and he said he would boil and then use peroxide. It made no sense price wise for them to boil for the dip and pack (you pay) and ship here to have the final beetles or cleaning/whitening done. (you pay again)
Maybe someone knows of a beetle guy in SA where you could have all your skulls done?
Attached is a photo from the taxidermist visit of someones crate being prepared.
That is the problem I've seen. They get boiled so hard that all the nasal tissues are gone and in the boiling process you are putting that grease into the bone. Makes it much harder to get out. Degrease the skulls and when you think all the grease is out degrease some more. Hope all goes well for you,
Rob, Rocky Mountain Beetle Works
Try simmering them in sal soda or Arm & Hammer detergent booster. Both are sodium bicarbonate and they degrease. It may work to penetrate the set in grease. Afterwards, let them dry completely and whiten with a 40 or 50 volume peroxide with Basic White. The whitener may do it alone, but you won't do any more damage by boiling with a degreaser first.
I don't think your skulls were boiled, but likely just wrapped in a bag and left outside. The staining you see is possibly just dried blood. I've been able to whiten skulls for friends who've had deer heads with hides left on and dried foe several years. Only thing I do different with these is soak rhem in a bucket of water outside so the hide rehydrates and maceration causes it to fall off. I let the maggots and beetles eat any remaining soft tissue.
I had great luck with a wildebeest skull. I used a 1 part water 1 part industrial strength hydrogen peroxide solution. I bought the H2O2 at a swimming pool supply store for about $12 a gallon.
I soaked the skull in that for 2 days and it came out really white.
I have also used kitty litter to degrease skulls. You take cheap kitty litter and pour it in every crack and crevice. Then you bury the skull in a pile of the kitty litter for a day or two.
Nothing soaks up grease like that stuff. To get the litter off you can blow air on the skull and then use water to get the rest. The litter leaves a little bit of a grey residue behind but the hydrogen peroxide solution takes care of that....good luck
After your trophy gets to the skinning shed, they remove most of the flesh from the skulls and then soak them in a very strong brine for a few days to keep it from rotting further. This is in prep for sending to the local taxidermist who will boil the skull. This usually involves suspended it from the horns into the boil to keep the horns from being submerged. Some places drill holes in the horn ends to hang from and repair these with expoxy colored to match. If the horns are removable they will do this and cut the ends of the horn base off as shown in the picture a few posts back. They then must dip the skulls and entire horns in the appropriate poisons to meet requirements for export to the US. In some cases where the horns cannot be removed (older Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Waterbuck, etc) they will make sure the dip penetrates through drilled holes. The end result usually gives you a very black and cracked looking horn which is not near what they look like while on the live animal. Many taxidermists don't have the time or desire to spend that much time working on the horns to bring them back to looking more natural, plus most of their clients don't really notice anyway. IMO, The worst problems for residual skull grease are with Warthogs and Bushpigs. Degreasing can take weeks in warmed solutions of Ammonia and detergents, followed by peroxide to whiten them. Unless specified for them to do a full finished euromount skull-prep, the taxidermist in RSA will simply do the crude boil and you may get back something that lacks nasal septa, teeth etc.
Boiling and/or pressure washing is never advised and if you can find it over there, beetles will clean and preserve the skull best.
AZ- or others...Most all skulls I receive seem to be boiled and the horn shells are separate like you stated above.
However this last shipment from Wildcat Safaris in Zambia came with no separate horn shells. It included a good Kudu, a ex large Roan, good buffalo (don't think these can come off), a very large Cookson's wildebeest. Lots of old bug/beetle shells around the horn bases and on skulls, but the horns will not come off any of the antelope.
Do you think they may have just let the beetles and bugs work on them, then when they dried out, the horns would not come off due to shrinkage of the horn shells? Should I try to boil them enough to get the horns off, or just treat them with insecticide and mount. I should add they don't really smell A-1.
The link is to a blog article I did on preparing European Skull Mounts. As you know, I am no taxi and no expert, but over time I've gotten better and the javi skull I did last really turned out well.
People here have mentioned sal soda (Borax) and ammonia - both good. Then time to get your hair done - 40 volume peroxide and basic white.
The blog contains some good links to good resources for advanced discussions.
happy hunting in RSA, dv
Tadpole, it appears that they failed to get those horns off the kudu and possibly the roan when the time was right. If they were boiled correctly and they were not just left out in some shed to completely dry out, then they should have been able to pull the horn sheaths off the cores. Some horns will simply not come off. Buffulo, old wildebeest, hartebeest, impala and waterbuck to name a few. That's when they Drill holes. They don't bother with beetles over there, but horn eating beetles are common. If left out in the field, solid heavy horns on skulls soon look like someone drilled a thousand tiny holes in them as those beetles can eat horn if you can believe that, so I imagine they were left untouched for months in an open shed with hundreds of other skulls where regular dermestids were likely at work on soft tissues. You could try soaking those horns (completely submerged) in a tub outside in tepid water until the sheath tissues soften and start to decay (week or two?). This should loosen the horn sheaths enough to pull them off so you can clean/boil and cut the bone cores. That will allow you to keep beetles away later, plus you can bondo them back on correctly. For those you cannot remove I drill and inject lots of concentrated insecticide let dry then seal the holes up with apoxie sculpt.
Thanks Rich, Sounds like good advice, guess that's what I'm going to do. In the mean time, I've powdered the heck out of them with Seven insecticide and sprayed them down with some Dursban just in case anything hatches!
One additional tip for insurance... after you chemically treat the drilled horns and seal those holes, I also use Apoxie clay or sculpt to seal off the space between horn sheath and bone cores at the bases to insure that no dermestids can find their way up into those spaces later.
Rich, When drilling the horn, where and how deep do you drill? Do you drill just thru the horn sheath or deep into the core when injecting the insecticide . And what insecticide do you use? Thanks
I drilled 1/4" holes generally where they would not be seen (Usually the backs) I drill down into the core. Nearer the skull these cores have sinuses hollowed out which contain tissues so you want to get it in there if possible. If you can get the horn sheaths off, you can then cut the tops of the bone cores off making it possible to clean them and create a better place for bondo to flow when attaching the horns. The insecticide is the hard part, since in today's EPA environmant anything that's really good has been banned. Most available professional insecticide agents are short lived and designed to degrade by maybe 6 mos. However, they can still do the trick and if you seal everything off, so it should not matter then. There are a number of do it yourself vendors out there that sell concentrates for home pest control. Do a google search to see more.