Skull maceration
General Topic
Contributors to this thread:
DConcrete 26-May-19
RidgeRunner 26-May-19
DConcrete 26-May-19
AZBUGLER 26-May-19
Brian M. 26-May-19
t-roy 26-May-19
butcherboy 26-May-19
deerhunter72 29-May-19
TrapperKayak 29-May-19
Franklin 29-May-19
Nick Muche 29-May-19
DL 29-May-19
Stoneman 29-May-19
Franklin 29-May-19
DL 29-May-19
Ambush 29-May-19
ohiohunter 29-May-19
BenP 30-May-19
elkstabber 30-May-19
EmbryOklahoma 30-May-19
smarba 30-May-19
deerhunter72 30-May-19
SJJ 30-May-19
deerhunter72 30-May-19
Nick Muche 30-May-19
Brian M. 30-May-19
Stoneman 30-May-19
deerhunter72 30-May-19
Nick Muche 30-May-19
WapitiBob 30-May-19
deerhunter72 30-May-19
Franklin 31-May-19
butcherboy 01-Jun-19
butcherboy 01-Jun-19
wild1 01-Jun-19
Handle 01-Jun-19
Nick Muche 05-Jun-19
Medicinemann 05-Jun-19
Stoneman 06-Jun-19
BenP 06-Jun-19
BOWUNTR 06-Jun-19
butcherboy 06-Jun-19
Stoneman 07-Jun-19
Franklin 07-Jun-19
APauls 07-Jun-19
Stoneman 07-Jun-19
Franklin 07-Jun-19
Stoneman 27-Jun-19
Grey Ghost 27-Jun-19
Cheesehead Mike 02-Jul-19
Stoneman 03-Jul-19
Cheesehead Mike 03-Jul-19
Stoneman 03-Jul-19
butcherboy 03-Jul-19
skull 03-Jul-19
skull 03-Jul-19
Stoneman 07-Aug-19
From: DConcrete
26-May-19
Has anyone ever had this process done on their European mounts?

How did you like it compared to beetles or boiling?

Thanks!

From: RidgeRunner
26-May-19
I have never tried beetles but I have boiled and done maceration several times each. I now only do maceration. The finished product is much nicer. Overall the time period is longer for maceration but all you have to do is change the water every 2-3 days so it is much easier as well. The only downside is an overpowering horrific smell. Mine have all taken about 3 weeks to finish. The first week the smell is the worst, the next 2 weeks is still bad but not near as powerful. I use an old ice chest, an aquarium heater and about a tablespoon of rid-x septic additive. After 3 weeks it is completely clean, even the hard to get spots like the inner ear canals. The nasal cavity looks amazing compared to boiling. To me there is no comparison when it comes to the finished product and I hate spending hours boiling and scraping. Good luck.

From: DConcrete
26-May-19
Thank you so much. I appreciate it

From: AZBUGLER
26-May-19
Never heard of Maceration.... Just soaking for longer period of time?

From: Brian M.
26-May-19
One a year for last few years. I don't even skin the head anymore. Place in bucket, fill with water, cover with a black construction bag, leave in the sun, forget about it. Never had one complete in three weeks, but I change the water 2-3 times over the spring/summer. Put a small squirt of dish detergent in last fresh water to remove any grease. Come out very clean. You can leave as is, or use 40% hydrogen peroxide to whiten. I leave as is. Cheap and easy, just takes a while.

I just changed the water yesterday on a beaver skull. It looked clean, but will check in another week or two. Teeth will have to be glued back in.

From: t-roy
26-May-19
How long does it take for the smell to go away?

From: butcherboy
26-May-19
I do all my euro’s using the maceration method. Here are a few pointers.

Always keep the water warm. About 80 degrees is pretty good. Covering with a black garbage bag or a tarp works great to help keep the water warm. If it’s cold outside then your container needs to have some kind of insulation around it. It should only take about a week for a deer skull unless it’s really cold outside. Changing the water every few days isn’t necessary if it’s kept warm but does need to be changed every few weeks if you do a lot of skulls. Adding some kind of degreaser to it will not really help it, that needs to be done during the actual degreasing process. If any stuff is left on the skull it can be sprayed off with a garden hose and nozzle or a small power washer. Just don’t spray directly into the nasal cavity. Once it has been degreased properly, whiten with a peroxide paste and rinse clean. After it’s dry then seal the skull so any dust can be easily wiped off when you clean it if so desired.

A note about peroxide. The stuff you buy at a salon is not 40% peroxide. It’s called volume 40 but it’s actually about 13%. I use 35% and dilute to about 25% and just soak the skull in it for about 30 hours. Just don’t cover the pedicles or you will have to re-color the antler burs.

As a taxidermist I actually hate doing euro’s. Just not any art in it when it comes to true Taxidermy work.

From: deerhunter72
29-May-19
Did my first one with this method this past winter. Using a fish tank heater speeds up the process by a bunch. I put the bucket with the skull in a barrel and insulated it and then covered the whole thing in plastic, really cut down on the smell. After about 3 weeks, I started degreasing with dawn detergent for about a week. Then I soaked the skull in volume 40, as butcherboy suggested, for a couple days. It's really easy and the result is fantastic. The best thing was that I didn't have to wait 8-9 months for my taxidermist. I did remove as much of the hide as possible including the eyes, but that is really not necessary, it'll just take longer in the bucket.

From: TrapperKayak
29-May-19
There is no easy way to do a Euro. Its all a PITA. I like it best when I find a nice bleached but unbroken skull in the open. I have a bunch of skulls from deer and elk I shot in various stages of finishing, now leaning toward just cutting off the place ad mounting on a nice wooden plaque. Maybe when I retire I'll have more time for it.

From: Franklin
29-May-19
I have done them all different ways to Sunday....and I always return to "simmering". Maceration is a disgusting filthy job, disposal of liquid is a problem. Beetles are too much maintenance and require space for containers. They all work and have never seen a bit of difference in the end product as the degreasing and the whitening is the most important steps once the skulls are clean.

I have had better success lately with using these "pool products" to whiten over the standard basic white and Peroxide.

From: Nick Muche
29-May-19
I am going to setup a maceration deal this eve, sick of paying for euros each year and I hate picking at the skulls, etc. This seems like a pretty easy way to get all the meat off and clean them up nicely for cheap, plus it's much quicker than waiting on a taxi plus paying $350 for it. Thanks for the tips!

From: DL
29-May-19
I hate them also Butcherboy. In fact I don’t do them. I used to have a guy that used Beatles. On my sheep head I took a pressure washer to it. Worked great. Just let it dry after that until I had it measured. I then had to soak it to get the horns off. Pressure washing can get most of the tissue off. Then soak it to finish it off. It’s not nearly as nasty.

From: Stoneman
29-May-19
Franklin, please elaborate: I have had better success lately with using these "pool products" to whiten over the standard basic white and Peroxide. Would you please provide specific product(s) and where purchased?

I had purchased a gallon of high percentage (40%) peroxide years ago. I wasn't doing many euros and basically just left it on the shelf. I took it down with the intention of re bleaching some skulls. When it was new, it would turn your skin white if spilled or used with out gloves. I have not fully tested it yet, however, it seems to have lost most of the whitening strength. For those with experience, does peroxide have a shelf life? I looked online with limited results and nothing definitive.

For those that use the maceration process, where do you poor the "dark water"? I can see this as a possible issue in a residential area. I hate picking "cooked" meat off skulls. I would like to try the rot and power wash method (maceration), but I am concerned about disposing the byproduct(s).

Good thread, thanks.

From: Franklin
29-May-19
I dumped some maceration water and my dog rolled in it....that was it for me.

Any outdoorsman who can skin a deer or elk can do their own euros. Degreasing is a huge part of doing skulls....IMO. You must degrease bears boars beavers coons etc. You can get away with not degreasing a deer but I still do.

The pool products you want are NON- CHLORINATED shock or oxidizer. Products like Baquacil Oxidizer.....Soft Swim C.....Aqua Silk non-chlorinated oxidizer...work great. They are 27% and can be reused. Far cheaper than Peroxide.

From: DL
29-May-19
One thing I don’t like about whitening is loosing the patina off bears teeth or hogs teeth.

From: Ambush
29-May-19
Simmer and pressure wash. Repeat about three times, with Dawn dish soap and dishwasher pod for the second two simmers. Done in one day and no putrid water or rotting meat! Don't boil, just simmer. And both methods need whitening if that is your preference. Simmering with dish soap and pods there's usually no need to degrease, but you can is you want a longer lasting "white".

And with the simmering method you can feed your dog the scraps. Or your neighbors dog or kids.

From: ohiohunter
29-May-19
Deer are easy, pick a method. Bigger greasier critters are work.

From: BenP
30-May-19
Anyone use these guys? A friend of mine has been using them for years. Reasonable turn around and I’ve seen the final products. Better than I can do. I’ll be using them in the future. https://www.skullsunlimited.com/

From: elkstabber
30-May-19
I've cleaned skulls a couple of different ways. The last one I did completely different. I call it the FAI method. I'll explain why the FAI method works so well.

After shooting the buck I removed the skin from the skull and nothing else. Then, I realized that I had a number of things to get done that weren't hunting-related. So I set the skull in shallow water of a pond that is next to my house. I did this because freezer space was hard to come by. I figured I would leave it there until I had time to get back to cleaning it. And then I forgot about it. I mean completely forgot about it. In the spring one of my kids said they saw a deer skull in the pond, which reminded me that I'd left it there. When I picked it out of the pond it was completely clean. All it needed was brightening.

This was over the winter in Virginia in a pond that rarely freezes. Maybe the FAI method will work for you too. What does FAI stand for? Forget About It.

30-May-19
They do GREAT work, BenP. Well established and extremely well versed in the craft.

From: smarba
30-May-19
As far as losing the patina (stain) on teeth, that won't come off with simmering. Just don't paint whitener on them and it stays just fine.

From: deerhunter72
30-May-19
Stoneman, I actually didn't think the water was very bad, but I had worked to get all of the flesh and meat off that I could before hand. Based on other what others are saying that must've made a huge difference. I didn't have any problems with smell and the water really wasn't that bad.

From: SJJ
30-May-19
Been there done that....not worth it....they dont get as white as fresh hot water "boil". In 4 hours snow white, no stink

From: deerhunter72
30-May-19

deerhunter72's embedded Photo
deerhunter72's embedded Photo
deerhunter72's embedded Photo
Macerate, degrease, peroxide.
deerhunter72's embedded Photo
Macerate, degrease, peroxide.
Mine came out super white. To each their own, but I think the power wash method is a bit hard on the skull, particularly the nasal bone.

From: Nick Muche
30-May-19
Franklin, do you just add the Aqua Silk non-chlorinated oxidizer to water or do you soak the skull in a bucket of just the Aqua Silk?

From: Brian M.
30-May-19
Stoneman, I dump mine in my compost pile. Dig a hole into the pile, dump the bucket, cover with compost.

From: Stoneman
30-May-19
Franklin, thanks on the pool products.

deerhunter72, that makes sense, still it has to smell. I have a couple almost ready. Your skulls look great.

Brian M. - that would work. Just short on areas to dig.

From: deerhunter72
30-May-19
Stoneman, I should have said that the smell didn’t bother me like I thought it would. I did it in the winter so that probably helped also.

From: Nick Muche
30-May-19
I cleaned off the skull real well and then put it in a bucket. Added water and an aquarium heater set at 80. How long you figure it’ll take in there?

From: WapitiBob
30-May-19
I have a deer done with beetles and 2 elk done masceration. Deer is whiter but not by much. Both have all nasal cartilage intact.

From: deerhunter72
30-May-19
Nick, I’d say give it 2 weeks, checking the water every 3-4 days. Might have to go 3. Then degrease as much as you can.

From: Franklin
31-May-19
Nick....the skull goes into the oxidizer full strength. What I like about it is you can reuse it. But you can dilute with water up to 3 parts water to 1 part Aqua Silk.

Some guys heat this stuff in a metal tub to accelerate the process. I`m leery of mixing these products in a metal container. There have been some crazy reactions reported.

Personally I use a black bucket or barrel and put it in the sun or add a glass heating element.

From: butcherboy
01-Jun-19

butcherboy's embedded Photo
butcherboy's embedded Photo
Here are two buffalo skulls I pulled out of the maceration pot yesterday. I used a 150 gallon livestock Rubbermaid tank. The skulls were covered with water and left for about a month. The reason it took longer was because I didn’t keep the water warm. I just used the sun to help. The horn slid off in about a week. The next step is the degreasing process, whitening, then final sealing.

I like the maceration because I simply don’t have the time to babysit the simmering method. I have a lot of mounts to finish and also stay busy with the meat processing year round.

From: butcherboy
01-Jun-19
If you look in the background you will see two black barrels. One contains 35% hydrogen peroxide and the other one contains acetone. The acetone is used for a lot of different things in the taxi shop.

From: wild1
01-Jun-19

wild1's embedded Photo
wild1's embedded Photo
I'm with deerhunter72, I never use a pressure washer, not only is it hard on the nasal cavity, but more than a few teeth have been lost this way (plus, it's totally unnecessary).

The time consuming part is mostly with bears and hogs, due to the grease/degreasing - I degrease those species at least six months.

There's more than a few ways to do warm-water maceration, and most have been mentioned here. Here's a few things that have worked, or not worked for me:

1. Never boil a skull, there is a difference between simmering and boiling. Simmer is ok.

2. I tend to remove as much flesh as I can (using my havalon), then use dawn liquid detergent and borax, or dawn and acetone (good degreaser) in the warm water.

3. The smell is gonna be very bad, I keep my bucket away from the house, but protected from critters.

4. When you change the water, use a strainer to catch loose teeth, and leave some dirty water (about 2 inches) in the bucket to preserve the bacteria that does the work.

5. In about a week, or so, all the flesh will have fallen off - except for some stubborn cartilage.

Good luck!

From: Handle
01-Jun-19
"Or your neighbors dog or kids."

I caught that! lol!

From: Nick Muche
05-Jun-19
It’s been 7 days in the bucket with an aquarium heater set at 80. If I had a pressure washer it would be completely clean. Will give it another day or so then maybe a garden hose will do the trick.

From: Medicinemann
05-Jun-19
Nick, If you have taken any photos of the process, could you post them? If not, please post a photo of the finished product.

From: Stoneman
06-Jun-19
How does it smell? Will degreasing take away any foul odor?

From: BenP
06-Jun-19
I’ve done deer, bears and mountain goats AFTER beetles. Bucket of water and dish soap and fish tank heater. This is pretty much degreasing and it STINKS. It also takes months of changing the water and adding new soap every few days to a week. When the local beetle guy de greases for others he does it a LONG time. Well over 6 months. Maybe there’s a way to speed it up but I’m unaware.

When I get a beetle cleaned skull back it’s very stinky and I have now begun to soak them in hydrogen peroxide for a couple days first before degreasing just to knock down the smell.

Once the little clumps of grease stop congealing on the surface of the water then it’s peroxide for a few days to a week and then done.

Its fun and rewarding to do yourself but It’s a long process to get it really nice and have done enough to know I don’t really want to do it any more. I’ll be using skulls unlimited for awhile if not from here on out. It’s worth it to me.

From: BOWUNTR
06-Jun-19

BOWUNTR's embedded Photo
BOWUNTR's embedded Photo
I've had a beetle colony for about 10 years. Once the skull is clean, soak the skull in hot water and dawn. It will not stink after that. I degrease in white gas for about a month, depending on the skull. Also drill a small hole in the bottom of both sides of the lower jaw to leech the grease out of it. Ed F

From: butcherboy
06-Jun-19
You don’t want to degrease in cold water and dawn soap. Water needs to be kept at a steady 110-115 degrees. If it’s hotter it will soften the bone and the skull will fall apart. It will work colder but it will take a long time. Adding industrial strength ammonia with the dawn soap will work great. Just don’t add too much ammonia and inhale or you will burn your nose hairs straight off! Lol

Nick, if most of the stuff comes off during the maceration then the little bit left around the back of the skull and around the ear canals will come off during the degreasing.

From: Stoneman
07-Jun-19
ok, dropped a pronghorn skull into the bucket this morning. I am not going to use a heater as it has been getting plenty warm. I did cover it with a black trash bag to radiate some heat. Any suggestion or recommendations? I figure it will let it macerate for a few days an check the horns. I suppose they just pop off then what? let them dry? any prep on the horns while the rest of the skull macerates? Thanks!

Also doing a elk antler skull plate that would not fit into an bucket so using an old disk sled that is just deep enough to cover the skull plate up to the pedicle's. I figure a week and then power wash this as it was 95% clean.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

From: Franklin
07-Jun-19
On the pronghorn make sure you take note of where the sheaths are on the horn. Some take a small drill and make a hole at the bottom of the sheath for reference. I cheat them up a fuzz to make them look bigger...lol.

After the sheaths come of clean and wash them with dawn and then dust the inside and area around the base with Borax. You can spray the sheaths with a clear coat if you want....you pick the gloss. Don`t put too much on. I use Rustoleum spray Clear Coat.

From: APauls
07-Jun-19
I have a moose skull/rack sitting on the garage floor for 7 months. I'm afraid to move it.

From: Stoneman
07-Jun-19
Thanks Franklin, if this works out I will be dunking a whitetail next. I asked about shelf life of peroxide earlier and didn't see any responses. Do you know if the 38% goes bad over time?

From: Franklin
07-Jun-19
As long as it`s in a sealed container you should be good to go.

From: Stoneman
27-Jun-19
Update: pronghorn horns came off a few days ago, I simmered them in dawn dish soap for 30 min or so. They started getting soft around the bases so I pulled them. Let dry and applied borax. Put aside in a cool dry place with cavity filled with borax. Been a few days now and...

There is still that slight sweet smell of "ode de Macerate". Any suggestions to get rid of this?

From: Grey Ghost
27-Jun-19
I've always boiled my Euros, using a turkey frier, and I think they've turned out nice. That said, I think I'd rather do a full shoulder mount than a Euro, due to the stink. Taxidermy is a lot of fun to learn, if you have the time.

Matt

02-Jul-19

Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
I had to try 3 old coolers until I found one that held water without leaking
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
I had to try 3 old coolers until I found one that held water without leaking
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Dawn dish soap and borax in the water. Figured the Otter sled will help gather heat and make it easy to move into the sun.
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Dawn dish soap and borax in the water. Figured the Otter sled will help gather heat and make it easy to move into the sun.
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Wrapped a black garbage bag around the cooler to help gather heat.
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Wrapped a black garbage bag around the cooler to help gather heat.
I decided to give this maceration thing a try on my elk skull from last year. I cleaned up really well after I killed it and it's been out in my garage since then. It doesn't stink much.

From: Stoneman
03-Jul-19
dang nice bull! I did a bull skull cap and after 3 weeks of sitting in water it was obvious it was going to take more time or heat. I decided to simmer it to finish. Took a knife and tooth brush to clean it up. Not full skull but the results were positive. I still have a ph skull in water (similar set up as your bull, it will be 4 weeks on Friday and I might decide to simmer to finish.

03-Jul-19
Thanks Stoneman. I'll leave it for a few weeks and see what else it needs. I simmered my last one and it turned out good. Just thought I'd give this a try.

From: Stoneman
03-Jul-19
The picking and cleaning was much easier for sure. I am hoping a good spray power wash does most of the work and then simmer to de grease and finish.

Not many deductions on that one!

From: butcherboy
03-Jul-19
If use the maceration method you need to keep your water warm 24/7. Just straight water and sunlight will work but it will take a long time because the water will never get warm enough and it will always cool down at night. Your water needs to stay about 70-80 degrees all the time.

From: skull
03-Jul-19
Well now you guys know where my forum name come from I have been cleaning skulls for almost 30 years This is how I do it Soda Ash, commonly called Sal Soda, is used to dissolve meat, fat and grease when simmering skulls and antler plates. Simply add Soda Ash to water and immerse the skull or antler plate. Just got a few done this weekend

From: skull
03-Jul-19

skull's embedded Photo
skull's embedded Photo

From: Stoneman
07-Aug-19

Stoneman's embedded Photo
pronghorn
Stoneman's embedded Photo
pronghorn
Stoneman's embedded Photo
another view
Stoneman's embedded Photo
another view
Stoneman's embedded Photo
sous vide white tail...
Stoneman's embedded Photo
sous vide white tail...
Just a little follow up, pronghorn turned out pretty good, took a long time with out using anything to heat the water consistently. I haven't secured or put anything on the horn sheaths yet, will look at the rustoleum option. Dropped the white tail in the bucket with the sous vide (aquarium heater) a week ago and it looks to be almost done now. I will give it few more days then de grease and whiten. Consistent water temp is the key, meat and cartilage just melts off.

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