DeerBuilder.com
Cleaning skulls
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
molsonarcher 16-Feb-22
AaronShort 16-Feb-22
SBH 16-Feb-22
Buckeye 16-Feb-22
deerhunter72 16-Feb-22
Cheesehead Mike 16-Feb-22
molsonarcher 16-Feb-22
AaronShort 16-Feb-22
molsonarcher 16-Feb-22
Cheesehead Mike 16-Feb-22
deerhunter72 16-Feb-22
cnelk 16-Feb-22
molsonarcher 16-Feb-22
TJS 16-Feb-22
butcherboy 16-Feb-22
molsonarcher 16-Feb-22
butcherboy 16-Feb-22
butcherboy 16-Feb-22
molsonarcher 17-Feb-22
Cheesehead Mike 17-Feb-22
Barron114 17-Feb-22
smarba 18-Feb-22
Cheesehead Mike 18-Feb-22
deerhunter72 18-Feb-22
molsonarcher 18-Feb-22
smarba 18-Feb-22
Buck Watcher 19-Feb-22
molsonarcher 21-Feb-22
bentstick54 21-Feb-22
cnelk 21-Feb-22
molsonarcher 22-Feb-22
deerhunter72 22-Feb-22
From: molsonarcher
16-Feb-22

molsonarcher's embedded Photo
molsonarcher's embedded Photo
Hoping someone here can give me some advice on how best to get this deadhead back to looking decent.

It was found in a marsh(not by me unfortunately, but given to me) pretty much buried in muck.

So far ive cleaned with soapy water to get all the dirt/grit off. I tried mineral spirits, 3% hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda on the antlers trying to remove some of the staining. Currently it is sitting in 40% hp(skull only).

Does anyone have any suggestions on a safe way to remove the staining from the antlers? I know i probably wont remove all of it, but would like to clean it up better than it is now. Im concerned that 40% will eat the antlers to the point of looking like chalks. The antlers currently are not to that point, but are also not “browns” either.

Any experience/advice will be appreciated.

From: AaronShort
16-Feb-22
I would use your 3% to scrub it clean and let it set in the sun to naturalize/whiten the antlers and then re-color to get a uniform/natural look. 3% HP wont eat away at the antlers. I assume you have 40 vol not % HP.

From: SBH
16-Feb-22
You'll need to stain the antlers. Lots of colors will work depending on how dark you want them. Start light and wipe off tell you get what you want.

From: Buckeye
16-Feb-22
looks like its in pretty good shape as it is.

From: deerhunter72
16-Feb-22
I'm with Buckeye, don't know that I'd do much with them. I'd probably just clean the antlers as best I could and let it go at that. Staining works but can get a little tricky. If not done right they won't look natural.

16-Feb-22

Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
Cheesehead Mike's embedded Photo
This is a set of shed antlers from about the 1940's that belonged to my grandpa and were used for a gun rack above the fireplace mantle for years. They were completely faded out and gray. I restored them about 10 years ago and painted them with Folk Art acrylic paint from Walmart. I blended several different colors to get the shades I wanted. I thought they turned out really well. The paint was easy to work with and if I didn't like a certain shade I could just wipe it off before it dried as opposed to stain which soaks in and is harder to change.

From: molsonarcher
16-Feb-22
Thanks for the input guys. The skull itself is stained much more than the antlers. I was planning on just trying to remove the staining from the antlers and not staining with a color. I like the 3% left outside in the sunshine deal. I think that could work and will give that a try when it warms up a bit. All in all it is in pretty good shape other than the staining. This was given to me by a client who found it 20+ years ago. The little fissure joints are all loose but intact, so I’m trying to be extra careful with what I use and do here.

From: AaronShort
16-Feb-22
iron out for the skull and then elmers school glue after you get it as white as you want it.

From: molsonarcher
16-Feb-22
Thanks for that one. Never considered iron out.

16-Feb-22
Based on your original post I thought you were asking about coloring the antlers.

You could always spray paint the skull white if you can't get rid of the stains.

From: deerhunter72
16-Feb-22
Also thought you were mostly interested in the antlers. You could try low heat, like an aquarium heater, to pull out some of the stains on the skull. I use a bucket heater on a timer to degrease a fresh skull. Otherwise, white spray works well.

From: cnelk
16-Feb-22

cnelk's embedded Photo
cnelk's embedded Photo
Typically, the skulls of found deadheads never quite degrease enough to fully whiten. The ‘old antique look’ is very acceptable in many applications

This information comes from a good friend of mine that does thousands of euro mounts

From: molsonarcher
16-Feb-22
Painting the skull just might be the option that looks best. Currently soaking in vol 40 peroxide, and seems to be working a bit.

I appreciate all the replies. This is the first deadhead I’ve done, but do all my own euros from animals I harvest. This one is just out of my wheelhouse and a hobby project for now. Still trying to decide how to display it, and may use it in a future mount depending on how it turns out.

From: TJS
16-Feb-22
Try making a paste of Basic White and the 40 HP and brushing it on the skull. Recoat if needed. Will most likely brighten skull nicely.

The Folk Art acrylic paint idea looks very good. Nice to see those antlers recycled!

From: butcherboy
16-Feb-22
Dead heads are extremely difficult to get all the staining out. Takes a long time doing the dawn soap/ammonia mixture in warm water. You can also soak in acetone which will still take a long time and may never get it all out. I never used paints to recolor deer antlers. I always used dirt and the bags of potting soil you can buy at most garden centers. It’s the one with the sticks and a few rocks in it. Just put some in a bowl and a little water to make it moist. Rub it on using a cloth or leather glove. Use a toothbrush for doing the antler burs. You can make it as dark or light as you want or make it darker on the main beams and lighter as the antlers go up. Let it dry and then rub all the dry mud off. You can use a wet piece of steel wool to lighten the tips. After you whiten the skull you can use white all purpose Elmer’s glue to glue any loose pieces back in. If you don’t have to do this then use a zip tie around the nose bones when the skull is still wet to make everything tight once it dries. Good luck with your project.

From: molsonarcher
16-Feb-22
Thanks to all who have replied. There are some very good ideas here that i will try. Hoping to post a successful project when finished.

From: butcherboy
16-Feb-22

butcherboy's embedded Photo
butcherboy's embedded Photo
Deer on the left was colored using my dirt method.

From: butcherboy
16-Feb-22

butcherboy's embedded Photo
butcherboy's embedded Photo
butcherboy's embedded Photo
butcherboy's embedded Photo

From: molsonarcher
17-Feb-22
Butcher boy those look fantastic. You would never know you altered them in any way.

17-Feb-22
Yes it looks like the dirt method works well too. My taxidermist looked at my painted antlers and he was impressed.

From: Barron114
17-Feb-22
White Bone Creations has a video on how to restore deadheads on his YouTube channel.

From: smarba
18-Feb-22
I have also used dirt on antlers, based on Bowsiter recommendations and it works amazing. As far as the skull, wrap antler bases as tightly as possible with stretched electrical tape to try and keep moisture off them, keep skull in warm water, Dawn dish detergent, scoop of Oxi-clean, for days, the longer the better. When done brush on Sally Beauty Supply 30 or 40% Volume Crème with a tablespoon of Quick White. Let that sit for a day the wash off, should be good. Touch up antlers/bases as needed with dirt.

18-Feb-22
I've tried Oxi clean and I think it's too harsh and dissolves the bone. I won't use it again. I've been using Arm and Hammer laundry soda and Dawn dish soap and it works amazingly well.

From: deerhunter72
18-Feb-22
I use ultimate strength Dawn and low heat. Takes a few weeks but it gets the grease out. Next time I may try throwing in some Arm and Hammer, thanks for the tip Mike.

From: molsonarcher
18-Feb-22
On a fresh skull i too use dawn and arm&hammer. Also add baking soda to the mix. The little bits seem attracted to the soda and dont stick around the basesof the antlers as much using it. Oxi clean works well if you dont actually boil the skull like the guy on youtube does, but it does seem pretty harsh.

This one was in pretty rough shape so oxi wasnt an option.

From: smarba
18-Feb-22
I have also used Arm & Hammer Laundry Soda. With either that or Oxyclean, don't use too much (maybe 1/2 cup in 3 gallons or so of water) and don't use it for a long time. I should have clarified I only use it during the "first simmer" to help break down the meat and tissue. Once that's turned to gelatinous and rinsed off I only stick with dish soap to degrease.

From: Buck Watcher
19-Feb-22
I painted an old skull with Kilz spray paint about 20 years ago. Still looks good.

From: molsonarcher
21-Feb-22

molsonarcher's embedded Photo
molsonarcher's embedded Photo
I pulled the skull today out of the peroxide. It lightened very slightly, but somd of the bones around the teeth and back of sinus cavity. I think this is as far as i can take it and still leave it in one piece.

21-Feb-22
I don’t think you will get anymore of that out. That’s not grease/oil that is natural in a fresh skull. That’s earth and weather staining that has permeated into the bone in my opinion.

From: cnelk
21-Feb-22
Like I mentioned above, completely acceptable and looks great.

Not a fan of painting. Looks cheesy

From: molsonarcher
22-Feb-22
Im leaving it as is. It does have a certain kind of cool factor with the staining. It will most likely get used in a future mount as is, and now that it is “clean”, the wife says it can stay in the house. Mission accomplished.

From: deerhunter72
22-Feb-22
Looks good to me! Painting works but it does give the skull an unnatural look IMO.

  • Sitka Gear