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Old 01-30-2009, 06:59 AM   #1
rbljack
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To start with, I'm no expert on this stuff...but I have been reading up on it, and practicing for the last few months to get the process down before I start doing my Antlered deer. I may also be doing some work for a local taxidermist, so getting the process right before working on other peoples trophy's was important. Anyways, what I'm going to do is provide a basic walk through of the process.

IGNORE THE DATES ON MY PICTURES>>I FORGOT TO RESET THE DATE TIME AFTER THE BATTERY CHANGE

First off, there are a few different ways to get the skull cleaned. The first is boiling. Its the easiest and quickest way to get the meat off, but it does cause some other problems. One is that while your trying to pick all that meat off, you can do a lot of damage to the real fragile bones in the nasal cavities, and loose some details in the finished skull. The plus side is that its quicker. The second way is called maceration, where you put the skull into a bucket or container of water and let it rot for a few weeks. The smell is VERY BAD, and I tried it once, but found out didnt care for the smell of this method. It does work however, IF you can tolerate the stench! The third method is to have your skull cleaned by dermestid beetles (or have your own colony..which I'll cover in another DIY later. The intent of this D I Y is to start the process AFTER using one of the above methods...so here's what you do:

Here is a hog skull fresh out of the beetle tank:




1. After its cleaned off by any of the methods mentioned above.....there will be a lot of grease still inside the skull, so to draw that out...Get an old cooler, or large rubbermaid container. I prefer the coolers with a screw style drain plug. The reason is because you will be draining the cooler every few days or once a week. I put a quick release valve on the output of the cooler, so when its time to drain it...it makes the job a bit easier. Then you need to get an aquarium heater. I purchased a 200 watt unit that is NOT the glass style. They tend to break and are a pain...so try to find a titanium one. They come with suction cups. so just stick that thing to the cooler or container and fill you container with water BEFORE you turn on the heater. If your using a glass one...try to get the temp of your water around 80 degrees so you dont crack the glass on the heater from colder water. The glass heaters also crack if you forget to unplug them when draining your water. These are reasons I like the titanium ones better. ANyway..moving on; Turn the temp up to max, and what your trying to do is maintain a water temp around 90-100 degrees. Now, add 1/4 cup of Dawn Dishwashing detergent and 1 cup of Ammonia for each 5 gallons of water in your container. After that..put your skull in and let it sit for a few days to a week.

Here is a picture of my degreasing cooler:



2. Change the water before it gets nasty (4-7 days), and let it sit for another week. Smaller skulls seem to degrease quicker. Deer skulls take a few weeks of soaking, and although I havent completed any yet, Hogs and Bears are the worst to degrease. Ive been told that for stubborn hogs and bears, you can use straight acetone to degrease them quicker. There are ways to speed up the degreasing process, and I'll cover that later.

3. After a few water changes and a few weeks or a month (I'm not exaggerating...its time consuming but its this process that allows the skull to be whitened, and not yellow...so do not shortcut this step) the water should be staying cleaner for longer periods of time. Thats how you know that most of the grease is out.

4. After degreasing...let the skull dry and take a look at it. Greasy areas will show up as yellowish dark spots. If you see more....back to the degrease tank. If your happy with it, move on to whitening.

5. Again..there are many ways to do this, and many different chemicals to use. 3% Hydrogen Peroxide is one. I use a much stronger chemical which is 27% hydrogen peroxide. If you choose to use this stuff....be VERY CAREFUL with it. It will blind you if it gets in your eyes, and it will burn skin badly. I wear rubber gloves and eye protection when handling this stuff. READ THE MSDS SHEET ALSO!

The brand I use is called Soft Swim C. Its readily available at pool chemical stores and here is a link to a picture of the stuff:
http://www.bioguard.com/mp/v/index.j...extfmt=default

Last edited by rbljack; 01-30-2009 at 07:09 AM.
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Old 01-30-2009, 07:26 AM   #2
rbljack
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Ok....moving on. The gallon of chemical goes into a smaller rubbermaid container that will allow it to cover a doe skull, hog, or bear..etc. For antlered game, try to keep the chemical off the antlers, because it turns them white. It will happen no matter how hard you try, but you can fix it later with wood stain. I use paper towels to "wick" the chemical up to the base of the antlers while its soaking. Just keep the level of the chemical below the antler line. Hope that makes sense. Back to container selection for a minute. DO NOT USE ANY METAL OR IRON CONTAINERS OR UTENSILS WITH THIS STUFF. THE METAL CAN REACT WITH THE PEROXIDE AND CREATE A DANGEROUS CONDITION IM TOLD. I take the small tote bin, and place it inside a larger one. This catches any drips, or foaming of the chemical into the "catch tub". Try and get dark containers also..because hydogen peroxide breaks down under light. Thats why the stuff you buy in the store (3%) is sold in the brown bottles. Let the skull soak for 24-48 hours for the 27% peroxide. Up to a week if your using 3%. AFter that, pull the skull out (wearing gloves and eye protection again) and dunk the skull in a bucket of water to rinse off the high concentration peroxide. Then rinse it under a sink for few minutes. After that, I put the skull in front of a heat source for about 20 minutes to dry it out..and it also helps whiten it a bit more. At this point in time you should have a skull that looks like this:



And this is what it looked like when I started:

Last edited by rbljack; 01-30-2009 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 01-30-2009, 07:42 AM   #3
rbljack
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Remember I mentioned a way to decrease the degreasing time? Well here it is: Degrease using the method discussed for a few days, then whiten it using the peroxide. Then go back to the degrease...and whiten again. This cut the amount of time in half for me on my last skull!

After the skull is whitened, use a touch of Super Glue to put any teeth back in...or tighten up teeth that may be loose.

Now you can choose to seal the skull, or leave them natural..its up to you. I'm trying a couple of different sealers at the moment to see how I like them. One is the Mod Podge Matte, and the other is being done with Mod Podge Gloss.


On both skulls, I used a 1/8 cup of Mod Podge, and diluted with 1/8 cup of warm water. Mixed it up throughly in the cup, and brushed it on. Let it dry, and apply a second coat.



At this point the skull is sealed. Im also going to try another skull with an Aerosol Clear Flat spray and see if I like that finish better.

Picture of a sealed Doe Skull with the gloss finish. Its hard to see in the pictures though. This skull was still wet and in the drying process when I took the pictures.


For mounting your skull, the possiblities are endless. Plaques, Driftwood, Habitat scenes....etc. Here is one of my sons christmas presents from this year: He liked the natural skull color and didnt want it whitened, so we made the backing, and mounted the skull to it for him.



This is my first start to finish D I Y...so I hope the infomation makes sense and is useful. Good luck!

IMPORTANT NOTE: MY LINK TO THE CHEMICAL I USE DID NOT WORK RIGHT. I USE THE SOFTSWIM C CHEMICAL...and there is a picture of it on STEP C of the link I provided..not the first page that comes up. Sorry if that caused any confusion. I didnt notice it until checking my steps and read through the whole post afterwards.

Last edited by rbljack; 01-30-2009 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 01-30-2009, 08:07 AM   #4
rbljack
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As an example of how to mount the skull to the backing, we used a Toggle bolt on the Texas Flag mount listed above. WE drilled a hole into the the back of the skull large enough for the toggle bolt to go through and expand, then screw down until the expanded toggle bolt snugs the skull against the backing but do NOT overtighten. We also used hot glue on the teeth to keep them from scratching the plaque. It prevented the teeth from messing up the backing and worked very well. Enjoy
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Old 01-30-2009, 08:32 AM   #5
huntinfool
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Wow great walk through. I have several skulls that I need to get busy on.
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Old 01-30-2009, 09:17 AM   #6
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Very well done, Rob. I'd never thought of the toggle bolt to mount to the plaque.

Thanks.
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Old 01-30-2009, 09:20 AM   #7
junkmanhunter
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Nice work. Thanks for the detail on chemicals.
I have tried to do a handful, not near as succesful though. Tried the boiling in bleach and picking meat off skull. hard and nasty. I gave in and just started paying for them to be done.

Good stuff
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Old 01-30-2009, 10:58 AM   #8
Buzzbow
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Great step by step info. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 01-30-2009, 11:03 AM   #9
dangerous dan
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Nice
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Old 01-30-2009, 11:25 AM   #10
talltexasshoote
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Very nicely laid out. I always wondered why they charged so much to do one for you. Now I know.
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Old 01-30-2009, 05:34 PM   #11
rbljack
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thanks everyone. I agree Junkman...i tried the boiling method early on too, but lost my patience pretty fast. Even after I got the skull cleaned off, I noticed a lot of the bones had loosened up, and some of the seams were seperating. That first skull I boiled is what got me to thinkin that there must be other ways to do this. A few months later.....here I am.
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Old 01-30-2009, 06:36 PM   #12
densonfrnc
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Thanks for the handy info
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Old 01-30-2009, 08:15 PM   #13
fowlball
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Very nice work. Does anybody know where you can get those beetles that people use to clean skulls?
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:27 AM   #14
rbljack
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fowlball View Post
Very nice work. Does anybody know where you can get those beetles that people use to clean skulls?
I sent you a PM fowlball.
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Old 02-01-2009, 10:46 PM   #15
Tex_Cattleman
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Self taught skull cleaner here as well. Have finished some 30 this year with another dozen to go. I have seen and read a BUNCH of different ways to skin this ole cat. Your directions are some of the most informative I have seen for a do-it-your-selfer. Kudos!
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:25 AM   #16
major_74
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i have been doing my own euros the last few years and i do it by maceration. its easy to do. change the water every week or so and you dont have any problems. make sure to wear gloves though. i didnt and boy that stuff was in my skin good. used every cleaner i could find in the house 4 or 5 times and finally got the smell out.
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Old 02-03-2009, 10:23 PM   #17
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Very nice work. What if you don't have a wife that will allow you to have beetles, is there someone in the FW/DFW area that could take care of this part?
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Old 02-03-2009, 10:43 PM   #18
Eegah1974
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Great work. Question: how long did it take for the beetles to clean the skull?
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:20 PM   #19
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Looks good.

I have started boiling my skulls for about 15 minutes before I put them in the beetles just to make sure anything that might be in there will be killed.

I had my colony built up to the point where they could clean a prepared deer head in less than 24 hrs, but I put one bad skull in there and got maggots in the tank. I am still working on building my colony back up to where it was.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:00 AM   #20
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This is some great info.
Thanks for posting it.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:19 AM   #21
skeeter
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well done. thanks for sharing.
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Old 02-04-2009, 03:42 AM   #22
rbljack
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Ditto to what TexasTechbowhunter said; It took about 24 to 48 hours for the beetles to clean the skull completely. But that only happens when colony numbers are up, and the colony is healthy.
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Old 02-04-2009, 11:36 AM   #23
fishdog
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thanks for the info. ive always wondered how to get those skulls so white.
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Old 02-28-2010, 06:40 AM   #24
rbljack
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Default Here is an update

The modge podge idea hasnt worked out as well as I'd like, and after looking at the skull recently, it has yellowed a bit. I think my next one will be left natural. Somebody asked a few questions recently about DIY euros, so i thought bringing this one to the top might be helpful.

For those interested, I have the dermestid beetles for those wanting the skull cleaned, instead of using the boiling method. You can PM me for details if interested.....but I wanted to keep this posting as more of a Reference for the DIY'ers out there.

I received a bear skull yesterday, and may do another write up on that one as well. Also...my wife shot her first Bobcat last weekend, and at the Taxidermist Shop. I requested that they hold the skull for me, so I may have that one in the near future as well.
Gotta keep them beetles fed!
Good luck!

Hope it helps.

Last edited by rbljack; 02-28-2010 at 07:00 AM.
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Old 03-02-2010, 04:45 AM   #25
rbljack
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Sorry for the inaccuate data above...it was NOT the skull with the ModPodge sealer that yellowed. I went back and looked at my notes, and it was the one with the clear Spray coating from an aerosol can that yellowed. Sorry about that. The ModPodge skull looks about the same as when first applied. What I didnt like about that finish was that it appeared "waxy" on the surface. Again...I think leaving the skull unsealed will be my next choice.

ADDITIONAL INFO ON THE TOPIC>>>>LETS TALK TEETH:
On deer skulls this isnt much of a problem, and the teeth stay in most of the time, but on bears, coyotes, etc...teeth WILL come out during the process, usually during the degreasing stage.

When this happens, they can be glued back in during the final steps. Make sure they are whitened the same as the rest, and use Elmers Glue to put them back in. I've been told (no personal experience) that Super Glues and Epoxies can yellow over time, but the elmers I've used have not yellowed yet. Some skulls....like bears, wolves, coyotes, etc...will have other issues with teeth. The most common is cracking. I have little experience with this at the moment...but I AM working on a bear and a coyote to gain more practice with them. More to come later! Once again..hope this info is helpful!
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Old 03-02-2010, 10:20 AM   #26
zcole04
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Nice work. That turned out amazing.
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Old 10-11-2011, 04:33 PM   #27
rbljack
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Thumbs up

TTT for someone with questions about this process. Besides, its that time of year again, and for those looking to save some $$$ this process works for DIY euros....enjoy.

rob
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Old 10-13-2011, 07:57 AM   #28
BigTex.308
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Great instructions. I did my own last year I just have to whiten it and hang it on the wall.
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Old 10-13-2011, 10:47 AM   #29
ole boy
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Nice job!!!
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Old 10-15-2011, 09:55 PM   #30
rbljack
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thanks, this info should come in handy for those wanting to try it on their own. I may be purchasing beetles again this year....because a buddy of mine wants an elk skull done. I started a bigger beetle container last year (an old chest freezer that was/is being converted). I need to get it finished so I can get my first elk euro done.

Good luck, its worth the effort!
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Old 10-16-2011, 12:03 AM   #31
32drawlength
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Thanks, will try these ideas
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Old 01-24-2012, 12:44 PM   #32
150class
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Sweet, will try this out!
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Old 01-24-2012, 01:35 PM   #33
T-Bolt
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Thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-12-2018, 10:59 AM   #34
bigbite
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Thats cool, thanks!
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