Last summer I had a customer bring in a northern pike that was chewed up by a dog and was damaged prior to that. It was done poorly to start with and had some damage from drying and cracking, then while her husband was serving our country in Afghanistan her dog ripped it off the wall and chewed it up. Needless to say, I felt I had to figure out a way to make this very poor specimen look good and not just to save the dog, lol. When the gentleman returned from his tour of duty and saw the finished repair I was relieved to hear from him that it looked good enough that he was actually glad that the dog had chewed it up. Here are some before pictures
The first thing that I did was remove the fins and head. I used a dremel with a circular cutting bit and cut as close as possible to the bases of the fins and head. Because some parts of the collar bone were on top of mannikin and some were in slot I had to also remove parts of bone to get a smooth transition for installing an artificial head
The next thing I did was strip the old paint. I used klean strip 15 min stripper. (make sure to wear safety glasses, gloves, ext...) I brushed the stripper on, then waited 15 minutes. I then used a disposable scraper and scraped off the lifted paint and rinsed fish thoroughly in water. I had to go over a few spots a second time.
The next thing I did was use a grinding bit on my dremel to strip, grind down, and or smooth some of the poor epoxy work.
After letting the fish dry for a week or two I had to secure the skin to the mannikin around the fins. It appeared either the mannikin was never sanded, no hide paste was used around the fins or both. That was probably why there was cracking around the fins and especially the tail as pictured. I used a two part bond tite epoxy like majic smoothe or van dykes bon tite. I mixed it up and spread it under the skin around the fins and tail, then used pins to hold the skin in place as it dried. Around the tail I also had to use a couple clamps that look similar to jumper cable handles. A day or two later I removed most of the pins and clamps and used a small saw (similar to a lip slot saw) to saw slots for installing the new artificial fins. I cut a point or spike out of the excess hard plastic that comes with the sheet of rigid clear fins to stick into the foam. I put some bon tite epoxe over the slots then pushed the fins into the slots, be sure to try and avoid getting epoxy on the skin or on the part of the fins that will show. Then on to the throat!!!!!!!!!!! I had to think that one over for a bit. I ordered an artificial head (the only one I could find that would fit was a Muskie head). I test fit the head and measured where the throat latch would connect. I then shoved multiple wooden skewers into the broken off section of throat, stapled cardboard(like a cereal box) around in a 3/4 circle covering the bottom of the throat latch with the 1/4 opening on top. Then I mixed 2 part expandable foam and poured it into the cardboard and on the skewers. About an hour later I removed the cardboard and to my surprise it looked like a throat latch!!!!!!!! Well after a little sanding. I test fit the head over the throat multiple times til I got the look I wanted.
Next was the tedious part. Epoxy sculpt, safety solvent, and lots of it. I then blended the skin to all of the fins, making sure to get rid of some of the small wrinkles, blending with sculpting in artificial scales and muscles. The hardest part was the throat, head, and pectoral fin area. I first spread a thin layer of epoxy sculpt that was not quite as deep as the original skin from where the skin ended behind the pectoral fins to the tip or the throat latch, up to the collarbone area staying approx 1/8" back from my slots for the pectoral fins. After the epoxy dried I smeared epoxy in the slots for the fins and installed the pectoral fins and then built in the piece of collarbone, sculpted in scales to the front of the pectoral fins and blended to the tip of the latch. Of course it was not as smooth as I wanted it so I used sandpaper starting at 180 grit and ending with 600 something grit in strips somewhat like a belt to smooth the epoxy. As i sanded a little I would remove dust and debris from epoxy with a piece of cloth and acetone. The cloth and acetone also seemed to help smooth the set up epoxy. I sanded without pressing on the throat as I wanted a smooth seamless transition and rounded throat, I simply held each end of the sandpaper strip with one hand, with fish upside down on mounting stand, and pulled back and forth, then wipe with acetone, and so on until I finally got what I was looking for. A few days later I masked the area with the thick epoxy near the throat with plastic and masking tape, brought it in the spray booth, and sprayed it with gray fiberglass primer.
I didn't think it looked too bad so far but I really underestimated the rest of the work. First was finishing the fins. I heated each fin with a heat gun and bent and shaped them so they flowed with the fish more naturally and did not look so stiff and straight. Then came the head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahhhh it drove me crazy, well at least closeI to it. First I scrubbed the head in warm water with comet and a brush and rinsed. Then this poor excuse for a head required lots of attention. It had numerous little pinholes that I filled with epoxy.
The tongue was cockeyed and half missing so I had to epoxy that in. There were some spots on the jaw throat area that I had to sand and grind smooth then epoxy more. Next I installed flex eyes with epoxy sculpt, and had to grind out a lot of material inside of the head to get it to fit right. Then to make it not fit again I used hot glue and epoxy sculpt to install artificial gills. I had to re glue them a number of times til they would both look good and the head would fit the body. I then masked off the gills and sprayed the inside of the back of the head with fiberglass primer, then basecoat sealer, then painted and glossed so I would not have to paint and mask thru that tiny slot with the head installed.Then I installed the head using bondo inside the back of the head and on the mannikin and shoving upholstery pins thru the slots in the back of the eye sockets. Then just like the throat area I had to epoxy, build scales, sand, smooth, ext...
The worst part was the teeth. I attempted and failed to make a rubber mold of the original 3 rows of teeth in the top of the mouth and on the tongue and cast them in bondo and fiberglass resign. After that experiment and trying to build canines with epoxy sculpt I read some Taxi Net forums and came up with a plan. I first used bondo to try pulling teeth for the rows, didn't like how that was going. So I used some Epo-grip fishtooth. First I built a bed for each row of teeth with epoxy sculpt as there is an impression where each bed goes on the head. Then I pulled hundreds of teeth with the Epo-grip and a few of my own hairs in the process. Eventually I got the hang of it but it was so repetitive I think I had flashbacks for a few days every time I closed my eyes. Just kidding the flashbacks only lasted a few hours. Ok, so I then moved to the canines. I cut off pieces of the tips of plastic forks that were somewhat flat on 2 sides and set them in with epoxy sculpt. I did use some epo grip to pull a few teeth on the jaw area as well as some teeth I made with epoxy sculpt. After I was done I found that a repro fish company actually makes nice finished fish heads with teeth installed, well too late take note for next time. I blended to some of the canines with epoxy then carefully painted the eyes with eye protect. I next masked and taped the body from the head and sprayed the head and inside the mouth with fiberglass primer.
Then after that was dry I sprayed the fish with a few coats of base coat sealer and painted. The toughest part of painting was blending the head and body and I don't think I did it all that great. If you like how that was done, just ask and I will try to describe the paint schedule the best I can remember. I think I would have made more $ per hour working in Guatemala but I guess you live and learn. Hope this can help someone, please let me know what you think
I will also post a few more after pics soon as I just hung the fish on the wall.=[/img]