I'm a beginner and would like to try taxidermy. My problem is that it's the dead of winter up here so the only species available to me right now are fish caught through the ice (I didn't save any birds or deer from the fall). I've got some nice perch pushing two pounds that I've saved, but understand that due to painting (I don't have an airbrush and am, again, a beginner) that fish are definitely not the easiest thing to start with. Should I wait until I can find some small game or go ahead with giving the perch a try and just see how far I can get until it comes to the painting? From some books I've read, it looks like my first step is to thoroughly skin the fish and then soak them in a borax solution, then let them dry and then fit them to a manikin or foam mold, which I'd have to purchase somewhere on the Internet or something. Next, I'd have to paint and then lacquer the fish. Just looking to get off on the right foot.
One of the solutions I was looking at used borax and formaldehyde, but I'm not finding a place to purchase formaldehyde so I think I'll try a solution I saw on one of these forums using borax and a cleaning solvent called Green Clean.
Thanks for any help,
Return to Beginners Category Menu
Your going to need the practice if your going to mount fish. But I would forget about the formaldehyde. There are many other ways to preserve the fish. I use a 50/50 mixture of denatured alcohol and water. Check the archives because there are many other ways people use to preserve the skin. Try out what you like the best. Also you can alway mount the perch now, then later purchase a airbrush, then practice painting them. Everything you do is going to take practice, so since you already have the fish go for it. Also where are you from, because there is always something you can hunt. Try predator hunting for fox or coyote. Buy some pigeons from a breeder and try your hand at skinning birds. There's always something you can find to practice on.
...and order the BreakThru Fish Taxidermy Book. In the meantime start gathering some reference - old fishing and hunting magazines. Make sure you grab a few close-ups of some Perch so that you can rebuild the anatomy properly.
Once you feel comfy, thaw a Perch and prep it all the way to the painting stage (follow the Breakthru book). Do as many as you have in your freezer (although I'd save the two pounder for when you get GOOD! That's a HUGE Perch!).
Then, when you can afford the paint, air brush and compressor buy them and THEN start painting. The painting is the FUN Part imho. And if you have some artistic ability I believe it is the EASIEST part of commercial fish taxidermy. I honestly believe the mount-up process, carving a fish body and rebuilding anatomy CORRECTLY is more difficult than painting. And a lot of that depends on GOOD REFERENCE and paying attention to DETAILS.
Call WASCO today and get mounting asap!
have close to 2lb perch i would be more than happy to trade you some small mammals and a video for them. E-mail me if interested. John
I've got the Breakthrough Fish Taxidermy book (checked out from my local library) along with a few others. But I was going to follow the half-cast method for the perch from this book. I did some archive checking, and will try the 50/50 D/A solution for a degreaser, then clean with dawn and use a borax solution for a tanner. Plus, I found that I have a widgeon and a green-wing teal in my freezer that I forgot about but both are very nice birds so I hate to start with them.
I also have a very unique bird that I've saved from last fall - a Chinese domesticated goose crossed with a swan (it was flying with a flock of Canadians (black bill like a swan, body of a greater Canadian and a head of a pintail mallard - brown with a white stripe). I had it DNA tested at a local university to find out what it was, and to my surprise, they came back with photos of 3 other birds that had been submitted that looked identical to it (it's not rare for geese to cross-breed, but I guess it is for geese and swans).
I've got tons of 1.5 lb perch if that's big enough for you (they're fairly common on Devils Lake, which is where I ice fish a lot), but will save the 2 lber for myself I think - it's about 16" long, but those 1.5 lbers are pretty big as well. Not sure how interested you are, but I'm a perch fishing fanatic and this picture from Norway blows me away if you've never seen it (pushing FOUR pounds):
Thanks again for all your help - I'll start with the perch and then maybe try one of the birds. Any idea if a widgeon or teal is easier? They're both fairly small compared to a mallard or pintail.
Using the half-cast method on such small fish (perch), do I still need to carve a form or order a mannikin? In the breakthru book it just used paper-mache for the filler and plaster-of-paris for the cast. I wasn't planning on making a form (hoping I wouldn't have to because I was able to find all the chemicals and materials, besides paint, that I'll need at local hardware and drug stores - I'd have to order a form).
One more thing. 50/50 Den. Alc. (and Water) does do some degreasing but the alcohol acts mor as a preservative than a degreaser. On a Perch, you can get by with Dawn, the 50/50 alcohol to "tan", then dawn and rinse and mount up. No need for Borax if you're going to tan it in the 50/50 alcohol solution.
Btw, I use Mineral Spirits to degrease my fish. It's a solvent, but I've found that it pulls out the most grease. Of course, do the Dawn thing and rinse between this and either the Borax solution or the 50/50 for tanning. And (again) Dawn and rinse just before mounting it up...
After skinning, I washed it and put it in the 50/50 DA/H20 solution last night. So, I guess all you're saying I have left is to rinse with Dawn or some decent degreasing soap and then let it dry out.
How long do I have to let it dry before I fill it?
It looks like I was confused on degreaser vs. tanning. You're saying that the DA/water is a tanner, just like the borax solution and if I really had wanted to do a thorough job I should have first used Mineral Sprits with water to degrease, then went on to DA/water or borax solution, right?
Thanks so much for the help..
The alcohol will do some degreasing. A Perch isn't that oily to begin with so you won't have any issues. Just rinse it now and start your half-cast per instr. in Breakthru manual.
If you're going to use mineral spirits to degrease in the future, just use straight mineral spirits (no water).
Then Dawn/rinse, then tanning (50/50 alc. and water OR borax solution). Then Rinse and mount up (or cast...)
Did that, and filled it last night. In the Breakthrough book, it doesn't specify to stitch up the fish on the back, but I assume you should do something - glue, staple or stitch - even on such a small fish.
I still don't understand what to do with the fins, but I have a few other books that I can check into that if noone feels like responding.
Right now, it's drying and the fins are just opened up but no cards or anything supporting them (probably try to fix that this afternoon).
Also, when I pinned the fins out for the half-cast, I made some holes in them, how do you fill these in?