Last week i shot my best gobbler yet. I already have a full body mount and this bird had been roosting in pines and had sap all over his feathers. I have done a few cape mounts that have turned out very well so i decided to do the same with this one. I have a few taxidermy books that reccomend washing badly soiled bird skins. It says to wash and thoroughly rinse the skin, dust the feathers with dry plaster of paris first then follow with borax. After this it instructions read to hang the skin in front of a fan to fluff dry the feathers. It was late before i finished washing and dusting the skin, so i hung it in front of a fan and went to bed. Well, the next day i woke up to find the skin ruined. The feathers were stuck together with the plaster and the skin was hard as a rock and unworkable. I had to resort to making a fan mount out of the turkey and i am pretty disappointed about it. This was my best gobbler and going to be my first big gobbler cape. Can somebody give me some suggestions on how i could have gone about washing and drying the cape without ruining it? Thank you.
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I have never used plaster on my bird skins, maybe it works but I don't see how. I wash all of my turkey skins usually because they get nasty while I'm fleshing them. After I flesh them I wash them in dawn and then rinse them, I like to let them hang in front of a fan or outside if it's a good windy day. If you let them hang for too long they will dry out really bad the skin more so than the feathers, if this happens just rehydrate the skin. After most of the water is gone I submerge the skin in laquer thinner or mineral spirits this will remove most of the water that is left and will allow the feathers to dry faster. After that I will tumble the skin in ground up corn cob for about 10 min. then remove from the tumbler and blow the feathers out with a leaf blower, I will then finish drying the feathers with a blow dryer. I then powder the skin with borax or best maid an mount the bird or position the skin for a cape mount or whatever I am doing. I hope this helps out.
It's ok to use the borax on the skin side but you are better off washing the bird as Scott described. Borax leaves a dusty coating on the feathers of turkeys. One of the best features of a wild turkey is all the irridescent colors you get when the light reflects off the feathers. I flesh, wash in a dawn dish detergent or Kemel 4, rinse several times, and degrease with coleman lantern fuel. This drives the water out of the feathers. Of course I do this outside because of the flamability. Then I hang the skin up and let the wind take care of the rest of it. The fuel really shines up the feathers. I like the leaf blower idea Scott!
You could have resoaked the skin to soften both the skin and plaster, and started the process over. Forget the plaster, as the others have suggested, wash in dawn and rinse, rinse, rinse, to remove the soap. Soak in colemans, and contrary to Craig's comment borax is the best for dusting. The trick is to tumble a few times in a small rotary tumbler and blow dry (warm)the feathers till dry(best done outside). They won't look dusty, but they will sparkle like a million. You must blow dry until feathers and down are completely dry or the borax will stick in feathers.
Hey Craig, give this a try, I think you'll be amazed at the results. I've won a few state, national and world competitions with this technique.
I want to thank you all for the replies. I wish i wouldn't have been in such a rush to make a fan mount and kept the skin around for a few days. I didn't find this place until it was too late. I really feel like S$!* right now for giving up too soon. Thanks again for all the great help.