Wing Placement on Standing or Swimming Birds

Submitted by Kris Dunckel on 7/30/01. ( )

Having trouble getting the wings to tuck into side pockets natually. This problem is particulary an issue with Woodies as the side pocket feathers with the black and white bars are critical. Reference photos show that when relaxed, a good portion of a ducks back feathers will be exposed and not covered up by the scapulars or secondaries. I have a heck of time achieving this i.e. tucking wings in the side pockets with out forcing the side pocket feathers to "splay out". Again, this is a partular issue for me on Woodies. I can get the side pocket to lay faily well by placing he wing high on the back, however, this does not look natural when compared to reference. On standing birds, I generally use Savidas Bodies from Research Mannikins. They have a very fairly pronouned bulge where the leg attaches and it seems to make it difficult to tuck the wings in the side pockets. Newmeyer swimming bodies have a very pronounced cavity where the wings lay, however, I had the same problem even with those. Any suggestion on how to get the wings to tuck into the side pockets without placing to high on the back.

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Suggestion No. 1

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 7/30/01. ( )

Carve your own duck body.

This helped me....

This response submitted by Don Sherpy on 7/30/01. ( )

Try removing the "ball" from the wing bones and use a "L" shaped heavy gage wire to attach the wings to the body. Make one leg of the "L" so it will go as deep into the wing bone as far as possible and so that the bend will give you the proper length of the bone, as before you cut the ball off. The other leg should be as long as possible so that it does not punch thru the body. Just push the wire in the correct place (some bodies have placement marks) and the wing will fall into place. This will give you plenty of movement for your wing and will eliminate binding. I place a pin at the joint to hold the wing in place. Good luck!

Two suggestions...or more...

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 7/30/01. ( )

First one: your form is too big. I really like Stephan's forms, but even allowing for the "fat factor" he must have access to some HUGE birds. Save a tracing of the real body and use that as reference instead of trusting somebody else's interpretation.
Also, make sure the skin is moist and stretchy everywhere. A properly cleaned waterfowl can go "crispy" in minutes, and NOTHING will lay right when they do that. I always keep a spray mister handy.
Second, as a last resort when the bird is already mounted and it won't co-operate, make a relief incision under the wings. Do both sides for symmetry. The incision should go just along the edge of the side pockets, about 1/4" into the down.[You don't want to cut the roots of the side pockets, or loosen them] This will give you slack to correct the alignment problem, but you will then have to deal with the loose skin. Pins were such a good invention!
'Hope this helps.
Nancy M.


This response submitted by Tony Finazzo on 7/30/01. ( )

Let me preface by saying. " I use Stephens bodies on all my comercial work". I have had the same problem in the past, but not anymore. The humps you refer to (I call them fenders) are too high and rigid and don't allow the humerous to lay in a relaxed position. So, I cut them off. also the depresions for the wing bone placement is a little wide ,if you don't hollow it out some. This is not anyones fault. If it were deeper they would never get the form out of the mold. You have to do it yourself. Before you attempt to place the side pockets, take a piece of wire or a long needle and start at the front of the side pocket. With the wire pick up the first feather in the group and hold it back with the other hand. Do this with every feather in the group. If you look at the shafts you will see some feathers trapped uder other feathers. This will always prevent perfect lay of the group. Once you have all the group in your free hand gentle pull it up over the wing. Another very important thing is don't pin the wing until you set the side pockets. Skin is locked down by the pins and won't allow the side pocket skin to move. If this is a jumble in your mind, give me a call or e-mail 909-886-8640
Happy Mounting


This response submitted by Kris Dunckel on 7/30/01. ( )

Great stuff all, I try everyone's suggestions until I find what works for me. By the way, I find Savides bodies from research consistantly large, I almost always order "smalls" where available.

I use Savides bodies too

This response submitted by Stefan Savides on 7/31/01. ( )

So what I'm gathering is that some of you folks would like to see smaller sizes in some of the bodies in my line. If there are any particular species needing smaller bodies please let me know and maybe I could correct this problem. The very large ones are designed to accommodate very large fat birds of which the skins have been stretched out in the fleshing process.

one more thing

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 7/31/01. ( )

I forgot to mention, one way to help with that problem is to stop pinning the wings!
After 20+ years of pinning wings I finally realized that it is quicker and, believe it or not, faster to just wire the wings like you would a flying bird. I use that dark colored baling wire or tie wire that is sold at every hardware store for woodie-sized ducks. It is soft enough to bend easily and it stays where you bend it without springing back.
It is really very nice to have a poseable wing and no binding of the skinto keep you from taxiing it as you wish. Try it! I think you'll like it!
Nancy M.

Listen to Nancy M

This response submitted by Stefan Savides on 7/31/01. ( )

Listen to Nancy. She has very good advice. Also try you body in the skin and see if you can get a nice wing tuck before you have it all wired up. If you can't make it happen then, you won't make it happen after it is assembled either. You need to make the adjustments before you wire the bird. Sounds like simple advise but one would be suprised at how many people don't think to do that. Another problem is that if you have shortened the humerus the wing may sit too far forward and cause you a problem in that ways as well.

Wing placement on standing and swimming birds

This response submitted by Harry Whitehead on 8/1/01. ( )

The problem with a lot of forms on the market is the placement of the humerus does not take into account how much of the ball joint is cut off if any. The point of attachment of the humerus is the farthest point forward which the large flight muscles attach to. If your point of attachment is too far back then you will have strecthed your skin in an unnatural direction. This will happen if you do not cut enough of the humerus off. Pluck a bird and you will see what I mean. This point of attachment is very critical on flying birds too. If you cut too much off your wing will be short, not enough and your wing will be too long. Your plucked bird will tell you what is enough.

You shouldn't cut off the end of the humerus.

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 8/2/01. ( )

If you simply use a set of calipers to measure the distance between the scapulars (bones not feathers) then simply carve into a purchased form, should you use one, to correct the manufactured inaccuracy. That of cource is assuming that the flaw there to allow mold release in the manufactured body.
I may be overstepping proper protocol on this site but it behooves me to question why one would 1) make relief cuts in the skin in order to make it fit the form or 2) why you would create a form extra big to accomodate the expansion made during the wire wheeling. Why would you make the body extra big without making the head and bill and feet extra big also. Bird skins can be "taxied" to fit the appropriate sized body, even one a bit smaller. Don't get me wrong, if I used commercial bodies I certainly would use Stefan Savides bodies, but I don't see the rational in making the skin fit the extra big body when with a rasp and a few minutes time you can change the Savides body to fit your particular bird. In the words of an immortal contributor to this site - "Splain it to me so I can understand".

What to do with the Humerus

This response submitted by Harry Whitehead on 8/2/01. ( )

The big question is how you are interpretating the skeletal structure of the form that you are using. Stephans bodies are the best bodies by far commercially but you have to know how much of the humerus is incorporated in the form. It seems to me that the ball joint of the humerus in incorporated in the form and thus the ball joint must be cut off of the bird. If you don't cut the ball joint off then you must dremel out an area for the ball joint to fit into for the wing placement to be correct. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't have any trouble with side pockets, etc. using this procedure.

relief cuts

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 8/3/01. ( )

Like I said, relief cuts are an absolute last resort. Usually what happens is that a skin which originally fit fine has dried during the mounting process. All it takes is a phone call, or any one [or more] of the many other interruptions that can happen. If the mount is sewed already when this happens it can make the wing set a real problem, particularly when using pinned wings. Opening up the incision and re-wetting the skin is one option. Of course, if there are any tiny holes the feathers might get wet and matted. And the phone may ring AGAIN.
Relief cuts are only ONE solution, not really the best.
The BEST solution, in my opinion, is to use a form EXACTLY the size of the duck as measured at the tips of the feather quills, or just below the skin in those areas where the quills don't penetrate the skin. [Between the feather tracts] Essentially I mean a carcass casting which is then modified by adding in representations of the major fat deposits which are removed with the skin. [Around the legs, wings, neck, etc.] On MOST ducks, the fat between the feather butts doesn't extend much past the tips of the quills. On those where it does, the extra thickness should be added to the form.
The wing connection is not 100% accurate on any form I have ever seen. This isn't the fault of the manufacturers. They have no way of knowing the skill levels of their clients, or the precise pose that will be used. For absolute accuracy I find it easiest to leave the humerus intact and to replace the pectoral muscles back onto their original attachments. Epoxy modeling compounds work well for this, and once they set that wing will be SOLID!
The "missing" fat from between the feather butts can be replaced with caulking or hide paste. The original duck has now been duplicated as closely as possible and, asuming that the skin hasn't dried and is taxied correctly, the wings will do anything that they could do when it was alive.
And there you have it. My best solution to the wing set problem.
I will save head/neck junctions and leg placement for another time. My typing finger hurts.
Nancy M.

Thank you nancy, but..

This response submitted by The Taxidermologist on 8/3/01. ( )

I repeat, thank you Nancy for splaining the cutting to me and like you I never cut the humerus tip off. If you cut the bone, unless you are exactly sure of the completed finished wing position and you wire it in, then errors are liable to creep in. The Humerus is a straight lined bone from the center of each artculation, and as such if it doesn't start inside the bird body at its' precise origin point then a straight line will not be made under all circumstances. That is to say, if you begin to plan a closed wing mount, and you attach the 3/4 humerus 1 inch back from its origin point to accomodate the form, then when finishing the bird if you decide to change the wing to be outstreched, then the humerus cannot be in a straight line, and the feathers will not necessarily lay correctly. By hollowing out the wonderful Savides from (SteFan Savides), which I read above was manufactured so that the finished form could be taken from the mold - "This is not anyones fault. If it were deeper they would never get the form out of the mold" then you have the latitude to change ships in mid water. Try cutting the butt of the humerus off the next time you mount a Chaetura
I must explain that I am essentially a completely self taught taxidermist. I have only seen six people sum total ever stuff a bird and only 6 total birds. Those being Stefan - can't remember the species, Jack Wilson - Lesser Scaup, Patrick Rummans - Rail, Avon Ault - Pheasant, Paul Czarneckie - Turkey, and Noel Hyde from New Zealand - Great Horned Owl who learned via a minicource from Gregg Septon.
I have however read several hundred books and papers on preparation ranging in dates from 1758 to present, and thus do thing a little different than many taxidermists. I wire the femur on many birds, use a side cut on most birds over the size of a robin, carve virtually every body myself (evidently a long abandoned practice), etc.
I only wish to understand why people do certain things and explain my rational why some things should or should not be done. As many on this site do, I attempt to give the beginner the experience of eliminating the trial and error method of learning taxidermy, and suggest a scientific and theory based method. , i.e. a Taxidermologist approach to preparation.

Remember Stefan is with an F, my name is Stephen and I don't know of any Stephan

oops. sorry for bad spelling

This response submitted by Nancy M. on 8/3/01. ( )

Sorry guys. REALLY. I try, honest I do. I know about a dozen people with some variation of the "Steve" name. I will try harder to keep you all sorted out and spelled properly. I also have trouble with all the Cathie, Cathy, Kathie, Kathy....the occasional Cathi...AAACK!
I hope I haven't mortally offended anybody. It is usually very early in the morning when I try to answer on this forum, which is why "one more thing" had so many errors.
Well...I know Stefan has an "a"....for the rest I will plead "caffeine deficiency"!

If you remove the joint from the humerus of a swift there ain't much left! Bad grammar, but spelled correctly. I hope.

On a different note, SteFan's forms use a 3-part mold so I think the wing socket could be made as deep as he desired with no de-molding problems. I suspect they are sort of "generic" to allow for a variety of poses with minimum altering. They are certainly accurate enough for top-end commercial work and open division competition.
I have a minor problem with the crop/neck area on his crane forms, but that's another matter. All the others that I've purchased have been excellent.

'Must get back to building a pen for my newest birds. "Reference" turkeys! What fun!
Nancy M.

Tough to change midstream

This response submitted by Harry Whitehead on 8/3/01. ( )

Stephen is correct about the placement of the humerus if you are going to change the position of the wing once you have the bird sewn up. If you have cut any of it off then you are in trouble because it will not articulate in the correct position. It should also be noted that the pectoral girdle should be wider that the pelvic girdle and in a lot of forms, this is not the case. In my opinion (and opinions are like you no whats) most forms are better suited for flying birds. Stefan ( and I was guilty of the spelling also) if you are listening, could you give us some insight.

I alter every one

This response submitted by Stefan Savides on 8/4/01. ( )

I alter every bird body that I get commercially. ( Iím speaking of my own designs from Research ). I cut the tail slot deeper, drill out for the neck, sometimes hollow out the area of the wishbone for a low head bird, and yes, the wing attachment points including the area where the humerus would lay against the body on a standing bird. You might think of it like cutting a lip slot on a deer form.
You all have got me thinking now so I am going to sculpt a form exactly like my altered forms and see if Research will mold it.
And back to the opoint at hand. Regardless,humerus or no humerus or ball cut off or whatever, the proper distance between the point of the shoulder and what would be the elbow, is crucial to getting a proper wing set in ANY bird. Don't mess it up!

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