I am not the originator of any of these ideas, and some probably come from reading archives, but here goes. After you test fit a cape, and sand the manikin, slip a garbage bag over the manikin, then slide the cape back on. Taxi the cape into position, and remove the bag by pulling it out through the mouth of the cape. The cape taxis very easy, and then I apply hidepaste through the backside of the form and then from the front. I always used to put the hidepaste on before the cape, but if you weren't careful it was messy, and seemed I always pushed most of it to the rear of the manikin. This way, you slip the hide paste in under the hide, and it stays right where you put it.
Thin skin with a barrel sander on a dremel tool. I never got the hang of the skife knife, and scalpels take me too long. If you put your fingers on the other side of the skin, you can feel the hide getting thin, and when you're done the flesh side is nice and smooth and thin. And, you can't cut your finger if you burn through. This works great around the eyes, tear ducts, nostrils, nosepad, lips etc...
Finally, I mounted a deer this weekend and the rack was from the 80's. The bone must have shrunk, when I test fit the cape, there was a big bulge right in the center between the burrs. I got the measurement from the original rack, it was 5/8" wider than the one I was doing the mount with. What to do?
Since the rack is mine, and not a contender for any kind of record, I decided to split the skull plate right down the middle and add 5/8" to the center with Bondo. Once I cut it, I thought, oh crap, how am I going to get this back together right? Since I had set the antlers previously on the manikin on bondo, I had the custom "brain ridge of bondo" already on the skull. I just put the two antler halves back on the manikin, 5/8" apart, and screwed them to the form. Then I added the bondo to the crack between them and some over the top. I mixed some sawdust with the bondo for a little more strength. Worked great.
Thanks everyone for the great tips I received from this site, its saved me tons of time and helps me almost on a daily basis.
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Thanks for the tips, Mike. I'm gonna try the Dremel thing...PatrickR