Drying shark jaws

Submitted by Simon De Marchi on 7/26/01. ( simond@acenet.com.au )

Need some help here. I have been cleaning shark jaws for many years, but have yet to come up with a 100% succesfull method of drying them, especially Tiger shark jaws. It seems that the thickness of the cartilage makes a difference to the shape in which they end up in. I have tried placing the jaws on a board and using various pieces of wood to keep the shape, yet as they dry the pieces of wood fall out and the jaws tend to become slightly distorted. Also when the jaw is placed on the wood (on a cloth) the surfaces in contact tend to dry out slower and therefore stain (mould, dampness). Interested if anyone has found the same problems and if you have any solutions.
Many thanks

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This response submitted by Tony Finazzo on 7/26/01. ( finazducks@aol.com )

Shark jaws are tough to do because they are cartilage not bone. I know with your experience you know that, but all that read this post will not One thing that has worked in varying degrees for me is to soak the jaws, after cleaning meat, in heavy salt water. You can leave them in it for a week or more. This tends to toughen them a little. Then prop the jaws the amount you want it to be open. This helps them to dry more uniformly. If you prop in too many places they tend to worp more. I don't know what else would work short of nailing them to a board.

Shark jaws

This response submitted by Bill Gaither on 7/26/01. ( WILDART@prodigy.net )

I have a number of big jaw sets from tigers in the 700 to 1000 pound class. I used a method taught me by an Australian that I fished for Great whites with years ago.

I remove the jaws and then clean off all the meat and the thin membrane that covers the cartilage. Removal of this membrane is important. I then place the cleaned jaws into a 25% bleach (clorox) and 75% water solution for several hours to disinfect and "set" the cartilage. I use two sticks, one horizontal and one verttical to spread the jaws as I would like. I then lay them out to dry, but never in the sun. Drying them in the sun will cause warpage since the thickness of the cartilage varies. The jaws dry in a few days here and I have little problems with warp. (Must be the swamp air.) When there appears to be a problem, I weight the area with small sand bags (shot bags) and that is that.

If you are using them for mounts, you don't need the cartilage hinges anyway. I have seen them in Mexico and the South Pacific just spread with the sticks and hanging on pegs to dry. There is always some warp, but the degree is something I can live with. I have a collection of jaws from a lot of shark species and each will mount flat on a board if desired. One of the local shark fishermen here places his on the bottom of a wooden box and covers them with sand...I haven't seen what they look like when they are removed, but the ones he has in his home look pretty good.

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