carving foam fish bodies

Submitted by rj peets on 3/17/05 at 8:48 PM. ( rjpeets@dreamscape.com ) 216.171.187.155

when carving fish bodies, i trace fish laying on side & also trace the curve standing on belly. i take circumference meas. all the way down through. i also take thickness meas. with calipers.i mark the centers,(top,bottom & sides) i dont carve on these. everything looks good. but when i test fit, no cigar. alot more altering. i was wondering could i do 2 half molds w/plaster, let dry. then wax. then pour foam. could you use the foam in a spray can? was wondering if anybody does this.it seems like it would take alot of guess work away. just a thought i had while i was workingon it.

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You can mold it fine.

This response submitted by John on 3/17/05 at 8:56 PM. ( ) 70.178.74.104

But the spray can foam just dont cut it.

Seal the mold with shellac and wax several times.


I hold the fish by the eyes...

This response submitted by marty on 3/17/05 at 9:39 PM. ( ) 24.15.107.136

...or wherever is comfortable, and I take my caliper measurements with the fish hanging. if you're setting the fish on the table and taking your measurements, they will be a bit chunkier because the fish is getting spread out from laying on the table. Sometimes I do a "plan view" (looking down) tracing - especially if I'm doing an "S" curve. But I only use this tracing for reference. The body gets carved to the caliper dimensions.

The dimensions I like to take are: at the edge of the gill cover, the spiny Dorsal, fattest part, anus, end of anal fin, 1" in from the end of the tail, and the very last tail measurement (ref.). This is what works for me - take whatever you need to get the job done. Also, carve the body out before skinning the fish and use the fish as reference...


gravity prevails

This response submitted by TR on 3/17/05 at 11:02 PM. ( ) 152.163.100.66

Best way I have found to measure your fish is in water. Fill a container, cooler or what ever with enough water to cover the fish top to bottom. Small to medium fish is no problem, larger fish you may need someone to assist you. When a fish lays in water it is buoyant with the water and your measurements should be close to accurate. When measuring your fish laying on its side or belly on a table it will distort your measurements. Hanging a fish will stretch giving you incorrect negative measurements in the front half behind the gills and increase the width measurements on the lower part of the belly as it gathers in the abdomen and is pulled toward the ground. Gravity prevails. Also risks damage to gills, gill covers and throat. When carving your body consider and account for the thickens of the skin and the hide paste. Your skin should close within a 1/4" or less and close evenly down the entire length. I measure entire length, eye to base of tail, gillplate to base of tail. Circumference about every inch and measure width with calipers in the same places I measure the circumference. good luck....TR


Jeepers Cripers TR!

This response submitted by marty on 3/18/05 at 9:44 AM. ( ) 24.15.107.136

We're not building watches here! Formerly, you didn't happen to be an engineer did you?

First off, the measurements are there just to get you close, they are for REFERENCE! Anyway you do it, it's not exact. They are there to help you get close - NOT for an exact fit. The exact fit comes when you try the skin on for size. THEN you sand and adjust as necessary. "Allow for the skin thickness. A 1/4" or less seam? Hanging vertically can cause damage." LOL!

1/4" or less? Why? I'm just scratching my head here T.R. Most of the stuff you give out as advice is laughable! Do you and your helper get done like TWO fish a year? You're making something FAR MORE complicated than it needs to be. It still all comes down to how well you can see a three-dimesional object and replicate it. This comes thru practice and learning from mistakes. NOT from 4000 dimensions taken, nor inserting your fish in water to take the measurements! Geeeeez! gimme a break.

Take a half-dozen measurements or so RJ - insert the fish in Kool-Aid if you wish. But it still all comes down to good reference and PRACTICE. In time, you will be able to carve a body very close the first round with minimal adjustments before taxi-ing the skin. Carving a body well is probably the longest learning curve in fish taxidermy. Just keep at it...


Come on you guys!

This response submitted by M.T. on 3/18/05 at 11:37 PM. ( ) 198.111.220.238

i've been doing fish for 34 years, and this is how it is done. Lay the fish out on a piece of wax paper, cardboard. brown paper bag, whatever you have! Next, trace the outline of the fish, skin fish, flesh fish, throw in bucket of water, borax, and dawn dishsoap. Now, trace your outline on the foam, throw away the calipers, you dont need to make any measurements. However, just know the length of the fish when it was caught. Now that you have the outline cut out of the foam, on the top and bottom side, draw the contour shape of the fish. This is done with ease after you have done a few. Next just start carving the roundness shape of the fish. Test fit and adjust for carving. Next, sand the body, fit it, and rinse fish and mount it. All of this should have taken about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Hang fish up in front of hair dryer or fan, 6 to 12 hours later, finish your fish. There you go, a bass out the door within 24 hours. Customer is happy and you just made some quick money. Bluegills out the door in six hours. Big pike and muskies will take about three days. Coldwater fish with artificial heads out in a couple of days. You might think this sounds crazy, but try it. I've been doing it for more years than half of you guys have been alive. Cecil, I know you would agree with me. I use two inch Dow foam and glue it together with hot glue. I can usually make about 2000 bucks off from 1 sheet of $22 foam. You must only glue the foam where you will not be cutting or carving. With a little practise, this can easily be achieved.


LOL@ Marty

This response submitted by Doug on 3/19/05 at 9:03 PM. ( ) 64.18.236.146

"Jeepers Cripers"? LMAO! That's a new one to me Marty. The guy sure yanked your chain...eh? Lots of ways of "gettin' 'er done" but I don't walk around the barn to walk in the door either. Some guys like MT work fast. I work about half fast(LOL). Thanks for the fun.


Yeah Doug, what can I say?

This response submitted by marty on 3/20/05 at 9:31 PM. ( ) 24.15.107.136

I'm not one to look away when I don't agree with somebody - but hey, you knew that - lol!

At 34 years M.T., you can probably carve them in your sleep! For a beginner though I'd recommend keeping the calipers AND carving with the fish still intact as reference UNTIL you get good...


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