Cleaning skulls

Submitted by Tim on 09/29/2002. ( )

My buddy just dropped off a nice 4X3 mule deer. He wants a European mount. While I have done a couple in the past by boiling the skull and scraping off the flesh I have recently seen a couple (bear @ pronghorn) that were put in a bucket off water and left for about a week. Then sprayed off and repeated as necessary until clean.
I got the skull as clean as I could and have just put it in the water. I have it submerged right up to the bottom of the antler bur.

Question is, will this method harm the antler bases?
Has anyone else used this method that can give me a couple pointers?

Thanx again, Tim

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while they're handy

This response submitted by CHUCK on 09/29/2002. ( )

Tim ,while the bugs are still out this year take advantage of their ability to clean skulls for you. I recently cleaned a deer skull simply by putting a few inches of water in a 5 gallon bucket and drilling some holes in the lid.Put the skull into the bucket and cover .Or in your case put a bit of water in a washpan place skull in it and cover with a plastic bag(not tight)let the flies find it and in a couple weeks the maggots will get every piece of meat off of it for you .If you fish for bluegills use the maggots for bait. Degrease ,rinse ,hydrogen peroxide treat it and leave it in the sun for a couple hours til it bleaches out white. Spray a fungicidal sealer on it and you're done.


This response submitted by Raven on 09/29/2002. ( )

Tergazyme is an enzyme product ya can add to water - eats away flesh. the problem with just boiling is that it can be hard to get all the brain out through the neural canal at the "occipital condyle" openning at the back of the skull. Actually - a point about 'boiling'; simmer it it slowly and carefully and as little as you need to to loosen flesh so ya can scrape it off with a stiff brush. If ya boil it - it loosens the sutures between skull plates. NOW - bugs of various sorts - I too prefer maggots - easier to keep alive than dermestid beetles and easier to acquire. Maggots are more tolerant to temperature fluctuations and humidity changes. So - bugs; although they can clean out all the lil holes.. this does nothing to cure the bone. SO - what I like to do (and remember there are dozens of ways to preserve bone) is to combine the two.... remove as much flesh as ya can by simmering and scrubbing with a brush. then when ya have the bones pretty much clean.. turn them over to the buggies =) The water kinda cooks the bone - preserving the marrow etc inside.. bugs cant get to the internal part of the bone so it remains raw. So simmer, bugs, then chemical preserve. I use museum chemicals designed for bone and fossil prep that I get at work.. but ya can substitute matte or flat finish acrylic urethane. If you have enough of it - you can even dip it... let it sit totally submerged in the stuff to soak in.. then hang it to dry, brushin off drips. once dry - you can take acetone or similar and wipe off the skull so there is no urethane on the surface. This is the ultimate preservation! If you like the stark bleached look - put it in peroxide (but cut it with sum water -even 3% peroxide can be harsh - I us 30% water in my peroxide) then sun bleach it before doing the dip. I prefer to leave it a more nautral colour tho.

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