Skull Cleaning Methods

Submitted by Wolfwoman on 2/6/05 at 2:05 AM. ( dakota AT mtaonline.net ) 12.104.78.38

Ok, I've had several emails on this, so thought I'd post here, if you have any more questions after reading this, please drop me an email.

Wolfie

Boiling:
I don't reccommend this, but it can be done if you're careful with it.
First, get as much meat off as you can with a knife, scalpel, etc. Immerse in a pot and SIMMER slowly with about a cup of Arm & Hammer WASHING Soda (basically this is Sal Soda) until all the meat turns to a gel and you can rinse it and scrape it off with clean water. This usually doesn't take more than 30-60 minutes, sometimes less depending on how much meat is on it when you start. Teeth will fall out, so make sure to get them from the bottom of the pot to glue back in later. All the meat, including that in the nasal & brain cavity will come out with this method. After this, degrease with whichever degreaser you prefer, I have used Dawn dishwashing liquid with very good results. Immerse skull with about a 1/2 cup Dawn in warm water and let sit until the water turns brown. Replace water and Dawn until water stays clean. This can take from several days to several weeks depending on the skull. Then whiten with good old 3% peroxide from WalMart (or other everyday store). This can take from 1-3 days, again, depending on the skull. Then let dry and glue the teeth back in.

Maceration:
Probably the easiest way to clean a skull, tho the smelliest and most time consuming. There are two ways to do this. This is my preferred method, either way.
Method 1.) Place in a bucket of warm water with an aquarium heater on about 85 degrees and let it sit for a couple weeks covered. When you get ready to remove the skull, again the teeth will have fallen out (this is a GOOD thing, as the tooth cavities get clean also), so fish them out from the bottom of the bucket. Then rinse with clean water and the entire skull, including the brain and nasal cavities should be clean. If not, place back in the SAME water; this is important unless you want to start the process over again with creating bacteria in the water, and let sit another week or so. Repeat until the skull is completly free of tissue. Then degrease and whiten as above.
Method 2.) Place in a ziplock bag and just let it rot in it's own juices in a warm place until it's done as in method #1. If you like 'natural' looking skulls with all the colors from cream to dark brown, this is the way to go. If not, then you can degrease and whiten as before.

Bugs:
I haven't used dermistid beetles, but I have used maggots and they do the same thing. I leave it outside in a bucket or bag and let the flies have at it. It's clean in a week or two and you can then degrease and whiten as above. I DO NOT like this method as the maggot carcasses get stuck in the nasal cavities and are VERY VERY hard to get out. It's time consuming and tedious using either a hard spray of water and then picking them out with a dental tool or something similar. But, if you have the time this method works just as well as macreration with good results.

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