bear alterations

Submitted by mike at cwd on 7/13/99. ( )

My question has two parts. First, most bears arrive at my shop already skinned with only the skulls and feet left in, making good measurements difficult. With the expense of forms and time consuming alterations, what is the best way to order forms?
Second, I am presently working on an approxiamately 300 lb. male black bear. The head fits pretty well. When I prefit I have about an 8" gap along the back(dorsal cut) while the length looks pretty good. Whithout accurate measurements , where do I start my alterations? Hope this isnt to involved. Many responses would be appreciated.

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This response submitted by frank on 7/14/99. ( )

You can get good measurments from a raw hide, but I like to wait till I get my skin back from the tannery. What I do first is take some measurements from the raw bear, send it of to the tannery. When it comes back I rehydrate the skin and restretch the hide to make sure I have the same or is it less than what I measured before. Remember to stretch the hide width wise not lenth. This is what you may have done and the measurements will change.
As to alter the manikin taking 8" off wow thats alot to much for my needs. I would recheck what measurements I have and reorder a bear that is closer than the one you have. If they don't have the size you need buy one that is closest to yours as in being smaller and then make the alterations on that one. It can be alot easyer to make one bigger than trying to make one smaller to fit.
You may find out that if you restetch the hide width wise your bear may fit in the witdth and not the lenght, and you can cut down the length of your bear. You may have to cut some off from the legs and the belly and chest area, or just in the belly and chest area. But I would recheck what I measured here.

Big-Bear ... "Small" Problem ...

This response submitted by John Bellucci on 7/14/99. ( )

Hi Mike,

Try this for mannikin reduction. Assuming the gap starts at the juncture of the base of the neck and the shoulders, remove the head and neck of the mannikin at this area. If the gap starts behind the shoulder area, remove the upper or front torso at this location.

Draw a line down the center of the mannikin, from front to rear, on the back and the belly. Now draw corresponding lines of equal width on each side of the center line, so that you end up with the required amount to remove. I would say take only 2-1/2" to 3-1/2" away from each side. If the rear end fits well-enough, separate this area with the hind legs, from the center area to be reduced. Now, saw along this length with a carpenters' wood saw, keeping the saw blade even and true for the entire length.

Temporarily fit the mannikin back together, including the head/neck/ shoulder area, using eight-gauge wires, or carpenters' "mending plates", and re-fit the skin to the mannikin.

**It is VERY IMPORTANT that the skin is fully relaxed, and thoroughly stretched-out whenever it is fitted to a mannikin ... before OR after any alterations are made.**

If all fits well, remove the skin, and permanently re-attach the parts of the mannikin. You will need to file and sand down where the neck rejoins the body to make a smooth transition. Work carefully and deliberately and you can make the mannikin fit the skin.

Far too many people getting into this art today are just too quick to dismiss doing anything but buying another mannikin. These mannikins are our TOOLS, and it is high time that you learn how to use them, and make them work for you. If that means cutting out a section here, or building-out an area there ... then so be it.

Don't feel intimidated by the fact that it costs a few hundred dollars for the mannikin ... that doesn't mean you can't alter it for your needs.

Keep in mind that these mannikins were sculpted to a particular animals' dimensions, and that all animals are not the same. With that in mind, you can only succeed!

Best to you in your endeavors ... John B.


This response submitted by George Roof on 7/14/99. ( )

The information you got is really good, but I'm a dumb country boy. If this gap is behind the shoulders, just stop and take a breath or two.
Is it a spring or a fall bear. Fall bears tend to be as fat as they are going to get, and you'll probably end up altering the form. But if its a spring bear, your 300 pounder would probably have been a 500 pounder in winter.
Tom Ray of Rayline Mannikens taught me this trick. Rehydrate your TANNED hide and let it sweat over night. Stretch it just like you've been told and order the form. When it doesn't fit snug, sew the incision with 3 inch stitches. When you're finished, spray warm water in the incision and lay a wet towel over it. Wrap the whole bear in plastic freezer wrap and forget it for a day. Tomorrow, come back and sew stitches between your 3 inch stitches. When complete, cut the old stitch out and repeat the same steps. Repeating this for 3 or 4 days, even an 8" gap will close up completely.

I always, without exception, tan my bear hides. If I didn't see the animal inside it before it was skinned, I don't even measure it. I prep it and send it to the tannery. Green hides give poor references. When it's tanned and you get it back, you can rehydrate it and get all the measurements you want and you'll have a better chance of not altering a form.

Bear alterations 2 ( thanks Frank and John)

This response submitted by Mike at CWD on 7/14/99. ( )

Thanks guys for your quick response. A few things I neglected to tell you. First the mannikin measured 4.5"x11.5"x44x56, the skin 4.75x11.5x40x54. I thought this was close enough to order considering I liked the sculpting of the mannikin and the pose, or should i try to get closer. Following your advice I stretched the hide for width and prefit again. It seems the legs on the mannikin were to big around not allowing me to get the proper amount of skin around the back(dorsal incision), which accounted for the 8" gap the first time I prefit. After lots of rasping, and a couple more fittings the legs finally fit, leaving me with only a couple inch gap on the back. So I took an inch cut out of the side , as apposed to the back. Now I have a pretty good fitting skin, thanks to your suggestions. I have always enjoyed altering deer forms for enhanced expression, but as John said, I was reluctant to try on an expensive mannikin. Now that the first attempt is behind me, I guess the possibilities are endless. Was it ok to make my cut along the side of the mannikin rather than down the back? I was concerned a little with the distance between the legs especially in the back,there was already alot of bunched up skin. Thanks again

If It Works, And It Fits ...

This response submitted by John Bellucci on 7/15/99. ( )

... then all's well that ends well! The bunched up skin, is the result of the skin not being able to go into the right place ... meaning there needs to be a leg-slot cut into the mannikin wherever the inner area of the leg comes into contact with the body. These will be found at the arm pits of the animal, as well as at the rear legs where the upper front of the thighs contact the body.

Molding restrictions make pouring a mannikin with these features already in place cost prohibitive. Cutting these leg slots will allow you to pull the leg skins fully up the leg of the mannikin -- after reshaping, if needed -- thus allowing the incision to more fully and easily close. I am now able to understand your dilemma more fully. You done good! Really. Welcome to the wonderful world of mannkin alteration. You have been initiated!

Good luck to you in all you do ... John B.

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