I have been doing taxidermy for 11 years, and have never mounted a snake. I have the chance to mount a 3 1/2 ft timber rattler, and need help. I know I will not be able to charge full price, because of my inexperience, but was wondering what a fair price would be for this job. Any first time advice, with form selection or tanning process would be greatly appreciated, due to the fact I am ignorant to reptile taxidermy. I have a pretty good understanding to the process but if there is anything you experts can let me in on I would very much appreciate your time and knowledge Thank You Powderhorn Taxidermy.
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If you have never done one before, i would personally not do a customer mount for your first. there are many things you have to know like in any other animal before you can start. Would you have offered to do a customers deer mount if you had never done one before? Same thing! Just because it is a snake, and you have years of taxi experience under your belt, does notmean you can pull it off. There arre many things to know about skinning the head out, altering forms, ect! many snake forms have thew right girth, but the heads vary greatly in size for the same size snake, and very seldom fit. You have to do head casts, mouth inserts, carve body sections and reassemble, ect ect. If you insist on trying ti yourself, get my Snake mount video from WASCO or Noonkester and watch it as you do the snake. It will show up close with great detail how to do it. As for tanning? Forget it! Use Borax! Tanning the skin will eliminate all stretchability and stacking scales on curves will be a nightmare. get good reference photos, and follow the details. I would also be glad to mount it for you wholeasle till you get your feet wet. Good luck with whatever you decide to do
I've never had much trouble with mounting snakes. Could be I just learned how to do them before I learned to do anything else and I learned from a good teacher. It"s true that snake bodies and heads are hardly ever uniform enough for a standard form and you usually need to make adjustments. I find rattlers are the easiest snakes to do, even as an open-mouth mount. I skin mine starting at the mouth. Rattlers are not affixed to their skins like constrictors so the skin comes away fairly easily. When I fit my skin on the form, I generally cut the head off the form because it is so much wider than the neck skin that it can stretch the skin out too much putting it on, and then I reset the form head, smooth the joining pieces with clay and then either build up the head with clay to fit or reduce its size -- whatever it might need. Not too hard -- just attention to detail. If I do an open mouth, I place the jaw set and do the same thing -- clay in to complete the right size and structure and fill gaps. I've had to do a tuck in the skin of the body before when a small area showed the skin to be just a bit too loose and when I do that, I make a fine cut near where the belly skin joins the side and take out a narrow amount of skin. Pulling it back together so edges match, I epoxy it to hold the edges together and then treat the small incision area like I would if I was hiding a flaw on a fish -- bit of bees wax and something to press against the wax to "put back" the couple of scales that are out of alignment. As for treating the skin prior to mounting, I've used just borax before but I prefer to use Knoblocks snake tan treatment. It gives me a nice skin with plenty of stretch and workability. As for price -- usually for one the size you are working on in a striking pose with an open mouth, I charge about $150. That changes if I need to do anything out of my normal procedure or it goes on some elaborate base. My advice is to let your customer know this is your first snake and then just do your best. Good luck to you and I bet it turns out better than you anticipate.
I tan all my snakes and lizards and never had a problem with stretchability nor with the stacking of the scales. Just my observation.
I was refering to using the snake tans where oil is apllied to the skin like the kind you use to make belts, hat-bands ecte ct. As far as the tan you use, i know you leave out this step, and therefor it is workable. P.S. Bite me!
The customer is a co worker at my other job, and would be easy to please, and would be good practice for me. I think he has decided to freeze dry. How much color loss is involved with this process. Will the place that freeze dries it for him paint it as well, or do they loose all their color like a turkey head. Thank you all for the info I am going to mount one this summer just for kicks if I ever get caught up on Turkeys.