How To: Adjust For a Missing Skullplate

In a recent blog I added more turn to a mule deer form.  As you might have noticed the antlers were attached to the form as I did the alteration.  I felt this would be best in order to better observe how the finished mount might look.  But as I attempted to set the antlers a whole new problem arose.  So I thought it might be good to step backwards and show what I encountered and the fairly easy fix, should you ever come up with a similar situation.

As I attempted to set the antlers on the form I realized that there was a lot of skull missing and in addition the skull was cut very unevenly. The form notch was deeper than how the skull had been cut leaving a 1/2″ to 3/4″ gap when the antlers were held in the proper position.

To fix the problem, check out the following…  first I set the antlers on the form and drew around the skull with a marker.  I then put four screws just inside the marks so that the screw heads would line up with the skull:

I like screws rather than shims as the screws are solid and so easy to adjust!  You can make them fit any irregular skull just by turning them in or out.  You can see in the following photos just how irregular the skull surface really was.When all 4 screws are adjusted and touching the skull,  and the antlers are exactly where you want them, put a mark in the front (see below) to make sure that when you Bondo the antlers in place that the skull does not move out of position or mis-align.  Remove the skull and pre-drill holes through the skull plate for future anchor screws, as you would with any mount.

Now, you have but one simple question to ask…  is the mount to be assembled using a long cut cape, or a short cut cape?

For a long cut cape, you can at this point add a thick layer of Bondo around the screws until they are completely covered, fill the inside of the skull plate with Bondo as well, and set the skull back in place on top of the screws.  Make sure the skull lines up with the front mark, and that’s it. When the Bondo hardens, you are now ready to finish up with several screws down though the top of the skull into the head block to anchor it all in place, again, just as you normally would.  You can now proceed with the mount just as if there had been no skull missing at all.


But, what if you are mounting with a short cut cape, as is so common today?  If that is the case, you cannot attach the skull plate solidly as I just explained because the antlers must, of course, be removable .  Not to worry.  For a “short cut” mount, do everything the same as above to adjust the position of the 4 screws to get the skull where you want it.  But then,  instead of permanently fastening the skull to the form with Bondo, set the antlers aside and proceed as follows:

First cover the screws on the head block with Bondo, and when the Bondo begins to harden, trim the excess Bondo so that you can see the tops of all the screws. The two pictures below show how this should look.

When the Bondo has hardened, lay a piece of saran wrap over the skull plate area of the form as pictured below.

Fill the inside of the skull with Bondo… 

…and set it back in place over top of the saran wrap…

Again making sure it aligns with the mark on top of the skull…

When the Bondo hardens, simply lift the skull plate back off of the form…

Pull off the saran wrap…

And now your “new” skull plate will fit back perfectly in place, yet, is removable…

As a last step, set the antler in place and install screws down into the headblock to make sure all is good.  Then remove the screws (now the holes are pre-drilled so it will go back together easily during the mounting process), remove the antlers once again and proceed with the mount.

This system is solid and really works!




I shot this Bushbuck a whole bunch of years ago when it showed up quite unexpectedly at a waterhole in South Africa.  He was ultimately too jumpy to actually drink but I was able to get an arrow out a small side window in the blind as he ducked back into the brush from which he had come.  When I told my PH what had happened, his first reaction was to ask “are you sure it was a Bushbuck”, since no Bushbuck had ever been seen in this location in the past.  It was, and here is the mount on McKenzie form BU-1442.



9800 Wall Pedestal

In this Category (see right side panel) of “Mount Photos” my plan is to post photos of past mounts.  Mostly I plan on just posting a photo but I may also include any notes or story associated with the mount, if there is something that might be of interest. The deer posted here today is probably one of my favorites.  It is mounted on the very first wall-pedestal concept form, the 9800 Series, introduced to the industry back in 1997. This mount was featured on the cover of McKenzie catalog #35 (2009-2010).  The buck is a bow-kill taken by my nephew Brad Tadlock back in 2008.  Very cool Iowa deer.

How To: Add More Turn To a Form

So in an earlier blog post I noted that one area that will really increase your value as a taxidermist, is the ability to alter a stock form into whatever position your customer might fancy.  Often these are quite simple projects that can take very little time, but will make your customer extremely happy with you and the mount!

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Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island Part 3

Recently I received a finished production form of the Rusa deer that I sculptured in part 2 of this series.  I have since mounted the deer, so without further ado, lets begin part 3 with a look at the finished mount:

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Beceite Ibex Hunt in Spain – Part 1

Whether I will ever attempt to take all four main species of Ibex in Spain remains to be seen.  But for now, my goal was simply to take a mature Beceite Ibex and sculpture a form specifically for that particular animal. I booked a hunt through Neil Summers Bowhunting Consultants with Salvaforcaza  because of their great reputation and for their excellent success with a bow and arrow.  I had never been to Spain so I really looked forward to the trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island Part 2

A while back I published an article about a Rusa deer hunt on Mauritius Island (see the Hunting category: Rusa Deer and Mauritius Island,  Part 1).  In that post I mentioned that when I received the capes and skulls back from overseas I would sculpture a new Rusa deer form.  Finally, that day has come. The following is a look into the process of mannikin sculpture.  There are certainly varied and different methods in the creation of a new taxidermy form that could possibly end up with similar final results, but the following procedure is one that I use quite often and is perhaps one of the most enjoyable for me, as it presents the opportunity to start with nothing and end up with, well hopefully, a helpful new industry product. Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Fit a Skin to a Form

Since I am often asked how one knows they have selected the perfect sized form for a mount,  I thought this might be a good time to share some thoughts on this subject, so here goes…

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How To: Shorten a Deer Head

A few years ago I was down in Texas collecting whitetail reference and we came across a very interesting deer.  He had a decent sized body, big neck, big head and a very nice set of antlers.  They figured him to be in the 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 year range. For overall fit, I would have guessed a 7 1/4 x 23 inch form, or maybe even larger.  On today’s mannikin choices I might have picked a 69-7123 size form.  There was only one problem–this deer’s eye to nose only measured  6 1/2 inches!  The head on the form would have been a full 3/4 of an inch too long, even though everything else would work great.  A  6 1/2 inch form would be WAY too small, and a 6 1/2 inch changeout head would be too small as well, particularly in the width between the eyes.   This guy was a big, mature deer; all we would really need here would be a shorter face on the 7 1/4″ form. Read the rest of this entry »

How To: Lengthen a Deer Head

Of the six head alterations that I have claimed taxidermists can’t live without, perhaps lengthening a head, number five in our series, is the most valuable.  At least it’s the one you are apt to use most often.  As I have mentioned, there are many combinations of form sizes in the world of whitetail taxidermy, but even at that, lengthening a head and alteration number six, shortening a head, can come in handy when trying to match the innumerable size variations in nature.  And when you consider all the other species of game that don’t have all the commercial size options, this alteration can be gold.  And like all the other alterations that I have shown so far, they don’t take a lot of time but can make a HUGE difference in the fit of the skin.

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