How to: Widen a Deer Head

This is number three in a series of six head alterations that I said I felt no taxidermist can live without.   I say this merely because in the world of everyday taxidermy you will, at some time, benefit dramatically by knowing how to accomplish these alterations.  It may not be an everyday thing, but there will come a time.  So this one is all about making a head wider than the original.  The opposite of this and number four, as you might have suspected, is narrowing a head (next time).   The first two, which I already gave you, dealt with only the muzzle and now from there we want to move on to the entire head,  particularly the width of the head between the eyes.

Just to show more clearly what I am talking about here,  take a look at the following photo:

untitled-2706-EditThe deer on the left is from the east coast (North Carolina), while the deer on the right is a typical mid-west deer (Iowa).  Both of these deer measure 7 1/4″ from nose-to-eye,  but notice the tremendous difference in the widths of the heads.  The Iowa deer is slightly over 5/8″ wider between the eye!  This happens to be a regional (sub-species) difference but keep in mind that on top of this, deer will vary even further within a region based on age, and of course there will be the unexplained variation that just naturally exists from animal to animal (like people).

Now I am not suggesting that you will need to alter a form to this degree.  This is only to show that there can be great variation, and to get you thinking about the situation.  If the deer in “your area” can be fuller in the face than a particular form, now you can learn to easily change the head to exactly what you want.

Now one might say,  ‘I see the difference, but I have never had a problem fitting a whitetail deer to a form,  I just find the closest form and mount the thing and it works just fine’.  That is, of course, what happens the majority of the time.   Because the skin is so pliable, and there are so many whitetails sizes now available,  the above situation doesn’t generally cause too much problem with whitetail deer.  But keep this in mind,  not every animal you mount will be a whitetail deer.  And not every “other-than-a-whitetail” will have as many size choices to choose from as whitetails do.  But even for whitetails there may be on occasional  variation that you might want to account for (I’ll show this later on when we get to actually mounting a deer).  And consider a situation with a whitetail where, for instance, you have a job that needs to be done today but the face has a whole lot of extra skin (the neck and shoulder seem fine).  You’d hate to go to the time, trouble, and expense of sending the form back when a 10 minute head alteration could have you up and running, in well, 10 minutes.

What I want you to see here is that it’s okay to take a head and customize it for any particular situation. Particularly for a species where there is no form for the size of animal that you have!   Again, you may not need to do this often,  but when you do, it won’t even slow you down.  And, you may find it more useful, more often, than you might think.  Particularly on those non-whitetail species (you may find great usefulness in lengthening or shortening a face as well, alterations numbers five and six, coming up soon).

So here’s where to start.  Mark the head as shown:


Saw the head off along the mark.


Measure the width of the muzzle and the width between the eyes, as a reference,  then saw the head in half.  A bandsaw works best for this cut.


Insert 3 screws as shown above letting the screws protrude in the amount that you want the dimension to change.


By merely adjusting the depth of the screws you can get the head to be whatever width you wish both in the muzzle and between the eyes.


Fit the pieces together, measure the new widths, repeat until you have what you want.  You can pin and test fit at any time.  The tear ducts will be the key.  You know you have gone too far if the tear ducts are too snug or won’t reach the slots in the form.


You are now ready to Bondo the head back together.  You could just smear some Bondo on the seam and push the two halves together.  On the other hand, if you do so you won’t be able to tell if you have the two halves together as intended.  So I do it in 2 quick steps.  First Bondo the center of the head…


so that there is enough Bondo to touch both halves but not so much that it keeps the screws from touching the other side.



Now once you peek inside you can actually see that all 3 screws are touching and you have the width exactly that you intended.


Once the first layer of Bondo sets you can now fill the seam with more Bondo.


The trimmed head looks like the above and is now ready to Bondo back in position on the the neck.


Since the saw line matches,  the head will fit nicely back into position,  although…


the sides will stick out slightly since the head is now wider than the neck.  Once the form is roughed up and ready to mount you can do any final blending with water clay when you model the eyes.


All ready to go!  You can do any final smoothing of the seam on the head when you model the eyes as well.


As shown with the first two alterations, you can custom fit the nose pad to your skin.


It certainly takes some study to know exactly how far to go with this alteration. But keep in mind that a mere 1/8″ is a lot of change on a head.  An older deer with big burrs and wide antler bases will probably be the widest scenario.  Just remember, no matter what species of animal you are working on,  if you have a hard time getting the tear ducts down into position, you went too far.

What you see in the pictures took me less than 10 minutes.  Not bad when you consider the effect.

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