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mascarate a skull

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Ringo, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. Ringo

    Ringo New Member

    How long will it usually take to mascarate a skull? Also what is the right temp to keep them at,and what will work best in a basement as far as containers so their won't be any smell?

    Thanks, Jonny Ringo
  2. AJ

    AJ New Member

    from my experience. (I'm still very new, still finishing my first two, well the macerating is done).

    it can take 10 days to 6 weeks. its personally took me 10 days on one and the water was near 90 degrees the entire time. (but i let it macerate longer just in case) and the other took about 3 1/2 weeks. it took longer cause it was a larger skull. but the main reason was the water was cooler, around 55-60 most of the time till i changed the heaters and got the water to just below 90. then it came off in no time. these where two deer skulls.

    now, on he smaller skull i put it in a 5 gallon bucket with lid. it did a alright job at keeping in the smell. the larger buck was kept in a rubber made container. i might as well have left the lid off, smell wise. i would look for some nice big buckets (well depending on the size of your specimen, with preferably a rubber seal on the lid. but idk what to look for there... but i wouldn't do it again without a tight fitting lid like i mentioned.

    i read about people putting the containers in garbage bags to trap the smell and it doing a good job.

    but defiantly keep the antlers out of the maceration. i had some of the antler in the water and they smell so bad. I'm trying to get the smell out. don't make my mistake. lol.

    and change the water often, i think that would definitely help with the smell.

    but this is probably the worst smell you will ever have the displeasure of experiencing. I wouldn't do this inside of my home, even if it is the basement unless i could find a container like i mentioned. and it will work much faster if you keep the water warm. a aquarium heater will work. i used a heating pad, and it kept the water right around 90. sometimes above 90 degrees.

    but thats my info, i hope this helped you out. lol. i learned a lot my first time, so i wanted to let you know some, not to do, things. lol


  3. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Maceration is the water process of rotting the flesh off the skull. It works .. and it stinks. There is no way to get around the smell. Best of all is to set up your containers outside, downwind of your home and hope the neighbors don't notice. :)
  4. Sea Wolf, Ain't that the truth! LOL! I actually built a Black plastic cover for my containers that draws heat. Works really good and contains the smell. I can't do the closed containers much since I do quite a few Axis skulls with tall antlers.
  5. Ringo

    Ringo New Member

    Thanks for the help.Any other commets would be appreciaded
  6. remember that the temp will affect the growth of bacteria.. where are you located? right now in Eastern NC it is warm enough that I have a few maceration buckets going now. luckily I live in a more remote area where the smell doesn't bother anyone.

    you can add rid x to the solution to help speed the growth, or use yeast or even (Evelyn I am sorry for again suggesting the waste of good beer...) or even add a beer to the mix to further the bacteria growth.

    you can prep the skulls a good bit by skinning them out etc prior to putting in the tank.

    the smell will not be to overwhelming unless you agitate the mix.. just something to remember when you go to check on the process...

  7. wacbravo

    wacbravo TEAM WAC

    Jerry knows what he's talking about! Many misunderstand that the maceration process is a bacterial process. Now you can throw a skull in some water and pull out something pretty dang good, but for quality results one has to think to a bacteriologist. Bacteria break down the organic matter via enzymatic processes, and knowing how these bacteria and the enzymes they employ work is key. Efficiency is based on several criteria:
    • Maintained warm temperature of the maceration- Bacteria and the enzymes they employ function at varying degrees with variable temperatures, and maintenance of a constant optimal temperature range between 80-115F is necessary for maximum growth and catabolism. Bacteria under cooler temperatures tend to be resilient and will survive, however, efficiency declines markedly. Hotter temperatures may kill bacteria. During the warmer months optimal temperatures can be achieved by the weather alone, however, during cold months an artificial heating source may be necessary.
    • Quality of the bacteria in the maceration- Some bacterial growths are better than others at cleaning the skull, and some may even be detrimental. (Bacteria that color the water whites, grays, and browns are good at cleaning, and black coloration is okay, while the development of a red solution color marks bacterial proliferation that is harmful to bone composition.) Using a small amount solution from a previous maceration or one of the methods that Jerry suggested will provide a good starter colony of bacteria to begin maceration. Should growth slow down during maceration, a nourishing piece of fresh meat can be added to boost growth.
    • Oxygenation in the maceration- Although it's not good for the smell and neighbors, an open lid is better for the maceration as it oxygenates the solution better. Even bacteria need oxygen, and some individuals put aerators in the tank to ensure that this requirement is met. And the horrible smell is- believe it or not- a good thing; it reflects a strong maceration. Over-oxygenation, however, is toxic and may kill bacteria.
    • Quality of the water in the maceration- Chlorinated water from the tap is not the most efficient source of water in a maceration, and the chemicals it contains may limit bacterial growth. Maceration should be performed optimally using non-chlorinated, distilled water. Water cloudiness should be monitored. Water should be changed regularly to prevent the buildup of toxins and stagnation of the bacterial flora. Cloudy water of a "good" color (see above) is indicative of proper bacterial growth, but it should not be left to build up too long. Thick solutions negatively affect the maceration process. Clear water along with a visually meatless skull may indicate that the maceration is complete. If water is clear but meat remains on the bone, bacterial growth has ceased and should be addressed. When changing water in a maceration, leave some of the cloudy water in so that bacterial growth can continue freely.
    • Condition of the skull being cleaned- The condition of the skull being cleaned will affect the maceration process to a great degree. Skulls should be fleshed as much as possible (remove tongue, eyes, brain, and large pieces of meat) to maximize speed of maceration. Save a piece of meat as nourishment in case the bacteria slows (see above). Fresh skulls and those that have already begun the decomposition process macerate most easily. Skulls that have been dried (as in preparation for beetles) will require more time, as the meat must first rehydrate. Skulls containing mummified flesh may not become clean using maceration, and they should be pretreated prior to maceration if a successful cleaning is to occur.

    Ok. Sorry for all that. Haha. Anyway, I'd be weary about using the Rid-x in the maceration. In theory it should work well in the maceration process considering it contains Subtilisin, a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down proteins. But the product is also primarily calcium carbonate, and whenever you put a skull in a solution of ions you run the risk that calcium phosphates in the skull will be lost to that solution. I don't know, perhaps I'm just over-cautious. Boy, it's a beautiful day here in northern NJ. Definitely doesn't feel like winter! I should get out of the house! Haha.Take care,