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Looking for Small Mammal Advice (Newbie)

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Kaiada, Apr 22, 2014.

  1. Kaiada

    Kaiada New Member

    I am very new to taxidermy and have just completed a rat mount. I can already see most of the problems, but I am unsure of how to fix them. Any advice is appreciated.

    The rat was preserved with Borax. I took a class that a traveling taxidermist taught, and was told that the Borax itself was all that was needed. However, I've also read that just Borax won't work, and other chemicals or processes need to be added--is that necessary? Is a commercial DP better?
    Another problem was with the feet and nose. They all shriveled up as they dried, as expected, and I was wondering how to prevent this--is there something to inject in them or cover them with, any products or home recipes?
    As for stuffing, I was taught just to use cotton balls, which technically worked but don't do much to make an animal look realistic. Since I plan to work mostly on feeder animals to start out (rats, mice, small rabbits) I want to try making my own forms, and was wondering what type of clay to use on them. I do have an air-dry potters clay, but it has a chalky residue when dry (and a very long drying time) and I don't know if it can be used. And when you use clay, do you put the skin over the form before it is dry to dry along with the skin or should you wait for the clay to dry first?

    Sorry for the simple questions you probably get all the time, but I've had trouble finding clear answers...Thank you for any advice you have. I have already learned quite a bit from these forums, and hope to learn more.
  2. Chupacabra84

    Chupacabra84 New Member

    I've been getting good results by cleaning out the whole skull and wiring it to a wrapped excelsior (or cotton for mice) frame. Use Critter Clay to rebuild the jowl/snout/under nose tissue, although as of this writing I'm unable to prevent all nose shrinkage..... still trying to perfect my technique!

  3. You can use borax, or DP really - they both are used and effective. Borax tends to be cheaper but DP is more useful for moth-proofing etc. I use methylated spirits to soak the skins, and then put borax on - it helps set the hair on small mammals.

    You can inject the feet with bird feet injection fluid (available from taxidermy supply companies) or methylated spirits. I've also heard of using borax in water. Alternatively, if you have the skill/patience, you can remove the entire foot and toes and put critter clay in them for a more realistic and professional look.

    Critter clay is by far superior to generic air-dry clay - use it in the faces and feet to avoid shrinkage. The other clay can be used in the body cavity. Also, if you put the skin over the clay while it's still wet, it's a great way to sculpt the underlying muscles!

    You can use woodwool (wrapped with thread/string/twine) to create the bodies - you can always pad out with cotton wool to emulate the missing fat in cheeks, belly etc.

    I also agree with using the actual skull and attaching it to a woolwood (excelsior) body. I use cotton for mice due to their small size, woodwool on anything larger. Do fine fleshing over the nose/whisker beds and fill with critter clay to avoid shrinkage as much as possible :)

    Also to see what can be done with wrapped bodies, be sure to check out the 'Wrapped Mounts Only' thread in Lifesize mammals, it's very inspiring!!: http://www.taxidermy.net/forum/index.php/topic,254755.0.html

    Hope this helps a bit!
  4. There is a fair amount of info on here and on YouTube that concerns squirrels. Anything having to do with a squirrel could easily be transferred to your rat project (except for the commercial forms, of course). As for the feet and nose, you probably didn't skin them out far enough. As much tissue as possible must be replaced with clay or some substitute. Natural tissue will dry and shrink. Borax will work fine as a preservative. It is my primary bird preservative.
  5. Agreed, anything for squirrels can be applied to rats!!
  6. Kaiada

    Kaiada New Member

    Thank you all for the help. It's truly amazing how much you can learn using this site.

    I want to try using the denatured alcohol to prevent hair slipping, (especially since I'll be working with rats) but where did you get it? (Or, what type do you get?) It seems to be sold in many forms... Also, will soaking it in the spirits help with the foot shrinkage or does it have to be injected? With larger feet/pads I think I'll try the clay, but for something like mouse feet or rat toes will just the soak preserve it? And for how long do you soak the skin? Do you want to water down the spirits at all?

    Thanks again, everyone!
  7. Denatured alcohol can be found in the paint department of hardware stores in the thinner section. I use regular rubbing alcohol to soak real small animals (like ermine) in when thawing. I never add water, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to water it down a little. Never tried something as small as a mouse, but squirrel and ermine are skinned down to the first "knuckle" here. Injecting with the right material works on bird feet. Never tried it on mammals. Might work.