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I'm new to birds, help please...

Discussion in 'Bird Taxidermy' started by adrenaline_rush_taxidermy, Apr 28, 2015.

  1. I've done a lot of research on mounting birds, specifically waterfowl. I have a buddy who is a duck nut that has given me quit a few birds to play with. I have gotten roughly 10 various ducks and another half dozen geese from him.
    The list is: 4 mallard drakes, a gadwall drake, GWT drake, shoveler hen and juvie shoveler drake, half dozen or so snow geese and a Canada goose. I also have a turkey and two pheasant.
    Most of these are for me to practice on but a couple are for him.

    I learn by doing and researching and have done fairly well with gameheads and small mammals, but I'm so totally frustrated with birds. Saturday I ruined a mallard skin to the point of it being hurled across my shop. ::)

    I looked at a lot of threads on here about wheeling ( I have the deluxe bird flesher from Van Dykes), cleaning, and prepping skins and I THOUGHT I could do okay. Apparently not!

    So now that I have calmed down from my absolute failure Saturday, I hope to move forward.

    I know that mallards are one of the worst ducks to wheel but what are some tips on doing/being better at this? I am very detailed oriented and as soon as I saw that I was through the fat and to the skin I would stop wheeling, but the skin would just open up. I don't want to destroy another skin just for "practice" sake, but probably will.

    I did learn that I should watch for the membrane "strings" and possibly either salt the skin for a short time prior or use borax to help.

    Any and all tips from those experienced "birdbrains" would be greatly appreciated!

  2. txoutdoors

    txoutdoors Active Member

    I would not salt the skin.

    Honestly, it just takes practice to get the "feel". You started with the worst bird you could have to learn with. Mallards are the worst to work with as far as fleshing goes.

    A few things that might help.
    1) Keep you hands close together and work on a small piece of skin each time, then adjust. Keeping your hands close will prevent the skin from grabbing in the wheel and pulling / ripping.
    2) Keep the skin moving. Trying to stay on that one spot that needs a little more work typically results in burning a hole in the skin. Make multiple passes to get it like you want.
    3) Go in 2 different directions. Don't go against the direction of the quills. I try to go in the same direction as the quills, then from side to side. Going against the direction of the quills sometimes results in holes. Going from one angle doesn't always get everything off.

    Also, did you "break in" the flesher? If it's new, you need to run the wheel against a brick or 2X4 or a few minutes. New wheels have metal strands that stick up and they are not all even. By breaking it in, you smooth them out and get them rounded a little so it doesn't grab as much. That could be a major part of you problems.

    Good luck,

  3. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    One piece of advise is don't use salt.... Just borax will work fine. As for mallards they generally tend to hold more fat than some birds, geese are worse in my opinion. I start wheeling at the head and work my way back to where the next joins the body and then I move to the tail and work forward. Don't ask me why it just works for me. If you have some sea ducks or divers I would start with them as the skin is a little tougher and more forgiving. One thing is you will tear skins until you get used to using the wheel and that is just a matter of practice. One other thing is you will become a great seamstress......LOL.
  4. RichMO

    RichMO Well-Known Member

    X2 TX
  5. I spray the skin with soapy water before i wheel it.The grease will come off easier. :)
  6. Nancy C

    Nancy C Well-Known Member

    Holes happen. Don't let it get to you. It's a lot better to sew up some holes than to leave a layer of grease on the skin.
    I don't know if I ever degrease a fat mallard without making at least one or two little holes, especially around the leg to tail area. If the holes aren't too big and if they don't rip any farther then I don't even bother with sewing them any more. During the washing process the little bits of fluff that come through the holes help to show how clean the skin is.
  7. luciengwin4

    luciengwin4 Member

    SE MS
    The wire wheel takes practice and the borax and soapy water help a lot but I would still burn holes sometimes. I ended up building a flesher with a nylon wheel with a larger motor that turns 3450 rpms. All the research I did said to use a sewing machine motor that turns at 7000 rpms I tried it as well and the slower motor works much better. I honestly wouldn't take $1000 maybe more for my nylon fleshing set up. I love it so much you can hold puddle ducks down on it and it is hard to burn a hole in the skin. It is so forgiving I love it! Some folks may not agree but it has saved me to much time never having to sew up holes. Just my two cents. I hope you have better luck with your next bird.
  8. I don't think using salt during fleshing hurts a thing. I know others disagree but salt is a preservative and as your fleshing the bird it keeps the skins from streching somewhat. I have done many birds using salt and have had no problems with the mounts. Another taxi person that worked for the Smithstonian Institute also used this process. JMO but I would like to hear why not to use salt.
  9. BrookeSFD16

    BrookeSFD16 Well-Known Member

    After skinning use scizzors to remove as much as you can. I have found the curved Fiskers work best for me. Use borax throughout this process. Once you have as much as you can get off dust the whole bird in borax and put the bird in a plastic sack and put it in the freezer. Leave it for as long as it takes for the skin to almost freeze ( if it does freeze no big deal just set it out till it thaws). Start at the tail while the bird is coldest. The tail and back are your most delicate areas. If the skin gets sloppy while wheeling. ..put it back in the freezer for a while. You should be using borax throughout this process. Also once you've gone over the whole bird, borax and then "angle flesh it". Turn the bird skin so your wheel is running in the tracts. Go from the edges to to the middle on side pockets and back tracts.

    I've been doing birds a little over a year and except for my formal class...I've never seen anyone wheel. The above method is what's worked best for me....but there's still holes...and if you relax. ..even for a second....the wheel will snatching that sucker right out of your hand!
  10. hambone

    hambone Well-Known Member

    Try taking several pages of newspaper about the size of a bird skin and practice wheeling them until you can wheel thru one page at a time, then your ready.
  11. critterstuffr

    critterstuffr New Member

    Watch how the feather quills lay. When wheeling a duck the festher shafts will lay against the skin. You want the quill to be pushed towards the skin. In the other direction they will flip them up against the grain so to speak. When this happens it will put a strain on the skin and something has to give. Unfortunately that will usually be the skin itself. My wheel spins clockwise . . . they can spin either way by simply reversing the black and white wires. So in my case I always hold the ducks head to the Right. Starting at the head end and working towards the tail. just a little thing but maybe it will help. Good luck and remember they are practice birds you said. So practice away. PS Pheasants are the easiest of the group you have.

    WTRFWLN New Member

    One thing that I do that has helped me out a ton. Is inverting the Whole Bird and sewing it back up. It will look like a rubber chicken but it keeps the birds feathers way cleaner and easier and faster to wash. It takes about 2-3 minutes to sew back up but saves so much time in the wash cycle. I like to sew up and then rub dawn on the "rubber chicken" then wash with warm water. I then do as others spray with Dawn/water mix and wheel. This just my way that I found works best for me? Hope it helps.
  13. Thanks all for the tips. I will be trying again this weekend on a couple of snows that are strictly just practice birds.

    I'm going to double the width of my wire wheel as I heard that helps as well. Also, I will be picking up some nylon wheels to try.

    Can't hurt to try different things.

    I will post pics of my attempts this weekend.

    Thanks again.


    ETA: I have 4 videos on birds...Mounting a sitting a mallard by Joe Kaiser, Painting Bills and Feet by Joe Kaiser, Mounting a flying goose by Frank Newmyer and Mounting a pheasant by Brian Harness.
    Any suggestions on any others that would be good to get?
  14. dwimberly

    dwimberly Member

    All are good tips above and I see where you could get some tips from everyone that will help. However, you can have all the tips in the world but when it comes to that wheel it takes patience and practice... Bottom line ... Good luck and hang in there
  15. I'm going to try that once my flesher is back up and running. I've had a few cases where the damn thing ripped the bird clean out of my hand. x_x
  16. ysb123

    ysb123 Member

    Slow and steady. Getting to fast are getting in a hurry causes me a lot of trouble with fleshing birds. If I make a couple of unnecessary holes I just set the bird aside and stop for awhile, come back later and finish up, usually without any other holes. Slow slow slow for me.
  17. drakeman

    drakeman Active Member

    Go find a nylon wheel, put it on 7000 rpm sewing machine motor and you will never look back. Until you flesh a goose or turkey then you will need wire.
  18. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I put 13 holes in the neck of my first pheasant and 7 in the body. A needle and thread and a little patience and all worked out great. Now I only put 2 to 5 holes in them. It's just part of the whole experience
  19. jimss

    jimss Active Member

    I'm going to try my luck on a few turkeys and noticed posts above in regard to using nylon vs wire brushes. I have a feeling there ought to be pretty big differences between brushes and some may be better for turkeys than others? I imagine some are a lot more forgiving than others? I would rather spend a little more time on the wheel and not have a bunch of puncture holes to deal with! Which brush do you recommend for turkeys and does anyone have any photos of the brushes they use?
  20. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I use a 3" stiff wire wheel for all upland birds. I get them at Research Mannikins. They have a pic of that in their catalog.