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My Best Degreaser Setup Yet

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Headshed, Dec 15, 2015.

  1. Hello everyone!

    Well last year I made a post showing my complete skull cleaning setup. This year however, I'm on a different level. I'm now taking skulls from a local taxidermist I met when taking a buck in for a shoulder mount. He has more volume than he can handle, and more than I can handle. He doesn't want to do the skull work and would rather pay me to do it. For now, he's keeping his bugs while I up my capacity. But I'm doing all of the degreasing along with as much beetling as I can.

    The real problem is that I'm getting in whitetail like this... which just need more space.


    And like this...


    Sooooo out with the old degreaser and time to design a new, larger capacity setup.

    First a trip to Lowe's with my boy....


    Then an initial placement and drain connect to make sure it'll all go together


    Drilling holes for hot water elements


    Then no messing around with insulation


    So I have two heat elements each attached to their own thermostat. It's tricky to make them kick on and off at the same time but They're close and working well. But my absolute biggest concern... COST TO DEGREASE!

    I've only had this running for a week but here's my report. With well cut dimensions of the insulation and weight on the top, there is ZERO water loss to condensation. Humidity is high in my shop, but the windows aren't fogged and with a good bug setup, they're maintaining 50% humidity with three heads in at a time.

    The drain feature is a Godsend. When the water is cloudy and no more suds, I just flip the ball valve, and it all drains itself. I use a wet vac to get the small amount left below the drain level. To refill, that hose on the sink pulls out, I just hang it over the side of the degreaser and turn it on.

    Efficiency: The elements kick on at 117 degrees, take about 15 minutes to get up to 124 degrees and kick back off. A little over two hours later the temperature drops back to 117. At most, I think this thing is kicking on 12 times a day for a total of 180 minutes a day.

    Cost: My cost per kWh is 10 cents. So 1500 watts and let's say 4.5 kWh/day would equal 45 cents per day times two elements. Let's round up and call it a buck a day. My old degreaser ran much more and cost me roughly $65 a month with the capacity of 10 deer heads at a time. Right now I have 20 deer and 6 bear in this degreaser and I could fit twice that.

    Therefore, assuming a full tank of heads is completely degreased in a month, and assuming the tank is always full, it would cost me $30 to degrease roughly 40 heads. But let's round down and say I only put 30 heads in. That's $1 per head to degrease plus the cost of dawn.

    On the other hand, if I only had 1 head to put in there, it would cost $30 for that one head lol. But I'd use a different method.

    Thanks for reading, hopefully this will either inspire or entertain!
    Skullery likes this.
  2. Shepherd

    Shepherd New Member

    nice setup! quick question. do you separate your heads in containers or just pile them all in together?

  3. Shepherd...

    This is my old setup


    I used to separate in buckets, worked out great! But I could only fit so many in there and changing out bucket water kinda sucks.

    Then I show up at the local taxidermist and he has a small degreasing tub PACKED with skulls. I asked him if he had any issue not separating the heads because of contamination. He simply pointed to a bench with a ton of white finished skulls. I went over and looked, didn't see any issue. I'm doing the work for him, and I'm doing it the way he does it. After that visit I came home, hopped on the advanced search and took another look at other setups from this site. I saw some people throwing them all in together and even saw comments about it. Those not using buckets said they've had no issue.

    Now.... I do have one skull that was naturally cleaned and is left with green mold or something on it that I was asked to clean up. I'll throw that one into its own bucket just in case.

    And for the questions about the teeth... Rarely do the deer teeth fall out and I'm careful putting them in and pulling them out. If I have three teeth left in the bottom when I'm done, I'll find where they go pretty quick.

    For the bears and coyotes I have in there now in addition to all the deer, I bought a bunch of 2 gallon buckets and drilled holes in the sides all over. No holes on the bottom. The teeth definitely do fall out of the bear and coyote but they remain in the bottom of those buckets. Those 2 gallon buckets are completely submerged, the teeth don't float, they just stay in the bottom of the bucket of the animal they came from. If any issue should arise, I could always screen the inside of the buckets. So far this has been very pain free and without issue.

    I'll say that this tank holds ALOT of water so changing it is slow. I basically turn the drain valve and go watch tv for an hour or something. I come back out, clean the bottom, and turn the water on to refill, then go back in the house for another hour or less. I come back out, mix in dawn, swish around, and put the skulls back in. The water didn't really need changed for the first 5 days. I'd imagine I'll be changing this water 5 or 6 times a month, which really isn't bad. The only drawback to the volume of water is the time to heat it back up. I think the elements take about 2 hours to heat it up to 120. As you can see from the wiring, I'm only using 120v elements. Had I decided to go with 240v that time should be cut in half. But my thought process was that it takes the same amount of energy either way, therefore the same cost. So 120v running for 2 hours or 240v running for 1 hour should take the same amount of coin out of my pocket. For some reason I feel safer with things that are 120v and I'm more confident with trusting my wiring job lol. I can handle a 120v zap... 240v and my momma feels it lol.
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    That's a great upgrade.
  5. marshtaxi

    marshtaxi Member

    If you have hot water close you can fill your tank with that to help your elements from needing to bringing the water temperature up so much to begin with.

    So how many elk and moose can you fit in there? :)
    Cervidaehoosier likes this.
  6. RWOOD

    RWOOD New Member

    That's really interesting. My degreasing setup is exactly like Headshed's and toting water does suck. On the group degreasing method, do skulls come out at different intervals or do they all come out at the same time? Do you have any trouble getting mold or mildew on antlers?
  7. RWOOD

    RWOOD New Member

    That's really interesting. My degreasing setup is exactly like HeadShed, and toting water back and forth does suck! On the group degreasing do the skulls come out at intervals or all come out at the same time? Do to the high humidity in the enclosed tank, do you ever have a problem with mold or mildew on antlers?
  8. Marsh... I only have cold water plumbed to my shop. Down the road I'd like to install a tankless heater. Washing hands in cold water on cold days isn't ideal but it's what i got for now. As for the elk and moose... We don't have those in PA lol. But I've already gotten two in, so when it's time to degrease I'm thinking I'll be alright if i just build the walls higher and make more of a box lid. Worse case, i have to run a session without the top covered completely.

    RWOOD... I'm still on my first batch in this new setup but I'll be taking them out individually as they are cleaned rather than all at once. The antlers are 90% submerged with the tank filled a quarter of the way but so far, no mold or anything.

    For anyone with insight... I do have some skulls with green areas on them. Not the neon green I've read about on here but a darker green like algae. I can't see how that could be in dawn water and I'm praying it doesn't get worse. Only on the bone, some of the heads came already bugged with a few days in someone elses degreaser but those are the ones with the discoloration. I took pics but they don't show up like in real life.
  9. jfake

    jfake Member

    Great looking setup. Sea wolf said once not to use metal for this. Have you had problems with it? Also how big is that bin? I need to redo my degreasing tank very soon as my old one lit on fire.

    Sent from my SM-G925W8 using Tapatalk
  10. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The green color might be from zinc leaching into the water. If you continue to have an issue with color, you might want to consider putting a good coat of marine epoxy on the interior. I do know that ammonia destroyed the inside of a galvanized barrel that I put it in once. Not sure about what long term exposure will do to the zinc on that tub. There are heavy duty Rubbermaid ones like this too, same size.

    For bigger antlered stuff that keeps you from putting on a lid, dump in enough ping pong balls to cover the surface. Seriously. Keeps evaporation down and offers a little insulating layer. Consider asking what the other folks used to degrease. People try the weirdest things. Green colored Pine-sol and that other green cleaner (Simple Green?) come to mind.
  11. Jfake... That is a livestock tub from tractor supply. It is 6 foot long, 33 inches wide, and 3 foot high. My previous tank was the 4 foot version but i was using buckets in it so the skulls were not touching the galvanized metal. Now I took this new tub and scrubbed the $&#@ out of it a few times until i wasn't seeing any surface oils contaminating the water. I'm on my third refill with skulls in it. The skulls i did myself are cleaning up nicely and i see no negative signs. However, a local taxidermist took gave me skulls he had degreasing for a week for me to finish up so he could repurpose his tank. His skulls had a dirty green look to them originally and i dismissed it as grease and my paranoia. But now I'm seeing that it is in fact a dark green color, very small, but present on a few heads. But so far I'm happy with this setup. Although... Last night i imagined a thermostat sticking closed and finding the water boiling. So at 2am i got out of bed to check lol. Still working flawlessly. But now I'm going to add a high temperature switch to cut off for safety. If the thermostat were stuck open i would just find a cold tank. But if stuck closed, the heat would never shut off. So a safety is next.

    Seawolf... Previously the skulls were degreased in a stainless tub using blue dawn, i verified. I'm thinking the whitening process will resolve the issue. If not I'll get more detailed into the problem so others can be aware.
  12. eurosbyRT

    eurosbyRT Skull Designs

    I tried using one of those tanks before, it started leaking like crazy. Also are you saying you can degrease a bear in a month? I like the setup but would be concerned with the antlers getting mildew on them, I think the ping pong balls would be a safer route.
  13. Skull designs... Where did your tank leak from? Was it from a factory seam or from a hole you drilled? My previous degreaser was the same type of tub but smaller in size. I had that thing filled for two years without a leak. So far this tub doesn't have any leaks at the seams. I drilled holes for the heat elements, used rubber washers to seal with a coating of RTV. I did the same on the last tub and it worked without a hitch. If a leak should develop I think I'd be in trouble lol. But every time i go out i check thoroughly for any sign of drips. I'll go heavy plastic/rubber next time. But so far so good.

    I'm guessing you got the bear degreasing time frame from my cost calculation lol. I don't consider the time the bear heads are in. They go in first and stay in as long as needed through cycles of different deer. I do have two black bear that are almost done about a month in, a couple that still look completely brown, and then there's a grizzly from Alaska that's been degreasing quite a while. But the grizzly is being rushed as the customer wants it back by Christmas along with the full body mount. I was told, wherever it is in the process next week, pull it out.

    As for the antlers, aside from two huge whitetails and one mule deer, they're all completely submerged, so no mold should develop. For the short length of tines sticking out, so far just water rings on them.
  14. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    For that problem griz, though it's a bit late, try soaking it in straight ammonia.
  15. jfake

    jfake Member

    That's awesome. Thank u for the details. I didn't know you can submerge the antlers in the degrease. I normally keep them above water.

    Sent from my SM-G925W8 using Tapatalk
  16. Mine is similar but is a 110 gallon polly tank with 1 110 volt heater insulated very well and runs about 30 min every 24 hrs or so I put heads in 3 gal trash cans from wal mart and can run 10 heads at a time in a tank I am currently running 2 tanks
  17. David Jones

    David Jones New Member

    Can you fix the photos?
  18. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Some of those pictures I reposted already and they are the same as on the other post. If you click on the black pictures, the actual pictures in his album still come up and you can see them. No idea why. Most of the Photobucket pictures on here are permanently broken.
  19. Racks n Plaques

    Racks n Plaques New Member

    This is a good thread... Suppose you could set up a tank like this to also Macerate in?