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Super dried flesh removal from skull

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by J7, Dec 15, 2017.

  1. J7

    J7 Member

    I asked a friend to let me clean, degrease, and whiten his mule deer skull that he killed in the fall of 2015. I told him after he killed it to put it outside for the rest of the fall and let the maggots eat the brain. I told him he should try and remove the rest of the flesh by simmering before winter. Well, he never did anything to it. It sat outside under his boat for one winter and summer. Then he moved it into his non-temp controlled garage until now. He lives in eastern Washington where it is a desert climate and temps in the summer were as high as 110 to 115 at times. He brought it to me a couple of weeks ago. Good news is the maggots did an excellent job at removing the brain. Bad news is that the remaining flesh and membranes are dried on there like a grayish brown hardened leather.

    I put it into the maceration process Monday the 4th. I changed half the water 7 days later on the 11th. It is in a fully insulated tote with an aquarium heater (new 80 deg fixed kind from wallyworld) and another tote over the top for a wind cover. I check on it occasionally to agitate the water and make sure the heater hasn't crapped out. I think temp is OK because it is steaming when I lift the lid. I have been getting a fuzzy mold growing on the antlers but I wipe it off with baby wipes. There are small bits of flesh coming off the skull and it stinks which tells me there is bacterial growth. But, after 12 days now the lower jaw has not separated into two pieces (even with a little force) and the membranes tight to the skull are still stiff and wont come off with a little scrapping. Does this sound normal? Would putting it in some heated or simmering soapy water help loosen it up? Should I just keep letting it macerate until its done?
     
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Let it sit a while longer and see. Problem is the stuff left on it was hard dried and it will take several days for it to soak up water and soften. More days for the bacteria to get really started working.
    Other problem will be the rotting brain that was sitting in the skull. Chances are there will be staining issues in the head area but they can be corrected.
     

  3. I did one a couple years ago that was mummified with the hide still on. I put in in the bucket with a fresh one and it worked very well. It took a few extra days for the leather to loosen but it turned out much better than I expected.
     
  4. J7

    J7 Member

    Pulled it today and hosed it off. A lot of the flesh came off but some was still clinging to very thick and sticky grease. The membranes tight to the skull were still tight and did not come of by spraying or scraping. The lower jaw separated with slight force but the front teeth did not pull out easily. I put it into some hot soapy water (almost simmering) and then everything came off/out easy and quick. Its pretty ugly though, mostly yellow with splotches of blacks, reds, and browns. Ive got it started in the degreasing rotation.
     
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Grease has had a long time to soak into it. Be patient. Consider using straight ammonia and switching to acetone after a couple of months. He shouldn't get antsy about wanting it back as he left it to sit for so long he compounded the process of getting it clean. Some of those stains might now also be mineral stains from being on the ground. Those will mostly come out with Iron Out if peroxide does not remove them. ... Put up some pictures. Use postimage.org to host them and use the links from there.
     
  6. J7

    J7 Member

    Thanks. I will try to get some pictures up soon. I'm still cleaning it a bit and letting some of the nerve bundle in jawbone soften/rot a little more and work it out. I'm just soaking it in soapy water until I can get it into the degreasing contraption. I have a deer in there now that is taking forever. Questions on ammonia use. I was looking through archived post and there is some conflicting information about ammonia for deer versus ammonia for smaller animals. One poster, (PA), said that ammonia was not effective on cervids (deer) fat but great for smaller mammals. Also since ammonia is a solvent; what happens to the grease (float, sink, suspend)? Do I worry about dissolved grease getting back on antlers, teeth, etc? Does ammonia discolor antlers?
     
  7. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The problem with deer is that their fat is different. It is tallow and has a much higher melting point. You could heat the ammonia but the fumes become fierce when you do. Ammonia with deer might soften the fat somewhat and allow other things like acetone or the heated detergent solutions to get at it and remove it faster. PA is extremely knowledgeable and does know what he is talking about. For any of that fat to move, it has to be heated to 120 degrees. With ammonia as well as the other liquids, the fat goes into suspension. I have not had issues with ammonia bothering antlers but it can (as well as the others cleaners) remove dirt and tree/plant resins from the antlers which might alter the color. Restaining, coloring or touchups are not difficult.
     
  8. J7

    J7 Member

    Went on an ammonia hunt but cam home empty handed. Either I wasnt quite sure what to get or they didnt have enough. Grocery stores had ammonia cleaner which list ammonia and surfactants. I know Dawn has biodegradable surfactants in it but I wasn't sure what kind of surfactants were in the ammonia cleaner so I passed. Hardware store 1 had a gallon of clear ammonia cleaner but listed no ingredients and they only had one gallon so I passed. Hardware store 2 had red label Ace 10% ammonia but only had 1 gallon size and a bunch of 1 quart size that would have been too expensive. Can I use the grocery store cleaner and mix/match/dilute/stir with the other offerings? Just want to get the right stuff for the job.
     
  9. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Go and get the 10% from the hardware store. It isn't a one time use sort of thing so you won't be throwing it away when you are done.
     
  10. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    5,894
    1,514
    MN
    And folks whine when you tell them how much for a european mount. I don't use amonia on all skulls only when I have too many to fit in my degreasing setups, I add a gallon or two to a 5 gallon bucket insert as many skulls that fit and fill with water. I leave em soak in that solution until room opens in my degreasers. it does remove some grease.
     
  11. J7

    J7 Member

    Should the skull go into ammonia completely dry or still hydrated? My thinking it would be better dry so ammonia soaked into every pore and crack first.
     
  12. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    5,894
    1,514
    MN
    I don't think it matters which way the skull is when introduced to the amonia.
     
  13. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    As above. Won't matter. You can consider warming the ammonia but beware that the fumes will be really bad. You can try the heated detergent and water in a 5 gallon bucket and add at least 4 cups of that 10% ammonia to that. Keep it heated to 120 degrees for a while and just let it sit.
     
  14. cyclone

    cyclone Posts: 400001

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saponification
     
  15. J7

    J7 Member

    Well I started a couple of different skulls in ammonia before I tried my friends skull. OH BABY the fumes!!!!!!! I have it tamed way down now with a garbage bag over the entire set up and rubber banded tight to the container. I'm gonna get a respirator for working with this stuff.
     
  16. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Maceration stinks insanely bad but it doesn't come close to the face and eyeball melting pain of working with ammonia. Yeah, do get goggles for it.
     
  17. J7

    J7 Member

    Well here is what it looked like before I put it into ammonia on Monday the 22nd. I finally got it completely clean, no more rotten bits/stench, and let it dry for a week. You can see two locations where a mouse or something ate part of the nose and the back of the nasal canal. My friend said he did have a mouse problem in his garage for a while. The jaw bones look the worse. There is no translucent areas of grease but there are heavy yellow and reddish areas.

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  18. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Lots of grease there. Let that all sit in ammonia for at least a few weeks before you check. If you want to keep the lower jaws, run a hooked wire into the hollow areas through the vein channels and see what you can fish out of there after it has soaked for a while.
     
  19. J7

    J7 Member

    I let it sit in the ammonia for four weeks and pulled it feb 19. Its been in the degreasing tank since with a couple of water changes. The grease is really oooozzzzing out of it kinda like a very slow lava lamp at the pin holes just above the sinuses and eye socket. Pretty cool how the ammonia softens up the grease and helps it move. I'm gonna let it sit in the tank for another week, let it dry, and then maybe another rotation of ammonia and the soap tank.
     
  20. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The fat of deer (cervids) is a tallow type and it needs a higher temp to soften it up. Make sure you are running it at 120 degrees F to move that grease out.