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How to clean up a muskox skull and fix flaking horn?

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Coreen, May 1, 2018.

  1. Coreen

    Coreen New Member

    I've been gifted a muskox skull that had been buried for a couple months to deflesh. Tragically, it didn't appreciate that treatment and the horns are flaking pretty bad (see photos). Does anyone have advice on how to restore these? From perusing the forum, it looks like filling with epoxy and/or sanding is common advice but i'm not sure what's best with this level of damage. I'd like to avoid 'covering them up' with paints and epoxies as much as possible and am ok with a bit of natural roughness. Also, I've discovered that the horns are not at all easy to get off (as people on this forum have said of muskoxen) so any treatments will have to be applied with horns attached to the skull. I would love to just sand them or something but i don't know if i would just sand it down to nothing before it looks half decent.

    Also, the skull itself is dirty and has some moldy spots. So far I've just hosed it off but it's been dry for about a month and doesn't stink or anything. I have a number of other skulls that have all have turned out wonderfully with a little scrub and bleach soak but this one seems more delicate. Also, I need a solution for the skull that won't further damage the horns that don't come off.

    Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks! IMG_7236.jpg IMG_7234.jpg

    Attached Files:

  2. slammerdude

    slammerdude Member

    First of all cool skull, burying is not best way to clean and never use bleach to whiten.

    Muskox are funny cool critters and one of the harder skulls to clean.

    Your Muskox is a young bull. Like this one pictured. There horn is still soft at the end. Hence the flaking.

    Here is a young cow skull with the horn taken care of properly and is still flaking at the end.

    I would put your whole skull in some heated soap water for a little while to help remove any residual dirt and grime you can. I wouldn't soak longer than a week. If in water too hot and too long it will will and degrade the horn further.

    Let completely dry and then cover the horns with plastic and duct tape. Then use peroxide paste and whiten if you want to. It may only get so white because of the tannins and iron staining from the dirt.

    Once skull is satisfactory, address the horn. I wouldn't sand. I would take a putty type knife-dull and just flake off the pieces ready to come off. Then I would stain the mid horn brown like in the wild picture. They are mottled and many colors. Then rub a little mix of 50/50 turpentine+Boiled linseed oil on the the horns and display.

    I think less is more with your skull in the condition it is in.

    I have done a few dozen fresh Muskox, but not a repair project like yours. Here are a few I'm working on currently.

    Attached Files:

    George and RDMARTIN53 like this.

  3. Coreen

    Coreen New Member

    @slammerdude Thank you so much for that advice and photos of the way things should be! I'll give your suggestions a go and report back
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    While soaking that skull, keep an eye on those horns. Due to the previous bad treatment, soaking may encourage further degradation. They are hair horns like buffalo and too long of a soak will cause them to come apart. Don't hesitate to let it all dry completely for a while after soaking and then sand the horns with a fine grade sandpaper. You don't want to lose too much of the horn that's left and they do look like they are already separating into fibers. DO NOT try and get the horns off! You will never get them back on if you do. Soak and scrub the skull in warm detergent water. Use small brushes like toothbrushes to get into tight areas. You can try and whiten it by using the paste method with peroxide and Basic White. That way you can keep the paste away from the horns. This will also do a lot to kill off at least the surface mold/mildew. Unless it is submerged in peroxide the inside will remain untouched though you could pour either some of the paste or straight peroxide through it several times. Rotate it to try and get peroxide into the inside nooks and crannies. Do this over a bucket or tub so you don't lose the liquid and can pour it through several times. You can also try to submerge soak it in peroxide by hanging the horns outside a 5 gal bucket if it will fit. Lay white rags or paper towels up and over the top of the skull around the horn bases and keep those wet with peroxide too. Let it all dry and see what it looks like. If after all that, you still have nasty looking mineral stains, try soaking it for a while in a solution of Iron Out. Keep an eye on it and pull it out and rinse well when the stains have disappeared. Might only take a few hours for it to work. I have one of these too though I bought it the way it was and did not clean it.

    Slammerdude, very envious of those skulls sitting on that pallet. Nicely done.
    George likes this.

    RDMARTIN53 Active Member


    RDMARTIN53 Active Member

    My one and only muskox by masceration and before whitening.
    Last edited: May 26, 2018

    RDMARTIN53 Active Member

    Pallet of Muskox....priceless.