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Problem Whitetail Deer Skull in Acetone

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Skulltastic, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. Skulltastic

    Skulltastic Member

    Here is the story with this skull. Its from aprox 4.5 y/o whitetail buck. Was boiled by a "skull guy" (not sure if brain was left in or not). Never peroxided. After it was boiled I took possession of it and it was degreased in dawn/water/120-125F for aprox 12 weeks. The last several weeks nothing came out of the skull. Skull dried, still had grease, was still learning at the time and figured that was about as good as it would get. Let it be a couple years, then started experimenting with ammonia in 120F water on another skull and loved the results. So I took this problem skull which has sat 2 years since last degreasing, and put it in the 120F water and ammonia mix and within a day there was massive "pepperoni pizza" colored type grease coming out of this thing! So it def hit the grease better and removed a lot for several weeks. I forgot exactly how long I did the ammonia/hot water thing but I did it until there was nothing else coming out. Let it dry, grease was vastly better than before but still has a good amount of grease on the forehead. Sat another year or two since then, and I decided to put this #%#% into acetone which I have never used before. Its been fully submerged outside (summer temps 70-90F) for a couple weeks now. I'm going to let it sit a month (too long or short?) and take it out.

    Here is the question, when I take it out should I let all the acetone evaporate out and see what it looks like first, or should I take it while still wet with acetone and slam it right into detergent and hot water degreasing mix, or hot water and ammonia mix like I've had good luck with using? I'm doubtful that the acetone will remove everything that is left by itself without hitting the skull with a post-acetone degreasing process.

    I've had so much trouble with this skull I'm fearful that allowing the acetone to just evaporate off before going further, is going to have grease redistributed in the skull and then get "locked down" again making it more difficult to remove with next method. What has your experience been with this?
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The acetone will evaporate quickly but it will not hurt to let it sit for a day or put it right into degrease again. It will remove some of the embedded grease but it will also alter the remaining grease so that more of it will come out when you go back to ammonia/detergent again. These old and poorly done/petrified grease skulls are a pain but they can be improved greatly.

  3. Skulltastic

    Skulltastic Member

    How long would you leave it in the acetone? I was thinking 1 month its been a couple weeks so far.
  4. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    When I use acetone on problem skulls I alternate back and forth from detergent and acetone every couple weeks but I have let them sit in acetone for over a month.

    RDMARTIN53 Active Member

    I have used acetone in my early years. Results are not worth the risk/fire hazard compared to using ammonium hydroxide. Store ammonia is like using 3% brown bottle h2o2.
  6. Skulltastic

    Skulltastic Member

    A little update here. I pulled it out of the acetone that it was sitting in for about a month, before it evaporated off the acetone i placed it in a 120F water/detergent solution. Within a couple hours i scraped off a fatty butter that adhered to the antlers at the water line and saw a bit more of that "pepperoni pizza" oil floating on top. Also a couple other smaller white pieces of fat too. I'm going to do the detergent thing for a week or two and then try the 120F/ammonia mix and see if that moves more stuff out. Remember both these methods completely stalled out before doing the acetone. As for the acetone itself it looked brand new when the skull was removed and no changes to the skull I could see when first removed from the acetone.

    PS: I'm using the only clear dawn I can find which is called "free and clear" I just find it weird that I'm finding oil that seems to be unaffected by the detergent floating on top of the water and not mixed in..you would think it would dissolve since its a grease/oil cutting detergent.
  7. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Assuming you are using 5 gallons of water, how much detergent are you adding? Should be at least 1/4 cup to 1/3. Temp is right. The white pieces of fat, if it feels waxy/crumbly, is adipocere and pretty much inert. It is fat that has been converted to a wax. Scrubbing that off by hand is about all you can do. Really odd that you are still getting soft fat out of it though. The oil floating on top is also strange. Especially if the solution is fresh. Bumping up the ammonia you are adding won't hurt. I dread heating ammonia because of the horrible fumes it generates but you could do that too. I hate boiling because it drives grease deeper into the bone. Can you see into the brain case and have checked to make sure that all chunks of brain matter are out? Nothing hiding in the nasals? If you aim a bright flashlight into it/under it in a darkened area, is there anything visible that look like solid pieces of something trapped? ... Would love to see a picture of it.
  8. Skulltastic

    Skulltastic Member

    Right now there is no ammonia added, I will in a couple weeks. I'm adding aprox 1/4 cup or so, yes to 5 gallons of water. There is no tissue or anything left in this thing. Of course the guy that did the initial boiling/cleaning popped out the ear buds :mad: so its easy to see into the brain area. There is no tissue left anywhere on it, even with high intensity LED's shinning every which place I can't see a spec of tissue. (Which wasn't like that when I first got it) Take note during these process I do have the jaw bones included. However i've ran a wire/pipe cleaner through them including high pressure water and there is no junk caught up in those channels. Yeah the fat that came out of it is like a orange/yellow and was like a 1/2 dried out buttery consistency. That was the stuff stuck to the antlers @ the water line. Checking it today no change. Seems like in the first few hours it puked out a bunch of grease and then stopped. This things main grease was on the forehead and a bit on the lower eye sockets, but not nearly as bad. The lower jaws were loaded with grease. Looked greasy but not too much left after the last round of degreasing, then after sitting a year or so resurfaced again. I think after this round of degreasing, a few weeks in the dawn/water, and then heated ammonia/water I'm going to call it good enough. Its been YEARS and it hasn't even been hung on the wall! maybe more junk will come out when I whiten it. I didn't plan on whitening it for years but now I've changed my views on it and am enjoying the white skulls, so maybe that will kick out just a bit more if I do a soak in peroxide and then do the hot water dunk.

    Note: Don't boil your #(*#%(*&#% skulls!!!
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
  9. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Peroxide doesn't really do anything for grease but the bubbling action at the surface as it works might loosen up more embedded chunks of stuff. Too bad that someone ripped out the ear canals. To me, that is deliberately damaging someones trophy. I might suspect the lower jaws too as they are a serious pain to get clean inside without macerating them. I seriously hesitate to mention "simmering" again. As they have been boiled before it wouldn't hurt if you are careful. Take a pot that the skull will fit into and cover the skull with water. Don't use aluminum. Chug in at least half a jug of ammonia and a good cup of that Dawn. I'm wondering if it is weaker than the other Dawn versions. I've had good results with the blue and clear but I think the clear was called something different. I use Dawn because it seems to be more concentrated than the cheaper stuff. Get the pot back to a simmer and let it sit that way for an hour or so. Really check your skull first before doing this and make sure that the bone isn't degrading at all. You know it was boiled but you don't know what was added to the boiling water. If it was soda ash, that can easily ruin bone in a hurry. If it seems ok, let it sit in that mix for an hour and check. Quite possibly the previous boil and sitting for so long after has petrified the grease and altered it to make something that will take a higher heat to move.
  10. Skulltastic

    Skulltastic Member

    I'm really leery of boiling this skull. Its definitley my most prized one, and Its been through sooooo much processing at this point, the teeth have lost a lot of color and the antlers where they would be submerged in water have lost a good bit of color also. I do agree maybe high heat again is the answer, but I just can't risk screwing it up. I am hopeful with the amount of fat that came out of it once removed from the acetone and placed in the hot detergent water. I'm going to have to learn recoloring on something else and then tackle this, I really don't want to screw it up.

    Anyway, its been a few weeks in detergent/120F water, and after the first week or so I added some strong ammonia to it, and its been in that for a week or so. I rinsed it all off, and have it in the 5 gal bucket with just fresh water and the circulation pump on to remove some of the detergent trapped in the bone, tonight i'm going to put the nose bones back in and do the rubber band thing, let it dry and see where I am. At this point i think i'm just going to dry it out good, put some clear rtv on the teeth so they don't turn white, and then peroxide and seal it. Once I get a little practice recoloring antlers I'll hit this one up and it will be done. Wish I would have known how to do my own skulls back when I bagged this buck, I would have had a grease free or near grease free skull, with fully intact ear buds and less color loss on the antlers...
  11. SiskCFRN

    SiskCFRN New Member

    Is degreasing whitetail skulls really this big a hassle? I’m new to doing my own European mounts & I know before I tell it that I’ll get scolded, but I do all my skulls in a crock pot (or a bigger pot over a gas burner at similar heat settings if the crockpot isn’t big enough) at low temp over 4+ hours depending on the species. Then I pressure wash & bleach in peroxide in the same crock pot on low. I’ve only been doing it for 6 months or so & the majority of these skulls have been beaver thus far. All have turned out white & they look good. I did do three domestic hog skulls for a relative’s Halloween party that wound up being a greasy nightmare & I see where it’s an issue with hogs, but I’m getting ready to do my deer skulls for this season & I want them to turn out as good as possible. Reading these threads gives me the impression it’s gonna take six months to do a skull. I can have it mounted in that time frame.
  12. Great Skulls

    Great Skulls Active Member

    Yes, if you want "them to turn out as good as possible" then really, you need time. There are ways to degrease faster - solvents and even machines that use vacuum, etc. - but really, the best results just take a water heater (crock pot is too hot) and a long time. If you do it too quickly, then you can get the grease out of the surface, but the skull will look terrible in a few months or years. Even your fast beavers will look bad over time, but deer are going to take longer, and hogs and bears really take a long time to degrease.
  13. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    A crock pot is for making soup and the temperatures it puts out are too high. Some deer are done in a month. Some can take longer depending on how greasy the individual animal was. Your cooking the skull is also just driving grease deeper into the bone. Heating peroxide is also just wasting it where you can have a single 5 gallon bucket of it and have it last for months of whitening. Pressure washer will damage bone, you destroy the nasal bones and eventually you will have a skull explode that didn't belong to you or blast out teeth that you will never find.

    You can do a rush job and spike it to the side of the shed and maybe they won't care. Or you can take the time to crank out something really awesome looking that will gain you new customers when it is seen. I, personally, no longer boil skulls. I macerate them and the end result is astounding considering there is really very little work involved. All it takes is some time and I have yet to have a customer be anything but ecstatic when they picked it up. Bears can take 6 months easily. I have only had one deer take anything even remotely that long.
    Tnrandy likes this.
  14. Can I ask why not to use an aluminum pot? And what is the alternative you are suggesting, steel I’m assuming? Ty!!
  15. I’m just now learning this…. Know this thread is old and you’ve probably gained experience since then…. But I’ve tried using advanced searches through these forums and researching as many threads as I can, and still come out confused, as there are so many different methods.

    When I post a new thread asking what’s already likely been asked 1000x, I either get no/limited response, or I get a “do an advanced search” and find myself in the same cycle.

    So if you haven’t mastered it yet… hang in there!
  16. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    The Advanced Search on here takes some practice to get good results. Good search terms get better results. If you don't get results you want, try again but word it differently. A lot of good posts are on here going all the way back to 2006. The old Search was better but it went away when the forum switched to this new format.

    A crock pot is for cooking, not cleaning skulls or degreasing. If you want to cook them and are happy with the results then maybe that would work for you. It is no different than boiling them in a pot. I no longer boil because I have seen the destruction it does to bone and that is unacceptable to me. .. Aluminum is a *reactive* metal and you are heating chemicals in it which can combine with the aluminum and chances are you will get results you do not want. Use glass or stainless.
    WeekendWarrior00 likes this.