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To Borax Or Not To Borax? Beginner Here...

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Claudia, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. Claudia

    Claudia Member

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    Hey all, I've embarked on a new venture and yesterday I skinned my first rat at home after watching some videos on how to do it. The girl simply skinned the rat, covered it all over with borax, then stuffed it, sewed it up and ta da!
    I kinda then did the same thing. It worked as far as looks I guess but am wondering if that's all there is to it? I keep reading as much as I can and it seems there are so many ways and terms like curing vs preserving vs tanning vs drying etc etc etc......What I'm after is to pose animals after stuffing them (for lack of an educated word), I don't ever want to tan which I believe is when you turn something into leather as in to have a floor ug or something. I've therefore been told what I wan to do is cure? Preserve? Dry? so the skin is pliable enough to work with?
    Ok, so second question is, is the borax enough? A day later and it still has a slight smell to it and some fur has dropped off.......? Is this right?
    Third question, I left the feet in as the video did also, is this ok? I mean, won't the feet rot? Hmmmmm.......
    I don't want to get to technical atm as I'm still learning but if curing/drying/preserving is better done with say alcohol/salt/something else (that's also confusing as what is best to use), then I'd be ok trying something like that...........I want to try a rabbit next but I've read the feet are trickier so again, would borax be enough? Oh and also, how much borax do you use and for how long? The video literally just rubbed it all over and stuffed it with cotton and ta da! All done in an hour.......
    Thanks guys. Any advise would be great.

    Claudia (totes beginner, even re terms)
     
    archerypro1 likes this.
  2. dale65

    dale65 Active Member

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    Fist off there is not really a ta da and it's done in taxidermy and tanning is not just for rugs it's for mounting and the borax is not going to do a lot of nothing on a skin unless it a bird and you should try looking on here as much as possible there are a lot of ways some better than others but they work and just take your time to do it it's not a fast thing to learn but you can do it. It don't really matter if it's a mouse or a deer head it's all done the same way with the same stuff you can dry preserve the skin but it's not just borax and you will need wires in side to keep it all shaped like you want it to look. Good luck and keep at it if the first few don't turn out like you hoped it gets easier the more you do and learn and a rabbit isn't really easy to do either
     

  3. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    It should never have a smell to it from start to finish unless it's just a rat smell. Even then, you should wash it and after you dry preserve it, it should have no unpleasant odor.
     
  4. Megan :)

    Megan :) Well-Known Member

    Rabbits are not easy. The skin is very thin, very easy to tear, and will start to slip (fur falls off) easily, especially on the ears.

    Feet should be skinned right out to the last knuckle and make sure ALL the meat/fleshy parts are out of there.

    Try searching on here for posts about "dry preserve", so you can see some alternatives to borax and I am sure you will also find a lot of helpful information if you limit your search to the Beginner's and Tutorials section.

    I haven't used borax on anything other than birds so I don't really feel qualified to give any more insight.
     
    Mickey Davis likes this.
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Borax for birds only as above. Fur slipping that you describe is a sign of beginning decay. Even on a rat, you really need to skin out the whole foot. A way around it might be to use alcohol and inject the feet and tail with it as well as soak the skin for several days to preserve it. Once those feet dry though, they will shrivel and look like mummified feet, not live ones. Very small animals can be done this way but not much else. I have made study skins of small mammals with borax but they were flat stuffed with cotton and no attempt was made to pose them. Tanning is preserving the hide so it doesn't rot and there are several methods, dry tan, wet tan etc. Read up on what to do. You also need to make a fake body in the shape/pose you want before putting the skin on it. Small adjustments to that pose can be done while the skin is still damp but once the skin is dry, you can not keep bending it back and forth or it will break. Without seeing the video, I would have to say that your "Ta daa" girl really doesn't have a clue. I hope she isn't charging for this info. Take a trip into your local library. You might be surprised and find some taxidermy books in there that will be of a lot more help. I would be hesitant to try a rabbit with alcohol so read up on what you have to do to keep that larger animal from dropping it's hair on you and looking like a undead zombie bunny.
     
  6. Megan :)

    Megan :) Well-Known Member

    Although a zombie bunny is perfect for Halloween decor....
     
    OhDear likes this.
  7. Claudia

    Claudia Member

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    Hey guys thankyou all so much for the info, yes I will be going to the library as I found a book there but it's out atm. In regards the tanning, I thought that was only for if you're doing skins like a bear skin you want flat as a rug, that's the impression I got from reading stuff online hence why I dind't think you'd tan something you'd mount! I also thought that if you start to dry something then you wouldn't be able to mount it if it's hard.....mmmmm tricky. Guess it's getting to know what everything means first. In regards the borax, there's a well known taxidermist in Australia who seems to use only borax to make her small mammals......but here people are saying only for birds? Why is it ok to use for birds but not mammals? And then what should you use for mammals?
     
    dale65 likes this.
  8. dale65

    dale65 Active Member

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    Tanning is done to preserve the skin and mounting it is done while the skin is still wet or it Had to be wet befor it mounted if dry tanned . Bird skin is not like mammal skin it's really thin and don't have hair the feathers go though the skin and it drys easier if you just borax a skin it's just dryed not tanned and if it's get wet or moisture in the air rehydrates it it's back to a raw skin and with rot dry preserve works and has for a long it but tanned skins are better and easier to work with in my opinion
     
  9. Megan :)

    Megan :) Well-Known Member

    Claudia, there is a really awesome button at the top of the screen, "Search". Trust me, this is a great tool. Or just start browsing the forums. You will find 99% of your answers already in here somewhere, just waiting for the right search word! :D
     
  10. Claudia

    Claudia Member

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    Hey guys, yes thankyou. I tried the search button and it became a case of information overload. But ok, it seems tanning is the way to go, just need exact step by step on how to do it and measurements and times but I think I found a post elsewhere where a guy has done this and it's making more sense. Just one question if I can.......what do you use to pickle? I read this is the 2nd step in tanning, but all it said was to put in a pickle solution which is.......?
     
  11. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    You know I truly do wish some of you would be objective in your advice to novices and beginners. To say "never use borax on anything" is just pure hogwash. Did it ever occur to any of you that birds have skin and if dry preservative is all right on BIRD SKINS, why wouldn't it be all right for animal skins? Certainly it may not be your BEST method of preservation but I have deer mounts in my house that were mounted 30 and 40 years ago that are still very much presentable. It IS a preservative and not a tan but from there the definitions become very foggy. Some of the remnants of the Battle of the Little Bighorn are harness that was RAWHIDE that don't look any worse than some of the boots and saddles that remained.

    Back to your rat. It should have been skinned and "fleshed". The feet certainly should have been removed. Even though they contain only sinew and bone, you're going to see terrible shrinkage as the moisture in the skin evaporates. Removing these and replacing them with wire and clay will give them a livid appearance.

    Instead of "stuffing it", we use the term "mounted". If you're stuffing it like you would a toy teddy bear, then you do "stuff it" but if you're placing it on a realistic manikin, then you're "mounting" it.

    When you're mounting anything with dry preservative (or in your case, borax), you still wash the hide and towel dry it before applying borax. You mount the animal an pose it as you desire. Then you can make MINOR adjustments to the eyes and feet, but basically, DO NOT TOUCH IT FOR A WEEK. The reason for not touching it is that the hide is in a very fragile state and if you brush it or tug at the hair, it's going to fall out. Allow the borax to be absorbed into the hide and the hair follicles to lock up. Once the mount is completely dry, you are not going to be able to pull hair from it UNLESS you failed to flesh it properly. Those areas will putrefy and the hair WILL fall out. They will also attract insects that will destroy your mount. Borax is an effective insecticide, but will not saturate meat deposits and may cause bald spots to appear on your mount later on.

    Personally, I use dry preservative (it has unscented talcum and alum in addition to borax) in most of my small game up to and including coyotes. As the animals get larger, the requisite for a GOOD hide paste that doesn't react to borax is a necessity. I like using epoxy based hide pastes on larger animals for that reason.
     
    BernadetteNZ likes this.
  12. Claudia

    Claudia Member

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    George, thanks for writing. I think everyone is just helping how they know but it's all good info, once you get better you can sift thru the good and bad advice, as I'm starting to myself. I dont see anything wrong with using borax. I've done my first rat with borax alone and I have to say, even tho I didn't flesh it properly perhaps as I left a lot of bits in there, it has turned out better than the ones I saw at the shops being sold! The rat has a weird smell to it tho, could be the rat or the borax but you have to get right up to it to tell. There's also a well known taxidermist here who does day workshops on rats and two days for rabbits, I'm sure they use borax alone otherwise, how would they get it done on time? That alone tells me it's ok to use if you prepare it all properly. In relation to the feet though, most videos tell you to cut at the last knuckle, so effectively leaving the foot in......your post says to remove them? How do you do that? The toes especially of mice and rat seem to be like mm in width and length.......???? I read up a lot today on salting skins and then pickling, took a long time to understand what pickling is, what it does and what's the hardest bit, to find what to make it of! Anyway, I seem to have that under control, the only thing now left is the part after pickling to finish the tan.....what exactly is that process? And also, isn't it a lot harder to sew up skin that's become leather???????
     
  13. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    The last knuckle is the one closest to the claw (nail), which, is about a millimeter or less of bone remaining in the foot.

    Sewing leather is not harder than raw skin in my experience.
     
    Claudia likes this.
  14. carver

    carver Member

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  15. Tanglewood Taxidermy

    Tanglewood Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    I have done squirrels with borax, but, prefer DP over the borax. I have tanned squirrels with EZ 100 and liked the results, however, I have found that, in my experience, Dry Preserve is cheaper, less time consuming and the end results are equal to the tanned ones. I have squirrels done by all three that have faired equally as well over the many years they have adorn my show room walls.
     
    George and dale65 like this.
  16. archerypro1

    archerypro1 New Member

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  17. archerypro1

    archerypro1 New Member

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    Your gonna get people to say borax dont work an their gonna give you shit about using borax,that's jus how it is!I use borax on all my hides,I learned taxidermy from a world class taxidermist,all my mounts I've had done before I became a taxidermist,apart from being dropped or knocked off a wall,was done with borax,it works,dont be stingy with it,use it properly an you can achieve a nice mount!
     
  18. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    Lol taxidermy is not as simple as tada lol
    Rats are fun and easy to get a hold of but can be very tedious to work on and a guy like me with my hands say nah it’s ok I’ll do something bigger lol
    Ok any time you leave meat in an animal will either rot or dry out but if not treated ( like formaldehyde etc) you have a chance of stench and hair slippage cause of rot!
    Something that small I would overnight in alcohol then rub borax but I would rather use taxidermy dp instead. Those products have bug inhibitors and are a bit better for beginners to use . Not saying borax it’s good as I use it all the time on birds but knowing how to clean a skin properly helps a lot.
    As for rabbits be careful as their skin will tear easy and can be very hard to get the membrane off.
    Again the feet should be injected to help stop the rotting . Trying to skin the toes out will be very difficult but can be done if your very careful .
     
  19. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    I would like to know whose says this as all us pros on here know the value of borax. It’s one chemical that has been used since the pyramids.
    We might say a tanned cape ( deer bear,etc) is much easier to work with and will produce a higher quality mount in the right hands but it’s much easier for beginners to use a tan skin ( as I said above) to work with than doing it in borax. In the proper hands borax works on just about any skin but it’s dealing with other issues that on big game makes it hard to control shrinkage.