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Non-bone Degreasing

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by trapperrev, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. trapperrev

    trapperrev Member

    I'm working with a couple snapping turtles right now. I macerate, and am wanting to keep the fragile scutes on the plastron as well as the scutes on the carapace and the beak sheaths. They seem to macerate well but I have the same question I've previously had but never sought the answer: how to clean the non bone components. Beak sheaths and scutes, claws, goat and sheep horns, hooves, etc. When I've worked with goat and sheep I put them in with the degreasing bucket but they retain an odor. Suggestions?
  2. trapperrev

    trapperrev Member

    I should clarify a little: I'm looking for information about cleaning keratinous material that's connected with the bones.

    I soaked sheep horns for over a month in a degreasing bucket (water and Dawn).
    They seemed smoother before I soaked them, as if the heat or the detergent was loosening the fibers of the keratin. They also retained an odor. I also learned not to let them dry on their own or they won't slide back on the horns.

    I also saved a beaver skeleton and I remember how very fragile the claw sheaths were after soaking in the degreasing bucket.

    Having macerated the turtles, the shells are falling apart. I don't mind, I enjoy the puzzle of reassembling them.

    But - I'm new to cleaning up turtles.
    I would like to remove the algae from the scutes and I'm not sure how.
    I suspect that the bits of black on the claws are not natural but stuff that can/ should be scrubbed off.

    Sea Wolf suggested elsewhere to put the beak in a jar with water and alcohol - water for pliability and alcohol to prevent bacteria growth.

    Does keratinous material go in the degreasing bucket? If so, does it require more careful handling?
    If not, how does it get cleaned well? Maceration leaves an odor; I know some things don't need much degreasing but I've scrubbed the beak sheaths with Dawn and a toothbrush, squirted a little peroxide on then rinsed it off to try to sterilize it a bit but they still stink.

  3. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Once the keratin is dry, there shouldn't be much of, if any, odor. When macerating, remove the claws and beaks and store in alcohol/water as soon as they loosen and you can pull them off. Turtle shells should not be macerated as they will fall apart and the scutes come free, distort and are not easily replaced the right way. Horns and hooves take some time to dry. You can try packing with borax till they are dry and see if it helps. Keratin is not greasy and does not have to go through the degreasing process.
  4. trapperrev

    trapperrev Member

    Thanks for the reply!
    I have a friend that has kept turtle shells and says that the scutes always start peeling up after awhile. I assumed I'd be able to assemble them as part of the puzzle and glue them back on with Elmer's. Will Elmer's hold?
    What is suggested to seal peeling scutes normally, or prevent them from peeling?
    Is there a way to remove algae?
    Is the water/alcohol a 50/50 mix?
    Can I put the scutes in the water/alcohol as well to keep them from distorting?
    I don't have access to beetles. Are they the sole desired way to clean turtle shells? Wouldn't soaking in degreasing loosen the scutes as well?

    On a separate subject - I've thought of getting paraloid as a sealer. Usually I glue what's necessary together with Elmer's. I know that's *water* soluble. When putting an Elmer's glued skull in acetone with dissolved paraloid crystals, will the glue be affected?

    I've always been very impressed with the knowledge base here and your willingness to answer newbie questions. Thank you!
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Scutes will peel if the shell isn't sealed. Damp conditions don't help either. The scutes that you have soaked will most likely curl badly as they dry. You may want to press them flat at least as they dry. Elmers will work but everything needs to be dry and you will have to figure out how to lay the scutes back on before gluing. The edges interlock somewhat and they will only go back on properly one way. You may have to rig a way to clamp them on so they stay flat as the glue dries. Algae is removed by hard work and scrubbing with a good stiff bristled brush. Soap and water, ammonia and peroxide all work with scrubbing. Wear gloves. 50/50 will work for storing beaks and claws before remounting. Those can be set on their bony cores and the core will form the beak or claw to the right shape. Scutes are plates that lay flat or curved to the shape of the shell underneath. Pressing them flat to dry will be better as it will prevent them from curling up on you. They will no longer be curved properly to fit back on the shell but it will be easier to attempt to glue flat scutes than ones that have bowed completely out of shape.

    As for the paraloid B72, I use Elmer's to glue everything. I also use acetone to dissolve the paraloid crystals. When I quickly dunk a skull, any exposed Elmer's turns white. Not much of an issue for me as I glue things up so glue is not visible. The white eventually turns back to clear. Paraloid also dissolves in denatured alcohol which is a lot cheaper and less volatile. I have not tested how dried Elmer's reacts to a dunk in alcohol.
  6. trapperrev

    trapperrev Member

    Thank you again!
    I have a bad track record here of making things overly difficult for myself. I enjoy learning, though.