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Help Cleaning Skulls

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Vulpes Vulpes, Mar 8, 2021.

  1. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    I'm macerating various skulls and a fox skeleton at 84 F in Ziplock bags in a 5 gallon bucket and had a few questions.
    1) The bear skull is very yellow with grease after I changed the water at week 2. Still more meat needs to break down. How often should I change the water?
    2) Beaver teeth: The beaver head is in a little baggie. The water was red with blood when I refreshed it. Only the teeth were stained black. Is that because of the bag? Will peroxide get the teeth back to orange? SHould I use a bigger bag?
    3) Am I making degreasing harder by keeping the skulls in bags? I don't want to have to fish around for teeth and little bones

    Vultures came around the next day because they smelled the fleshy bits I poured off.
     
  2. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    Here is a Before maceration picture
     

    Attached Files:


  3. 13 point

    13 point Well-Known Member

    I believe your hindering it by having in bags , your keeping the bad bloods and stuff to close to the bone , the water should be able to encompass the skulls and yet wash the nasty away . You need the enzymes to help break the meat and fats down along with the heat , but leaving it in to long can have the opposite effect and stain the bone . Making whitening a lot harder , so every 3-4 days I change it out . JMO .
     
    hoytarcher likes this.
  4. I have never attempted to macerate in a plastic bag. If I am doing multiple smaller skulls, I use ladies hose. Put the first head in the toe and tie a knot behind it, then put in another and tie it off and so on.

    And I never change the water. I rarely change any water but if so no more than 1/2. Changing the water gets rid of the working bacteria and it has to start all over with new water.

    The black beaver teeth are not a problem per se as the peroxide will eliminate the black.
     
    Vulpes Vulpes likes this.
  5. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Macerating in zip locks isn't ideal. It sounds like you are trying to cram a bunch of things into one container. How well did you clean the bones of flesh before you put them in there?
    Did you remove the brain from the skulls? Getting the grease out is the next step. Don't worry about it right now. Water should be changed no more than once a week if things are working properly. You do not change all the water, only half or a little more. If you are dumping out all the water and refilling that is part of your problem.
    Use the advanced search on here and look for posts and tutorials on cleaning skulls by maceration and read them. Try searching for maceration tutorial or skull cleaning maceration . Most of your questions have already been answered on other posts.

    Maceration is how you clean the bones of flesh. Getting the grease out is a different step. If you are cleaning a fox skeleton, all the long bones should have been drilled through the ends and into the hollow of the bone before macerating to allow the bacteria to eat away the fatty marrow that is inside of them. The problem may be not that you are using plastic bags, but that you are stuffing too much into the bucket and overwhelming the bacteria. It will work but it is going to take longer than if you had less in there.
     
  6. AlpineValleyTaxidermy

    AlpineValleyTaxidermy Active Member

    226
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    I was cleaning squirrel teeth and had them sitting in dirty peroxide. They had gotten black coloring on them. I soaked them in clean peroxide and it got rid of most of the black.
     
  7. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    Update: after maceration, I soaked the skulls in 10% ammonia in ziplocks for about a week (see pic 2). The ziplocks help me keep the teeth sorted. I changed the ammonia out on the beaver after a few days because it was greasy looking and yellow. I let the skulls dry then soaked them in 12% peroxide for a about four hours. They are not quite done though. What are the white powdery spots (pic below)? How shall I remove them? 3D513429-0EC2-4FCE-8435-8663D573457B.jpeg
     

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  8. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    If you have looked at the tutorials I put up on how to do this, I addressed this. What you have is called "adipocere" or Grave Wax. It is a byproduct of maceration where fats are turned into an inert wax. You probably got more of this as you did skulls in bags instead of each skull in it's own, larger container. When I take skulls out of maceration, and before degreasing, I scrub them all over with detergent. This removes surface debris such as what you see there before I do the next steps. For small nooks and crannies I use old toothbrushes and even laboratory bottle and test tube brushes. All you need to do at this point is to take some soapy water, small brushes and scrub it off. If you scrape some off now and rub it between your fingers you will find how waxy it feels. I have experimented a few times to see is anything dissolves it but have found nothing yet. It is an inert wax and scrubs right off.
     
  9. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    Thanks Sea Wolf. I’ve looked up old posts many times but may have been led astray by posts by less competent bone men. I’ve learned a lot from you and others here. My next project will be even better.
     
  10. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Removing the wax is just simple manual labor. As for tiny teeth, if you look through one of my posts, I show that you can even recover the tiniest of inner ear bones from skulls you clean. I prefer to clean a single head to a bucket. There is plenty of room for a large colony of bacteria to work. Any loose teeth fall to the bottom and, if you are careful in flushing and rinsing using a hose, they will stay there as you clean up the contents. Eventually, all you have in the bucket is the rinsed skull and loose bits on the bottom. Take out the skull and drain the bucket down to the last inch or so of water. Pour that all out into a tray and also peer into the bucket and make sure everything is out. Small bits of sand might actually be bone. You will recover even the tiniest teeth and bone bits doing it this way. .. I once took a bear, cougar, wolf, lynx, coyote and a wolverine and macerated them all, loose, in the same container. More of a personal challenge for me in sorting teeth. I should have taken a photo of the pile of teeth I had. It took me less than a half hour to properly sort the teeth from each animal from a single pile. If you mix heads of single different animals together, you should still be able to sort out those teeth. I would not do, say, three or four coyotes in one container though. The teeth are too similar.
     
    Vulpes Vulpes likes this.
  11. sea wolf how do i get back to the posts about using ammonia ? new member Bud piserchia thanks
     
  12. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    The mandible always seems to separate after maceration. I glue it back together. Does this mean I'm macerating too long?
     

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  13. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Nope. It means the joint got nice and clean and all the tissue was eaten out of it. Also means it was a younger animal. A lot of mammals I work with all have the lower jaw come apart into the two halves. Occasionally, I will get a really mature animal where the jaw is solid bone across the front. It's really nice when I do. Just one bit of work I don't have to do. Just use Elmer's Glue in the joint and I wrap it tight with a rubber band until dry. .. The other thing I do, is to set all the teeth in both jaws with a drop of Elmer's all at the same time. A bit of glue in that front joint of the lower jaw and a small rubber band to hold it. Now, put the lower jaw in place and wrap the whole skull with another rubber band to hold everything tight. Before the glue dries, adjust the position of all the teeth so they meet properly. You should be able to tweak the alignment of the lower jaw halves so the hinge is correctly lined up and all the teeth are positioned properly with each other. Now let it dry. It eliminates gluing the top skull and lower jaw separately and then finding that something doesn't line up correctly and something is crooked. Another nice feature of the Elmer's is that it has some wiggle room for you to play with teeth before it sets up.
     
    Vulpes Vulpes likes this.
  14. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    At the top, there is the option for Search. Hover over that and at the bottom of the pop up window (it says More) you can get to the Advanced Search. Try searching just the "Skulls and Skeletons category for something like ammonia degreasing, ammonia skulls, ammonia cleaning, ammonia heat ... other combinations. Should bring up a number of posts.
     
  15. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    Attached Files:

  16. Vulpes Vulpes

    Vulpes Vulpes Active Member

    IMG_3358.jpg IMG_3356.jpg IMG_3357.jpg
     
    Elkarcher likes this.
  17. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Those all look good. The teeth on the beaver are not set quite right but sometimes, the long teeth warp a bit when dry and then don't want to go back into the socket correctly. If you do another one, try getting the teeth back in while the skull and teeth are wet.
     
    Vulpes Vulpes and Matt Simpson like this.