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Basic Fish Questions

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by Jean M, Apr 13, 2022.

  1. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    I've got couple of perch to work on and have only worked on mammals and one 8" perch back when I was a kid.

    I have done quite a bit of research, but lack of experience always leaves questions.

    I'll be carving the bodies before skinning, and I'm confident enough with that process.

    As far as skin preservation, I have read that some use about a cup of borax per gallon of water, along with a shot of Dawn, soaking for a half hour or longer.
    Then rinsing thoroughly before mounting.

    Since I have the materials on hand and it sounds simple enough, this was my plan.

    I have seen acrylic caulk thinned slightly with water used as a paste.
    I am not sure why that was chosen rather than regular hide paste.
    Is it because it fills voids with less shrinkage? I have Roman 555 .

    Any preferences?

    Then there are eyes.
    I am going to be placing a Mckenzie order this week, so deciding on eyes/size.
    I like the look of the Tyler Erickson perch eye.
    I imagine I would measure the size of the entire eye (not just iris) before ordering. Some models seem to be just yellow /orange. That just doesn't seem right.
    Any other suggestions on eye choice or sizing, are welcomed.

    Just trying to avoid ordering the wrong size and having more shipping delays.

    Also planning on ordering Silk span material as fin backing (seal fins first, then apply with Mod podge)

    Any input is appreciated.
  2. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    no need to thin acrylic caulk for paste, some pastes don't play well with borax. I use a borax, zinc sulphate, knoblock deodorizer combo for fish soak and can leave em in there for months but an overnight borax soak will work for small fish. Measure eye and then measure opening and order which size fits best.
    Clew and Jean M like this.

  3. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.
    Do you use the caulk, or would you just suggest that I experiment with what I've got and see how it reacts?
  4. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    You are welcome. I most often use the acrylic caulk because I can get it locally and it is fairly cheap. I use the clear Dap unless I carve my form out of a pink or blue foam then I may use the white, that way I don't have to paint the form white prior to mounting. They work good. I apply it out of the tube on the skin and sometimes on the form and spread it with a brush
    Jean M likes this.
  5. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    I've got the white Dap. Sounds like it will work!
    I carved the bodies from pink foam today. Bondo'd a plywood block in the back and made a couple of temporary stands. Will skin the fish tomorrow, test fit and place in the bath.
    Think I will put plastic wrap over body to test fit, rather than fight the foam texture.

    Thanks 3 bears
  6. Frank E. Kotula

    Frank E. Kotula master, judge, instructor

    The dap maybe a bit to thick to spread evenly. Clear acrylic caulk works great on fish. Used it for over 20 yrs but now I’m using a different fish glue that superior to any other paste but that’s my opinion as I said no issues with the acrylic.
    Just make sure your fin bones are cleaned well especially the tail area. If you have a bad spot where the fins go the use of epoxy or clay can fill that void. Use paper mache to fill the cheek areas and do your best removing that meat. Any meat left in the head will cause major shrinkage plus don’t overfill it. Once set I’ll place the eyes in then.
    Jean M likes this.
  7. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    I had planned on using critter clay for any voids. , I guess Apoxy clay or sculpt would work also for fin or tail junctions.
    I do have some mache but it is not a fast setting type.
    Are you using mache in the cheek because it is easier to get in, or some other reason?
    I would have assumed it would shrink more than the clay.
    I'll do my best to get everything as clean as possible.
    Heading out to begin,
    Thanks very much for your advice.

    I'll let you all know how things go...
  8. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    FYI, keep natural critter clay to a minimum as it will show through the light skin areas. Using any apoxies limits your time to smooth out or adjust. I like to go back once a day and smooth out fin junctures and such. I use mache in the cheeks as it sets pretty quick and helps to hold the head shape. I myself overstuff the cheeks and shape them to match references letting the excess come out the eye opening and the let them set up. I don't set eyes until I'm doing finish work, it allows me more control over position and rotation.
    Jean M likes this.
  9. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    I'll give the mache a try. Any clay will be white.
    I had planned on only setting the eyes after the fish was dry.
    I skinned and scraped the first one, about a 10" fish. Hard to tell where to stop, so there's not much left inside the head. I'll need clay to hold its shape.

    Thanks again.
  10. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    Yep, on panfish I just about only leave the inner mouth, if I'm doing open mouth, if not glue lips together.
  11. Clew

    Clew Help a child, Build our future

    York, SC
    As 3 bears said about borax zinc sulphate I add a strong degreaser and couple of large cap fulls of listerine mouth wash
    Crappie bream and bass
    All my salmon trout Ect i use borax and phenol
    But you need special PPE when using this
    Very dangerous if not used correctly
    But will pull the grease out anything
    Works great on striper and salmon
    Can reuse many times
    Jean M likes this.
  12. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the responses.
    I'll make some notes for future attempts. Is zinc sulfate readily available? Shipping is a problem with many chemicals it seems.

    This has been a snowed-in week project.

    Highways have all been shut down here for 2 days. Extra long Easter weekend.
  13. Richs Taxidermy

    Richs Taxidermy Well-Known Member

    For your eyes just look in the McKenzie catalog for the length of your fish it will tell you recommended eye size.
  14. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    Here is where I'm at now.
    Thanks to everyone that replied and so much archived info here. It is really helpful.

    I used the white Dap acrylic caulk that I had a home. It was too thick to spread easily on the skin, so I had to thin it down a bit with water.

    I ended up only using clay to seat the heads, the mache is much easier to use to spread into voids and smooth out.
    The down side is that it is a grey colour that really shows through the skin. That's what paint is for...

    I do not have the fine plastic mesh, so I used a combination of milk jug plastic and cereal box cardboard. Actually used some sections of pop bottle for the pectoral fins. The bottle had a nice tapered, concave shape to add a compound curve to the fin.
    I'll see how it turns out. Can't be any worse than flat I guess.
    It would be nice to have longer pins for setting the fins. But luckily these are not large fish.

    I will order some eyes and silkspan to complete.
    I measured the eyes before skinning, the confusion was more about how each brand measures their eye - iris or over-all diameter.
    I'll figure it out.
    If I order 3 sizes I'll be covered.
    Too bad the dorsal fin on the larger fish was messed up. Looks like old injury healed over.
    I figured that mounting both in the same position would help with learning by repetition. The clamps are securing the tail to stiff wire attached to the wood stand, helping to hold them in position.

    I imagine I should seal the entire fish before painting. Something like a matte lacquer?
    I paint with acrylics, hand painting and airbrush combination.
    Clew and msestak like this.
  15. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    After a bit of a wait , I got the eyes and silk span material.

    These are the Tyler Erickson eyes. They're nice, though pupils were not in the same position on each eye. Luckily these 2 fish are wall mounts!

    I previously sealed the dried fish with a couple of good coats of matte Lacquer spray.
    I rebuilt the head with Magic Smooth in all of the smooth skin areas, then used apoxie clay to add to the shrunken cheek, since I could add scale detail.

    I expected that the silkspan would soften and conform better to the fin rays, but it seemed to want to bridge over them and want to leave air bubbles.
    I tried ModPodge, but it was to thin for my liking.
    I ended up using Elmer's glue brushed on the fin, then I brushed/soaked the silkspan with glue and then used a brush to lay it on the fin back. One dried, I coated fins, front and back with 2 good coats of matte ModPodge.

    Once the epoxy cures, I'll hit the whole fish with another coat of sealer before paint.

    After about 20hrs, the magic smooth is rock hard, but still feels tacky. I gave it a light sanding, but after handling, it feels sticky again. I mixed a small amount, so maybe it wasn't exactly 50-50.
    msestak likes this.
  16. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    I don't know exactly how accurate you want to be but that fish is not ready for paint. There is a bunch more rebuilding of shrinkage in front of the eye all the way to lips.
  17. Jean M

    Jean M Well-Known Member

    Thanks for looking in!

    Do you mean the red areas or green?

    The red area is already rebuilt with the magic smooth.
    I actually drilled the "nostril" holes in , as there is about a ¹/32 or more of epoxy there. Green areas are not rebuilt. I worry about losing all of the detail if I fill in the lip area at this point. That lip edge does separate when mounth is open doesn't it?
    The lower jaw is somewhat rebuilt also, probably not quite enough.

    I'll go back and look at it before it's too late.
  18. Clew

    Clew Help a child, Build our future

    York, SC
    Also look at shrinkage in front of fin butts
    3bears likes this.
  19. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    Not the green area, but the red yes and the upper and lower mandible and but mainly the lip. Don't fill the area between mandible and lip but rather rebuild them leaving the indent between. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine when the rest of a fish looks good but they don't rebuild any shrinkage on a head or only part of it. Look at what Clew mentioned as well.
    Clew likes this.
  20. Clew

    Clew Help a child, Build our future

    York, SC
    The reason I use mod podge (even thin a little with water
    I like building up the layers on my fin with very thin coats
    I can’t stand thick fins but that’s me