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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:05 am 
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Location: Waukesha, WI
Alright guys I have a question regarding the cleaning of brain matter, fat tissue and whatever else could be stuck to the skull cap/antlers of a deer when they are removed from the rest of the head. This year I was fortunate to shoot 2 small bucks, my first buck/deer ever and with my bow, and then my second buck ever and first buck with my gun. I am planning on mounting both of them on those plaques a person can buy from fleet farm or gander etc etc....

My main concern is what is the best method to clean up the skull cap so that nothing on it is left rotting when it is wrapped with felt and fastened to the plaque. I was wondering if anyone had any tips or tricks???? I heard of boiling but I heard its disgusting has to be done outside. I left them sit outside but the critters didnt seem to want to have to much to do with the brain matter either, now things are starting to thaw and they are in the garage waiting to be dealt with!!!! :shock:

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 6:22 am 
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Are they whole skulls or skull caps? If they are sawed off the skull, the piece of brain should fall out when you tap it on the ground. Then you can cover it in 20mule borax, and your done.

If it's a whole skull, there's more work to be done.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:22 am 
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I agree 100% with Buckblood except that I reapply the borax one more time a week or two later, just in case.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:47 am 
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Location: Waukesha, WI
it is just the skull cap...the borax will really eat away all the little bits of flesh and stuff in there or should i clean it up really good before applying borax? also what would be the best place to get borax in the Waukesha/milwaukee area? would gander carry that or is it something i would need to seek in a specialy store???

Thanks guys!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:13 am 
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Location: Central Texas
20 mule borax should be able to be gotten in your laundry section at any store, I believe.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:03 pm 
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Any grociery store will have borax.........I would get as much tissue off the cap as possible and then cover in borax. The borax will dry out any remaining fat or tissue.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:48 pm 
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I know a lot of people use borax but I don't. I like to get all meat, membrane, fat, cartilage, etc. off the skull plate for all antler mounts and shoulder mounts. I don't want anything on there that could attract bugs. Some will argue that the skull plate gets encased in Bondo or mache or whatever but not every taxidermist mounts antlers that way.

Like the others said, when you cut off the skull plate the top of the brain should fall out or you will need to pop it out with your knife. There will still be membrane on the bottom of the skull plate lining the brain cavity.

I have a hot plate and I simmer the skull plates in a pot of water with some dish soap to break up the fat. I probably simmer it for about an hour checking on it periodically and then using a knife I scrape off the meat from the tops and sides. The membrane from the brain cavity will have shrunken up and you can pull it off but might still require a little scraping. I keep simmering and scraping for a while until I get all the stuff off.

At the back of the skull there will be a bunch of cartilage that is all but impossible to get off with a knife. For that I use a bone saw and cut off the back 1/4" of the skull plate to get rid of that stuff.

Sometimes the color on the antler bases will lighten from the simmering and you will also get a film of fat around the burrs. I use a brush and warm soapy water to get the fat ring off. When dry I will restore the color around the burrs with oil paints (usually burnt umber and sometimes mixed with a little black or other browns or reds depending on the original antler color) mixed with thinner or liquin. Matching the color can take a while at first but if do enough of it you can get a good match and be done in a couple of minutes.

If there's bark on the burrs the simmering will cause some of the bark to lift off. When done you can glue it back on or seomtimes I will wrap the burrs in aluminum foil and Saran wrap while simmering. That seems to help keep it in place.

If you don't want to simmer and you get the skull plate cleaned fairly well right after cutting it off the deer, you can let it dry and come back in a few weeks or in a few months with a dremel and grind off the stuff but you will probably end up covered in membrane/bone dust.

For me simmering and scraping seems to work best but there are other methods to achieve the same goal.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:03 am 
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met a guy at the lansing show, he had a business of cleaning skulls. He uses a pressure washer to start with. Man that sounds messy. Maybe take it to the quarter car wash.

I dropped my bear skull near my dock this summer, thougtht the little fishies would clean up that stinky mess. Damn snapper took the whole damn thing while I was out for a boat ride. So dont drop it near a dock

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:34 pm 
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Mountain Man wrote:
I know a lot of people use borax but I don't. I like to get all meat, membrane, fat, cartilage, etc. off the skull plate for all antler mounts and shoulder mounts. I don't want anything on there that could attract bugs. Some will argue that the skull plate gets encased in Bondo or mache or whatever but not every taxidermist mounts antlers that way.

Like the others said, when you cut off the skull plate the top of the brain should fall out or you will need to pop it out with your knife. There will still be membrane on the bottom of the skull plate lining the brain cavity.

I have a hot plate and I simmer the skull plates in a pot of water with some dish soap to break up the fat. I probably simmer it for about an hour checking on it periodically and then using a knife I scrape off the meat from the tops and sides. The membrane from the brain cavity will have shrunken up and you can pull it off but might still require a little scraping. I keep simmering and scraping for a while until I get all the stuff off.

At the back of the skull there will be a bunch of cartilage that is all but impossible to get off with a knife. For that I use a bone saw and cut off the back 1/4" of the skull plate to get rid of that stuff.

Sometimes the color on the antler bases will lighten from the simmering and you will also get a film of fat around the burrs. I use a brush and warm soapy water to get the fat ring off. When dry I will restore the color around the burrs with oil paints (usually burnt umber and sometimes mixed with a little black or other browns or reds depending on the original antler color) mixed with thinner or liquin. Matching the color can take a while at first but if do enough of it you can get a good match and be done in a couple of minutes.

If there's bark on the burrs the simmering will cause some of the bark to lift off. When done you can glue it back on or seomtimes I will wrap the burrs in aluminum foil and Saran wrap while simmering. That seems to help keep it in place.

If you don't want to simmer and you get the skull plate cleaned fairly well right after cutting it off the deer, you can let it dry and come back in a few weeks or in a few months with a dremel and grind off the stuff but you will probably end up covered in membrane/bone dust.

For me simmering and scraping seems to work best but there are other methods to achieve the same goal.



That's a lot of work to go through for a skull plate.

Why are the antlers changing color? Simmering shouldn't do that unless there's clorox or peroxide in the soap. I really don't care for re staining antlers, no one can do it as good as the buck did it.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 4:14 pm 
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[/quote]That's a lot of work to go through for a skull plate.

Why are the antlers changing color? Simmering shouldn't do that unless there's clorox or peroxide in the soap. I really don't care for re staining antlers, no one can do it as good as the buck did it.[/quote]

It's not that bad after you've done a few and I'm doing other stuff while i'm waiting for the meat and membrane to soften up. If I had beetles I would use those. Like I said above there are others methods for doing it. What I do works for me given my set up. Bugs are probably a mount's worst enemy and the way I do skull caps gives me confidence that bugs won't or shouldn't ever be a problem.

The valleys between the high points on the burrs are stained with blood from the velvet and from tree bark from rubbing. That stuff will leach if you just throw the antlers in a bucket of water. Simmering doesn't bleach them white it just lightens the color a bit.

As for recoloring the antlers I'm not really painting them. I use "washes" to recolor. Coloring or re-coloring antlers is an art in itself. It can be done very convincingly where I'm willing to bet most people couldn't tell the difference.

I was just giving info on what I do. If you don't like my methods that's fine. Do whatever you think works and gives acceptable results.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:32 pm 
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20 mule borax is what I use. Although I also use my coleman stove and a old kettle specifically for this purpose outside. The smell isnt too bad especially if you use borax first. If nothing else, let it dry and go to the nearest hobby store and purchase sharp / razor bladed tools to pick away at it, once it is dry. When I shot a nice 8 pointer and gave it to my taxidermist, he put it among meal worms or larvel stage of beatles of some sort. He did say they were expensive, maybe you can purchase a handfull from a known taxidermist and let your skull sit with them? I still like the borax and boiling methods...

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:13 am 
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I'm in Mountain Man's corner on this one...borax is not enough in my opinion if you want to eliminate the risk of ever having insect infestation. I simmer mine in water on a hot plate too. I use sal-soda in the water and that helps dissolve the meats and cartilage faster. I'm careful not to submerge the bases where color-loss becomes an issue, but yes, staining/washes is the way to bring this back if necessary. This process only smells if the skull meat is rotten to begin with. otherwise it's really not much different than boiling a roast with a leg bone in the kitchen. When done, I use a stiff nylon brush about the size of a toothbrush and brush off the hanging crud....it really only takes about 10 minutes extra and is well worth it for quality taxidermy. If you're doing several at once the time per set is even less. I think the extra time spent cleaning a skull of as much meat as possible and only boraxing it is about a wash with rough-fleshing a set of antlers and simmering them clean...and the latter is the better way in my opinion.

If freshly cut off, a pressure washer works GREAT. I'd still recommend covering the bases if you want to save any bark on the bases.


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