Taxidermy supplies and tips > Learning taxidermy

Learning taxidermy

On this page we will go through the different steps of the prepation of mounting an animal.

Create your stuffing rods

Make your own stuffing rods, out of any size iron wire, by hammering flat one end of a suitable length, filing teeth into the flat face thus made, and then bending a loop handle on the other end. This type of rod is easily curved or straightened to suit every need.

Taxidermy tools needed

Those not wishing to buy at once the complete outfit will find that they can do good small work to start on with the aid of a pocket-knife, a pair of scissors, a pair of Bernard combination wire cutter and pliers, needles and thread, cord, a pair of tweezers, a hammer and saw, and small drill set.
Suitable materials follow the tools in order.

Solution for preservation

This is needed for the preservation of all specimens against moths. This is most effective when used in solution, which is made as follows:

First dampen the preservation powder with alcohol to saturate it quickly, when water is added.
Place the powder in a large metal pail and to one-half pound of the powder add two gallons of water.
Boil hard and steady over a good fire until the powder is completely dissolved.
Place the solution thus made in an earthenware jar with closed cover, plainly marked " Poison," and keep out of reach of
Allow solution to cool before applying to skins. Do not use the pail that the solution was made in for anything else.

When using this grease your hands with a little tallow, rubbing well under and around finger-nails and wiping the hands partially dry so that none of the grease will soil fur or feathers. This precaution will keep it from entering your skin.
Wash the hands with soap powder and a nail brush after work.
Apply solution with a brush, or a cotton-and-wire swab, to all inner surfaces of specimen skins.

Carbolic acid

Carbolic acid (best to procure U. S. P. pure crystals if possible) is needed for use in dilute form for relaxing dried skins. This prevents decay and does not injure the specimen skin.
A few drops of the dissolved crystal to a quart of water is sufficient. Keep carefully labeled and in a safe place.

Taxidermy materials needed

Following is a list of the materials needed for general light work:

A quantity of fine excelsior, fine tow and cotton batting, a quantity of various sizes of galvanized soft steel wire, an assortment of colored, enameled artificial eyes (procure -a
taxidermist's supply-house catalog and from this order your speical tools and sizes and colors of eyes needed), a jar of liquid cement, dry glue (for melting up for papier-mache), dry paper pulp, plaster of paris, Venetian turpentine, boiled linseed oil, boracic acid, some refined beeswax, a little balsam-fir, white varnish, turpentine, alcohol, benzine and a student's palette of tube oil colors (such as vermilion, rose madder, burnt sienna, yellow
ochre, cadmium yellow middle, zinc white, cobalt blue, French ultramarine Blue, and Viridian).

Plastic compositions of papier-mache are essential, especially in mammal and game-head work, for properly finishing the details of ears, face, and feet of specimens after the body has been filled. These are applied partly as a last detail before mounting and partly after the figure is set up.

Compo. No. 1 is practical for all-around use in taxidermy. Take one-third hot melted glue and two-thirds flour paste (thick and thoroughly cooked).

To furnish a body to this mass, stir in dry white lead until middling thick. Beat the whole well together.

When carried so far this compo, is a powerful adhesive medium and may be employed to stick tanned deer scalps to mannikins, and ear
skin of same to the lead cartilages.

Compo. No. II is No. I with fine plaster of paris added until of the consistency of modeling clay or a trifle stiffer. This makes it ready for filling ear butts, eye sockets, noses, and feet for modeling into permanent shape. Sets by drying.

Compo. No, III is for monkey faces, vulture heads, lizards, turtles, etc. This composition dries very slowly and must be touched up
now and then while drying, to preserve the details without warping. When dry it is like stone and holds the skin firmly. Take gray
paper-pulp, hot melted glue (quantity according to amount of compo. needed), a little boracic acid (to prevent decay of glue), boiled linseed oil (fifty per cent. less than glue), a little powder (to prevent dermestes from eating into work), and to this mass add whiting until desired stiffness for modeling under skin
is obtained. Beat and rub to an even smoothness and stop adding whiting at point where compo. is thick but still very sticky. Rub some of the compo. into inner surface of skin to be
finished with it or skin will not take hold of
mannikin or compo, to stay.

After modeling is finished under the skin apply linseed oil on outside and repeat this application several times during the period of drying.
Watch and remodel details if any distortion attends the drying process. Fine fleshy wrinkles and skin details can be
worked out with this compo. It will hold a thin raw skin where it is put, but is not practical under fur or feathers.

Surface the bases made of this compo. by pressing sand, gravel or forest mold into the face and when dry shake off the loose material. Touch up with tube colors, as desired, and when this is dry apply a very thin varnish and turpentine finish to bring out a natural damp look.

A foreword as to care of mountable specimens in the field may save a great amount of cleaning of mussed skins in the shop.

All shot or bullet holes should be immediately plugged with cotton when specimens are taken. Take a little cotton along in your hunt-
ing coat for this purpose. In birds plug also the mouth, nostrils, and vent to prevent escape of juices into plumage.

A small sharpened twig will serve to place the plugs. Slip the bird head first into a paper cone for carrying. Mussed or blood-stained specimens should not necessarily be discarded. Look them over first. Many such specimens may be cleaned very easily and come out in the finish as nearly perfect as others that appeared much better at
the start.