Taxidermy supplies and tips > Taxidermy panels and shields

Taxidermy panels and shields

The preparation of a suitable setting for almost any mounted specimen will add greatly to its attractiveness. If you know where it is to be placed it is not difficult to make it suit its surrounding.

For instance, a head of big game for hanging in a dining or ball room is suitably mounted on a polished and carved hardwood shield. While this would hardly match its surroundings on the wall of a log camp, a rustic panel of natural wood with the bark on would perfectly suit the latter place.

Heads, horns, and antlers are usually mounted on what are called shields. Fish and trophys of dead game birds and small game on panels. Single specimens are placed on severely plain wooden bases
(museum style) or on those simulating branches, rocks, stumps or earth. These are artificial, but those built up in part at least with natural objects are most pleasing.

As we can not produce the best patterns of shields without special machines we must patronize either the supply dealers or the wood working mill for such. If convenient to a mill equipped with jigsaw and moulder they can be made up after your own patterns. Some of the sizes most used are approximately as follows for mounted heads:

For moose, elk, caribou: 20x30 inches.
For deer, goat or sheep: 12x18 or 16x21 inches.
For fox or lynx: 8x10 inches.
For bear or wolf: 12x15 inches.
For birds, small furbearers and fish: 6x8 inches.
Oval panels for mounting fish: 9x22, 15x40 inches.
For dead game: 10x15, 14x24, 17x25 inches.

For mounting horns of elk and moose the size for deer heads will answer nicely, while deer antlers are suitable with a shield of the fox head size.

In order to draw a symmetrical pattern for the woodworker, take a piece of stiff paper of the right length and width, fold it down the middle, draw one half to suit and cut out with shears. The style of moulding called Ogee is to be preferred. A simple diamond, heart, or oval shape can be made at home with beveled or rounded edges, or if your tools include a turning saw (which is most useful for a variety of purposes) you may try a more pretentious shield. To achieve this, make your pattern as just described and after marking it on a piece of wood from 3/8 to 7/8 inch thick cut out with the turning saw. It should be held in the vice for this operation. Place this cut out shield (I) on a piece of board of similar thickness but somewhat
larger and with a pair of compasses mark out another 1/2 in. or so larger all around. (2) Also mark the same distance inside the edge.

With a wood worker's gauge or something similar make a mark around then both near the lower sides. Now with draw shave and rasp work the edges off both Nos. 1 and 2. No. 1 on a bevel, No. 2 rounded.
There should be a number of holes drilled and countersunk in No. 2, from the back, and when the two parts of the shield are properly adjusted they should be drawn closely together with screws too short to penetrate the face of the shield.

If the adjustment is perfect the screws are to be drawn and the surfaces which come in contact coated well with glue, then drawn closely together and laid aside until thoroughly dry, when it should
be well sand papered before varnishing.

All shields and panels should be carefully sandpapered, filled and varnished, and polished if you wish. Don't make the shield or panel so ornate that the specimen will seem but an incidental, thrown in for good measure, so to speak.

Rustic panels can be made by sawing the end from a log on a slant, and planing smooth the oval. If this is heavily varnished on the front and back and the bark left on it is a very suitable mount for
small heads, fish and birds. Artificial branches and trees for mounting birds should be avoided if possible; they are made by wrapping tow around wires, coating with glue and covering with moss or papier mache and painting. The result I consider unnatural and inartistic. I would advise to use natural branches as far as
possible; sufficient labor will be required to make
necessary joining and changes look as near like nature as you can.

Rock work is usually made of a wooden frame-work covered with cloth, wire or paper and finished with a coating of glue and crushed stone or sand. One of the most useful materials in this work is the rough cork bark so much used by florists. It is light, comes in desirable shapes, can be nailed, sawed or coated with glue or paint.

For constructing stumps for mounted birds of prey and rustic stands for small and medium fur animals it has no equal. Some taxidermists produce rock work of an obscure geological period by covering screen wire forms with a mixture of flour, baking powder and plaster of paris and water. This is put in an oven and baked hard, the weird result being painted to the artist's taste.

Water worn roots such as are found along the shore, twisted laurel branches, limbs of gum, oak and sassafras, all work up well in this and should be stored up to dry against a day of need. Out door
people have a good eye for such things, but they are hard to find when you look for them, so gather them on your rambles. Papier mache is also a good modeling material for stumps, limbs and rock, being
light, and readily taking coats of glue or paint. The expert can copy nature closely with it. Some leaves and grasses can be pressed, dried and colored their natural shades with oil paints.

The dealers supply a great variety of artificial foliage, some of which may be used to advantage, in case work especially. Dried mosses and lichens of various sorts may be used in this. Some of these powdered and glued on papier mache or cork bark stumps and limbs produce a very pleasing effect.

Snow scenes are frequently attempted but are not always a success. The peculiar fluffy and glittering appearance is rather difficult to reproduce. Torn or ground up white blok,ting paper mixed with a little ground mica has been used for this purpose.

Glass icicles are quite natural in appearance, but the simulation of water is difficult and often disappointing.

It is often desirable to mount small specimens, of birds especially, in cases of some kind which will protect them from dust, dirt and rough handling and at the same time display them to advantage.

The oldest and at the same time the least suitable contrivance for this is the well known bell glass or globe. It is difficult to find a safe place for this in the average house and it is not at all adapted to many specimens.

A plain wall case with glass front and a painted or decorated background will give the necessary protection with the least expense. For small bird groups, and singles and pairs of game birds, the oval convex glasses probably present the finest appearance. The backgrounds for these may be either plush or wood panels or hand painted, and any style, of picture framing may be used. These are made in several sizes.
There is, on the market a papier mache background also, adapted to any picture frame. This has the flat face glass of the old style wall case, but with the square corners, and much of the weight eliminated. Any of these styles, of wall cases may be placed on
shelves as well as hung on the wall like pictures, at once preventing breakage and becoming valuable decorations.

Special cases are often built (as, in museums) for large and valuable mounted specimens. Of these the top and at least three sides should be of glass. The preparing and placing of the accessories in some large museum, cases have required an unbelievable amount of time and expense to attain the desired natural appearance of the mounting.