Instructables
Picture of Preserve Your Own Animal Skull
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To all the people who have an interest in the dead who have ever been improperly lumped in with Dahmer, this ones for you. Please know that I love nature and science and my association with death is not disturbing or morbid. If you are not comfortable with death, decide now or don't proceed. Always practice proper hygiene when working with the dead.

If you are genuinely interested in skulls but need some basic knowledge, I recommend buying this book. A Key- Guide To Mammal Skulls and Lower Jaws is an excellent book that will inform you about skulls and identifying them.
 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
You'll need:

A jar (or other receptacle that is relative to the size of your skull)
Forceps
A good razor blade
Scissors
Gloves (or in my case, plastic bags)
Your specimen (duh!)
Bleach
Face mask (optional but useful)
Crazy glue (if you plan on fixing your skull in a position)
Dish soap
Hydrogen peroxide

Step 2: Acquiring A Specimen

Picture of Acquiring A Specimen
You can find dead animals if you really look hard. PLEASE, DO NOT GO OUT AND KILL AN ANIMAL FOR THIS PROJECT. Road kill or naturally caused deaths work just as well. As long as the head is not damaged, any specimen will do. I first did this with a dead house rat I found. This time, I found a semi-fresh opossum. I think this is a much better specimen to work with.

Step 3: Preparing The Specimen

If your new found critter is recently deceased, you'll have to endure more. If you find a nice piece of dry not-so-beef beef jerky, that's even better. It'll be like tearing into an old piece of leather. If it isn't dry, you can do the procedure as is or let it sit in the bushes for a few weeks. Intense heat and insect feeding will dry your creature to perfection.
lbrewer421 month ago

Coat with Elmer's glue to display the skull outside.

pukes 1 month ago
done :)
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a.steidl1 month ago

Personally, I'm quite wary of using bleach for this work. Last time I did that (used an ox skull) and it pretty much dissolved the bone tissue. Not sure if that was the bleach's fault, but it was enough to convince me to use peroxide instead of bleach.

Bleach should NEVER be used on skulls! the bones are made up of microscopic holes & pockets, the bleach get trapped in them and continuing to eat away at the bone. when I have some bone that needs bleaching I fill a small jar with hydrogen peroxide and set it in a window sill & leave it for a few days and it gets white faster that way or a good ziplock bag freezer perferably.

Triclaw1 month ago

if you walk along a highway you will be supprised how many bones are there go place to collect but illeagle in the us

Illegal to pick up roadkill, or to walk the highways? I'm pretty sure nanny laws exist to protect us from ourselves, in the case of walking on a highway. Surely there's no law against picking up roadkill for non-food purposes.

walking the highways , you can pick up roadkill even for food as long as it is reported to the highway patrol(mainly deer)

What about using NaOH (sodium hydroxide- caustic soda) instead of steps 5 to 7?

I remember doing it with a chicken at school as a natural science homework.

The problem is, if NaOH is too concentrated, it'll eat not only the flesh but also the smaller bones!

Yes, that is exactly the problem. NaOH is unbuffered and is easy to hit too high of a pH, which will damage the bones. I've read boiling in a solution of Dawn dish detergent and sodium carbonate (Na2CO3, washing soda, Sal Soda), checking every 15 minutes, is commonly used. Sodium carbonate is basic enough to saponify fats, but not so aggressive that it'll attack bone tissue (in short time spans).

How about washing powder with enzymes designed to break down organics?

What about meat tenderiser (bromelain, papain)?

There must be a whole bunch of chemicals that can do the hard work without risking the bones.

Possibly, I haven't really done much taxidermy. It's certainly worth a shot to try it on samples one doesn't care too much about.

The problem is most of the 'hard work' is getting the little bits of biological matter that the boiling and treating don't readily get rid of. Some sort of mechanical removal is most expedient.

Ninzerbean1 month ago

I collect the sculls I find on my walks in the woods, but all the bleaching and tissue removal has already been done. I have lost some teeth though - from the sculls, not my own - so thank you not just for this ible but for the superglue tip.

I have use diluted bleach for some whitening on antelers and some stained sculls but I always do a diluted vinegar soak for a day or so afterwards to neutralize the bleach. If that is not ok will someone let me know.

BTW, in case anyone needs an idea, sculls and bones take fabric dye in an amazing way. The colors are readily absorbed and very saturated. I use a combo of beeswax and coconut oil afterwards and buff to a nice sheen.

I'd love to see some photos of your dyed skulls. They sound cool.

I'm on the road this summer but when I get back in the fall...
fixfireleo1 month ago

interesting. think how much better off the world would be if we all try this out on a few politicians!

The only problem with doing the politicians is that most of them don't have a back bone.

very true. and i bet their skulls are really soft being so full of mush! :)

iakirov1 month ago

I use to collect skulls, I found they are terrific natural sculptures. Those that I've collected from a not-so-long-dead-body I used to strip them from skin and flesh by cutting these tissues the most I can next to the bone, then I sink the head into commercial chlorine (ca. 5%) and let it there under surveillance, watching for the remains to dissolve and for the bone not starting to dissolve, that's the moment I take it away, to take all the remaining pieces of cartilagues with pliers or tweezers depending on size and strengh. There is always the Dermestidae option too.

toxonix1 month ago

What do you do about all the disco rice??

cfuse1 month ago
semi-fresh opossum


There's a phrase I wasn't expecting to read on instructables.

rickets1 month ago

by the way my brother used to have a clean cat skull on his wall. it looked really cool.

rickets1 month ago

many(30+) years ago in the hills of arizona I came across a dead rattlesnake. after getting rid of the head I skinned it I rubbed the skin down with table salt to preserve it. the rest of the body I placed next to a large red ant hill. I went back a couple of days later to find only bones. the vertebrae made some interesting jewelry. I think my wife still has a pair of earrings from then.

blksabbath1 month ago

Awesome! I had a job doing pretty much the same thing for the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dermestid beetles are amazing fast at cleaning up a carcass. If you are doing a bunch of skeletons, I'd recommend getting a colony going.

Nice.

I have been using a similar method for years and it has worked great. One thing I have learned is that over time, bleach will break down the calcium in the bones. This makes them porous and brittle. Ammonia will work as a good disinfectant and whitening substitute.

stefstimpy1 month ago

very clear and informative. Thanks

carpenterant96 (author) 1 month ago
AUTHOR COMMENT:

This instructable was intended to be a simple tutorial that most people could do. It is a simple experiment. I will readjust the process if I find something better.

However, I don't want anyone to think that I'm rejecting their research. All the facts provided are a little more "hardcore". The comments are all very interesting and I thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Thank you, merci, gracias, and any other way to say thanks.

Tooraj1 month ago

Apparently taxidermy workers boil the bones in something called "sal soda". They use in taxidermy shop in order to clean skeletons for hunters. It is supposed to dissolve tissue and cartilage into a gel that can be rinsed off. Sal soda is sodium carbonate. But I don't have any more info on it. I suspect leaving washing soda in open air to dry lose water will result in the powdery white Sal soda (monohydrate).

afasimpaur1 month ago

I would advise bleaching bones with peroxide rather than bleach. The action of the peroxide is more gentle, whereas bleach can damage the cartilage that holds the sutures in a skull together so that you could end up with a dis-articulated skull.

afasimpaur1 month ago

Dawn dishwashing detergent with HOT water (not boiling) will degrease bones without damaging them. You really want to degrease the bones because if the fat in the bones goes rancid nothing will ever get rid of that smell.

I like how you don't want us to kill an animal for this project yet you use an axe to chop off a road kill opossums head

i do believe there is a difference between killing a live animal and decapitating the head off of a dead animal.

yes, there's a huge difference.
Triclaw1 month ago

may want to put it in wire cage I have had bones and bodies disappear or get nawed on

Anything small I wrap in window screen before I set it out to be stripped. Then I stake it by an ant hill if at all possible.

wmeyer21 month ago
I have a friend with a pet decaying deer head who will love this
NTT1 month ago
Very interesting! I'm going to try this with a British Badger I think.
Jan_Henrik1 month ago

okay, very interresting project! that is a project, that I have never seen before!

rlewis191 month ago
Although this type of project is not my thing, you've done a great informative job with this!