Preserve Your Own Animal Skull

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Introduction: Preserve Your Own Animal Skull

About: I enjoy most forms of art. I am learning how to woodwork. I enjoy gardening and growing anything. I love fishing but don't get to very often. I am very interested in philosophy and I consider myself a modern d…

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.

Step 1: 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

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.

Step 4: Dismembering

My specimen has a body. So, I'm going to have to decapitate it. An axe or any straight edge will do. REMEMBER: The thicker the spine, the harder the chop. Break away from the point of intersection. Leave some vertebrae so you have something to work with. After separating the head from the body, return the unused parts to the earth. Find a bush or some other natural area and leave it there.

Step 5: Pre-Surgery

After dismembering, I decided to leave the head under a tree. A specimen that is too fresh is difficult to dissect and contains marrow which will end up rotting. If you have dermestid beetles, you can be in control of this part of the process. Otherwise, you'll have to wait. Also, a dryer specimen means you reduce the risk of damaging or breaking bones during dissection. When bones are fresh and marrow-filled, they are very rubbery and can break easily. If your specimen is dried correctly, the bones should be dry but strong.

Step 6: The Stripping

After your skull has been dried, make careful incisions along the top of the skull. Start from the nose and slowly slice back to the end of the skull. Split the lower mandible down the middle. After slicing, the flesh should provide you with vulnerable areas. Take your time and stay focused. This procedure can be long but it's well worth the effort.

Step 7: Cleaning

Take all your bones and put them in your container. If there is still grease on them, fill the container with water and dish washing soap and let the bones sit. Agitate lightly. After the soap, run each bone under water. Your skull may still exhibit a dirty or yellowed appearance.

If your skull contains unreachable tissue, just let your bones sit in indirect sunlight. This should dry them and the insects and bacteria will do the dirty work.

Step 8: Whitening

By now, your bones should be dry and yellow. Take your container and fill it with hydrogen peroxide. A small amount of dishwasher soap doesn't hurt. Use just enough to cover the bones. They can stay in the peroxide without running the risk of damaging. You can also use a teaspoon of bleach and then dilute your mixture with water.

Step 9: Some Assembly Required

The first piece to be completed might be the lower mandible. Behind each tooth, put a dab of crazy glue. Don't use too much. Crazy glue whitens very conspicuously. Secure the teeth in place and glue both halves together.

Step 10: Preparing the Skull

After your skull has sat in peroxide for a bit, it should be white and mostly tissue-free. Remove it from the jar very gently and place it on a paper towel. Let it dry for an evening. Once it has dried, use crazy glue to secure any loose pieces. Be diligent. You don't want your skull falling apart.

Step 11: Putting It Together

After reinforcing your pieces, you can place the mandibles and skull on top of each other. If you want to fix your skull in a position, use crazy glue. However, make sure that everything is properly aligned before applying the glue. There's nothing worse than a crooked skull. If you've done everything correctly, you should have a beautiful discussion piece.

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    85 Comments

    0
    mrsb0310
    mrsb0310

    Question 2 months ago on Step 9

    Hi! I'm living your article!! I've tried and failed in the past with bird skulls! Today I found in the garden the skull of my little cat who died around a year ago, I have the most perfect and special little skull! Only thing I need to do is whiten her, would the household bleach and water damage her or am I best keeper her as she is? I'd LOVE to keep her as intact as possible, thanks so much!

    16163401474324106287637860721920.jpg
    0
    mrsb0310
    mrsb0310

    Answer 2 months ago

    LOVING NOT LIVING!!

    0
    Oldbear
    Oldbear

    5 years ago

    We have cow/bull skulls in our front flower beds. We have antlers hanging in the backyard. Our neighbour has bull skulls in their front yard. Our friends flower beds are filled with antler sheds. None of us are "death" people.

    Keep up with the saving of skulls. I'm a huge fan of the European style mounts - even indoors. Next for me is building copies of the skulls from metal.

    0
    ellisbrenton
    ellisbrenton

    Reply 3 months ago

    Did you make the metal copies? I want to alluminium casting - how did you do it?

    0
    Oldbear
    Oldbear

    Reply 3 months ago

    I would just use the real example as a guide to making a metal one. Lots of heating and shaping with the anvil and torch (until I get my forge done). I haven't tried casting anything since highschool in the late 80s - and that was casting chess pieces and D&D miniatures. I'm sure it can be done but it's not in my wheelhouse at this time.

    0
    ellisbrenton
    ellisbrenton

    Reply 3 months ago

    I have an anvil and forge, but I think that would be beyond my skill level - hence the idea of casting. I tried to use it as an excuse to buy a 3D printer (use printed out copies, so I don't damage the bone) - but my Mr's was onto me straight away. Because of this, I thought if I make a plaster cast mold first, then possibly split it down the middle, I still might be able to get all the intricate details/ suture lines etc. Anyway, see how it goes - I have 2 road kill fox's down the back slowly decomposing ... word of warning - NEVER PICK THEM UP AND PUT THEM IN THE CAR WITH WIFE - even after you have removed it - the stink stays in there for a very long time ... wont make that mistake again - even double bagging!

    0
    Tooraj
    Tooraj

    6 years ago on Introduction

    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).

    0
    Alliefaye
    Alliefaye

    Reply 5 months ago

    Sodium Bicarbonate is baking soda. Sal soda may have other ingredients too but baking soda has so many uses 🙂. My Chemistry teacher would be proud 😁😁😁

    0
    theeJuicebox
    theeJuicebox

    4 years ago

    what if you found your specimen in an already cleaned and dried state (except maybe a little meat around one eye socket) but its thin and brittle? is there a way to strengthen and/or thicken it up a bit?

    0
    Alliefaye
    Alliefaye

    Reply 5 months ago

    I am curious about making the bones stronger too. My son Killed his first deer and we tried the oxy-clean boil method and the skull is so brittle now that pieces literally fall off. Has anyone let you know how to make the bones stronger? I would like to do his before it completely falls apart.

    0
    Sovereignty
    Sovereignty

    1 year ago

    I scrolled past the 'possum pic and immediately see an image of some gourmet cuisine presented by Blue Apron. That is some terrible ad placement and now makes me question what Blue Apron's definition of responsibly-sourced is.

    0
    Sovereignty
    Sovereignty

    Reply 1 year ago

    Oh... great 'ible!

    0
    crisflitz
    crisflitz

    2 years ago

    I have a dead bird in good condition. How do I start? ie what is the best way to remove its feathers?

    0
    VišnjaS2
    VišnjaS2

    Question 2 years ago on Introduction

    Hello! Thanks for the detailed instructions. About 4-5 years ago I had found a dead stray cat in my garden and buried it in the forest nearby. I just had the crazy idea of digging up the cat and putting the skeleton back together for display in my home :D
    Does anyone know if that would even be possible after all these years the corpse has spent in relatively humid soil? I'm not sure what state I should expect the bones to be in..
    Thanks a lot!

    0
    ToniI7
    ToniI7

    Question 3 years ago on Step 5

    Hey there - thanks for the post. Just wanted to ask, I've found a dead, pretty frozen skunk. I am getting ready to remove its head, but do you recommend I then bury it? Its dead of winter, so I'm not sure leaving it under a tree will dry it out as you have... I've read elsewhere I should possibly bury it for a couple months - but I was hoping to do this a little sooner than a couple months! Don't think it is older than 2 days at most. Than for the process below - step 6, what do you mean by vulnerable areas? You mean around the eyes, etc?

    Thanks!!!!

    1
    rodgerbooth
    rodgerbooth

    6 years ago on Introduction

    how would you do this on a much bigger scale i wonder

    bone chopper.jpg
    0
    TeresaM7
    TeresaM7

    Reply 4 years ago

    OMG! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    0
    Moodle2
    Moodle2

    Reply 5 years ago

    is that a bike made of animal bones?

    1
    rodgerbooth
    rodgerbooth

    Reply 4 years ago

    Yes sorry I just noticed the question

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    0
    TeresaM7
    TeresaM7

    5 years ago

    Another option - put your specimen in some kind of accessible container - think wire pet cage or the like - and stake it out over an ant nest. The bigger the nest, the better. You want to secure your specimen so other, bigger animals don't drag it off for their own dinner. Tie it to a tree if one is available or drive a tent stake or two into the ground. Wait. The ants will clean the bones quite nicely for you. :)