Introduction: Rat Skull - Cleaning, Preserving and Display

Imagine, you were lucky enough to find a dead animal's remains, all clean and nice. What's next? That's a great opportunity to learn something new and teach your kids! Pick it up, preserve it and make a beautiful conversation sparkler for your very own cabinet of curiosities.

Step 1: Find a Dead Animal

Go outdoors, maybe just a few steps away from your home. We found this awesome deceased rat in our neighbour's driveway. Make sure the bugs have already finished their job, and you get a perfectly cleaned skeleton. If they have not yet, give them some extra time, a week or two.

From now on, TAKE PHOTOS, as many as you can, document all sides of the skull. That would help you later to put the things together into one nice piece for display.

Besides the dead animal, you would need:

1. Photo camera.

2. Protection: gloves and mask.

3. A jar with a lid.

4. Acetone.

5. Hydrogen peroxide.

6. Water.

7. Tweezers.

8. Superglue.

Step 2: Pick It Up

You have no idea what caused the death of that poor animal, do you? Right, protect yourself, just in case, gloves and mask would help. Proceed with care, the bones are extremely fragile.

Make sure you've collected all three parts of the skull including both jaws.

Step 3: Degrease

To preserve the bones, you should clean out all fat remaining on them. Put the skull into a jar, pour acetone onto it to cover well all the bones, close tightly and let the chemical do its job for the next 24 hours or so.

Step 4: Wash the Bones

The next day, wash the bones carefully with water.

Step 5: Whiten

To whiten the skull, use Hydrogen peroxide. Generally, a clear 3% one will work quite well. To speed the process, you may choose a stronger 40% Hydrogen peroxide gel they sell for hair salons.

As soon as you submerge the bones into the peroxide, they start bubbling, and some bones are detaching and fall apart. That's normal, you would put them back together later. Close the jar.

The whitening would take another 24 hours.

Step 6: Clean

The next day, extract the bones from the Hydrogen peroxide and wash them with water. Make sure you've got all the bits and pieces, especially if you used a gel, which is not transparent at all.

You would probably be surprised by the size of incisors comparing to that part of them which was sticking out from the jaws.

Step 7: Put It All Together

Use gloves, tweezers and superglue. The glue sets up immediately, and there is no room for mistake. First, try to set a piece into it's place without glue to make sure you're doing that correctly. Then, apply some glue and proceed with care.

Use the photos you've taken before as a reference.

You would probably have trouble finding the attachment points for the jaws to glue them to the skull. We just glued the upper and bottom teeth together.

Step 8: Finish With the Skull

This is what you would probably come up with at the end. All pieces glued together, you may handle the skull (with care! it is extremely fragile!) and show it to your friends.

Step 9: Display

For a display, we used a dollar store wooden box with glass sides and a door. Stained it dark brown, attached hinges to the back side.

To arrange a perfect 3-D view of the skull, we made two loops out of fishing twine - one holds the upper incisors, another holds the tiny outstanding bones on the bottom/back of the skull.

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