Intro: Beauchene Skull
To explode, or 'beauchene' a skull means separating all the 22 bones and mounting them on a frame so that you can study and see all the individual bones and how they fit together. I first found this technique from the TV show Oddities, where one of the hosts was well known for his skulls, which are real bones and cost several grand each. I decided to see if I could make my own a bit cheaper.
However, the Internet had plenty of pictures but no tutorials in how to do it yourself. So after studying the pictures closely, I decided to give it a go myself, and this is the steps I took to make my own beauchene skull.
Step 1: Tools/materials
Now you need to get all your tools and supplies in order. As I said, there's not really a guide on how to do this, so I just kind of winged it and hoped for the best. You can take a couple different routes here: mount every piece on bars, make a central bar with branches coming off to hang the pieces on, or build the skull in sections and mount each section on the base. I chose the last option, what I like to call the Stitching Technique. This is probably the easiest and I'd recommend it for beginners, since I needed minimal tools and only had to solder one joint. Here's the tools I used:
-rebar tie wire (hardware stores sell large spools for cheap) I've also heard of people using thick electrical wire, but I had rebar wire from an old project.
-1/4" copper tube(3-4ft)
-screws (any screw that will fit snugly inside the copper tube. I also had some laying around)
-threaded rod (only used about 4 inches. could be substituted for other stiff rod)
-exploded skull. this is the most important part. if you get a life size exploded skull, you're looking~$250. I used a half size replica from amazon that cost me about $25, which I would recommend for your first beauchene.
-assorted pliers (I used needlenose quite a bit)
-drill and assorted bits
-pocket knife (could also use the wire cutters, but I recommend the knife)
-base to mount. I used some scrap wood as this was a practice for me, but most beauchenes are mounted in large glass domes.
Step 2: Mark Holes for Drilling
I call this the Stitching Technique because I used stiff write to hold the pieces together and I thought it looked like medical stitches/staples. First you want to assemble the skull. then, with a sharpie, mark points where you want the wire to connect two pieces together. With an drill bit the same size as your wire, carefully drill the marked holes in the skull pieces. to make everything easier on me, I broke the skull into three sections: brain cavity, face, and lower jaw. I started with the brain cavity as it had the largest pieces.
Step 3: Assemble the Skull
Cut a piece of wire about 2" long, and bend both ends up at 90 degrees. the ends will go into the drilled holes, so they only have to be about 1/4 long. find the corresponding holes on two bones and insert the wire. the bones should be about 1"-1.5" apart to show how they go together. repeat until you have 2-3 wires holding the bones together. then grab another bone, cut more wire and keep assembling. this is the longest step so I put on Netflix and grabbed a drink and just went at it. if you get confused, check out the pictures as they tell the story better than I do.
Step 4: Wire the Face
The face was a bit trickier as it had smaller bones to put together, but the technique was the same. lay out all the pieces, see how they fit together, and begin drilling/wiring them up. I used a small piece of threaded rod to hold the two upper Jaw bones together, as I felt the wire wasn't thick enough to support the weight. after the face is completed, all you have left is to mount it to a base. once again, if you get confused, reference the pictures.
Step 5: Mounting Pieces
First, pick a base (this was practice so I just mounted it on some scrap wood). beauchene skulls are often mounted in glass domes on wooden bases. if you go for this option, do not buy the dome until you're done wiring so you can see what size you'll need to get. This is where the copper tube comes into play. cut a piece around 4 inches long, and bend ~1 inch of it at a 90 degree angle. drill a 1/4 hole into the base, insert the long end of the tube until it's flush with the bottom. now carefully drill a small pilot hole through the middle of the lower jaw. Screw the lower jaw in place (through the hole and into the middle of the copper tube). repeat with mounting the face and brain cavity. with this technique, I used three copper supports and three screws. lastly, if you get confused, check out the pictures.
Step 6: Done!
if you've made it this far, you should take a second to sit back and enjoy your newest display piece. the Stitching Technique overall worked, but on my next one I'll probably build a tree frame to mount the bones in instead of stitching them together. add a drop of superglue to anywhere the wires meet the bones, and bend the copper minutely to get everything lined up properly. that's it! I busted ass building mine and got it done in a weekend, but casually working on it would take a week or two. if you follow these steps, or simply use them as a guide to design your own frame, you'll have a nice new beauchene skull for around $50, instead of thousands, just in time for Halloween.