I just wanted to mention that I am leaving for the World Show the day after tomorrow!! I am SO EXCITED! If possible, I will update my journal with information while I am at the show (I will be taking a computer). And, when I arrive back home, I will be posting lots and lots of pictures!
See you then!
I just completed some unusual squirrel projects! These aren't your normal, everyday taxidermy mounts.. take a look!
First off, here is a SQUIRREL HEAD mount-- the smallest head mount ever made! I love mounting these .. they're so fun!
Have you ever seen a flying squirrel? I'm not talking about your typical "flying squirrel" -- I'm talking about THIS:
This was a regular squirrel that I mounted. Then I attached a pair of partidge wings to it. Pretty neat, huh?
Both these mounts are currently for sale on Ebay for a limited time. My three year old brother will be happy when the winged squirrel finds a new home.. he's scared of it!
Ten days till the World Show and counting...
The base for the tiger is now finished:
I took the suggestion of Mr. Vaden, the one who sent me the cub, and decided to give the base more of a woodland look, rather than something dry that might have made the cub blend into the habitat too much.
I began by mixing up a small amount of expanding foam and pouring it into the bottom of the base (the same kind of foam I used to make the body form). The bottom is only recessed 3/4" from the top of the base, so it didn't take much foam at all. Once it had expanded and hardened, I gave the yellow foam a coating of brown paint all over. Once the paint had dried, I coated the foam with white glue and sprinkled a heavy layer of leaf litter all over.
When that had dried, I drilled two holes in the bottom, where the two wires coming out of the cub would go. I pushed the wires through the holes and bent them sideways. The cub was now securely attached to the base.
After this, I just had fun arranging some little pieces of rock and artificial grass here and there!
The piece is just about finished now. All it needs is a little more touch-up painting on the face, and the gold plate to be installed!
A friend recently found an unusual roadkill specimen for me.. a beaver! It was so fat -- The measurement taken around the belly was the same as it's nose-to-tail measurement! I never knew beavers were so big, because after reading about them, I was surprised to find out that my beaver was actually on the small side! It has a little damage on it's face from being hit by the car, but I'm sure I can repair it. When I mount it, I will put it on a base with artificial water and sticks and make it look like the beaver is building a dam!
The oak base for the tiger arrived today, so I will be making the habitat shortly. I have also ordered a small gold plate to put on the front of the base that reads "White Bengal/Siberian cub". At first I was thinking about making some kind of title for the piece (for instance, the title for my red squirrel was "Golden Slumbers"). But, I decided that since the cub was such an unusual cross, it would be best to simply put what breed it was so people would know.
Mounting the tiger
The tiger is finally mounted! I mounted it several nights ago. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures while I mounted it. I had my hands too full, and was trying to work fast before the hide paste set up, so I thought it best not to bother with taking pictures.
I'm going to show you a couple pictures of the tiger first, and then explain how I did it. Keep in mind, he is not nearly finished. There is alot of finish work to be done on the face, plus I need to make the base for it. I have ordered a nice octagon-shaped oak base for it that should come next week.
I must say, I am very happy with how it turned out. Normally when I mount something, there are always things about it that I don't like, but this time I really amazed myself. I'm not saying it's perfect by any means, though (I'm sure my World Show judges will find plenty of things wrong!) :)
I'd better begin by starting where I left off... Last time I wrote, I had just finished casting the body form, minus the head.
I had removed the skull from the carcass, and boiled it for ten minutes. Normally I boil skulls for 20-30 minutes, but baby animal skulls are especially fragile and could literally fall apart if boiled for too long. THAT would be a problem! So.. after boiling, I scrubbed the skull clean and let it dry for several days. Before boiling, I had made a mold of the palate with molding plaster. Now that the skull was dry, I spread an even layer of apoxie sculpt over the area where the palate was. Then, I brushed the inside of the mold with apoxie safety solvent, and quickly pressed it into the apoxie sculpt. It was a perfect fit. Before, I had tried using water instead of the safety solvent to prevent sticking, but it didn't work nearly as well and stuck a little. With the solvent, though, the mold pulled right off. And what did I have? A perfect reproduction of the palate! After the apoxie had hardened, it was painted. The tongue I used was a small Mohr bobcat tongue. It fit perfectly!
Now, I ran a wire up through the skull, and the other end went into the neck of the form. I secured everything with apoxie, and the head was now attached. When I was ready to mount the cub, I rebuilt the muscles of the face with critter clay, using plenty of reference photos, and set the eyes. I also used clay to sculpt in details on other parts of the form, such as the rib area.
The eyes were custom painted by Van Dykes Supply. I looked high and low and couldn't find any readily available eye that would work for my tiger, and painting eyes for myself isn't something I'm quite ready to conquer. Even though those tiny eyes ended up costing me about six times more than a normal ready-bought pair of eyes cost, I was very happy with them. They are incredibly detailed.. just perfect! The eyes look black in the pictures above, but they're really dark blue with black veigning. The size was 16mm, with a 12mm iris.
Now the form was completely ready! One thing I should mention is the fact that I did not use the feet that were on the form. I wasn't happy with the amount of detail in them (they came out a little thick), so I cut them off. Instead, I fill the feet up with critter clay. This allowed me to shape them from the outside and put in lots of detail.
So, I slipped the skin onto the form. The side-incision was very nice, so I didn't have to worry about hiding stitches. I used EpoGrip waterbased hidepaste to glue the skin to the form. The tail was filled with critter clay and a wire was run down it so I could shape it how I wanted.
The ears were filled with apoxie sculpt and shaped until thin. The eyes were tucked, and the lips were tucked and secured with apoxie sculpt (can you tell I use that product alot??). And that's about it! I have been carefully watching the cub over the last few days, adjusting little things and making sure nothing starts to dry and move out of place. As soon as it's fully dry, I will add nictating membranes, as well as paint and gloss the mouth, nose, and eyes. Pictures will be added when the mount is fully finished!
I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about the making of my tiger cub mount. It's only one month until the World show now, and I absolutely can't wait!
Casting the foam form
Because this step required working very quickly (the bondo and urethane foam I use sets up in only a couple minutes after I mix it), and I was working alone, I was not able to get as many pictures of this process.
The first thing I did was line the inside of the two mold pieces with the paper towel/clay water mixture. This would act as a mold separator, so that the foam would not stick to the plaster mold. Then, I mixed up some bondo, and filled each leg. I use bondo in the legs, rather than foam, because it is much more strong.
Before the bondo had time to set up, I pressed the two mold halves together, and wrapped masking tape all around the mold until it was held together very securely:
Now came the tricky part. I mixed up a cup of high density urethane foam, and quickly began to pour it through a small hole I had made at the back of the mold. The foam starts to bubble up within one minute or so, so I had to move very quickly. Once it was poured, I held the mold over a trash can while the foam expanded. Some of expanded out the hole that I had made, which was ok. If I had tried to plug up the hole, pressure would have built up and the whole thing might have exploded!
After the foam had expanded, I let it harden in the mold for an hour. Then, I began to carefully chip away the plaster:
Here is the form after the plaster was chipped away! It still needs some work done on it, like removal of the excess plaster and bondo around the edges. I will also have to sculpt in muscle detail that was lost. I will do that with clay, when I am ready to mount the tiger.
Coming next- Mounting the tiger!
I have been working on making the body form for the baby tiger, and have a new set of photos for you!
Since I will be using the actual skull for the head, I cut the skull off at the neck.
Be sure to get the plaster thick enough, especially around the edges and undercuts. I reinforced the edges, and other weak points, of the mold by applying some bondo once the plaster had cured.
The white powder you see on the carcass is borax. I lightly sifted borax all over the carcass to absorb the slime on the carcass (plaster casts more detail when the object is dry and not wet).
Coming next - Casting the body out of urethane foam
Time for an update!
Here is a glimpse at some of the stuff I have been working on in the past few weeks..
I tanned a red fox for a customer. He just wanted it as a pelt for decoration. It's fur is beautiful!
I finished my deer foot gunrack, which now holds my rifle:
I've saved the best news for last! I have decided not to mount the Norway rat for the World Show, and for a very good reason. I have obtained a TIGER CUB! Two tiger cubs, actually, and a leopard cub. Many, many thanks to my friend Michael Vaden for getting me the cubs! There is a 3 week old White bengal/siberian tiger, a 1 week old bengal/siberian tiger, and a 5 day old leopard. I now plan to mount the 3 week old tiger for the World show. I have skinned it and put it in the pickle, and am preparing to make a body form by doing a carcass cast. The eyes will have to be custom made. This will be a very, very unique and rare mount! I plan to take step-by-step photos throughout the process of mounting the piece, and today I present you with the first three photos.. Many more to come!
Coming next - Making a mold of the tiger carcass
At first I thought I would try to keep this journal strictly about taxidermy, but after posting a little about my air rifle, I have had many requests from people asking me to keep writing about my shooting as well.
Last month I bought myself an air pistol. It is a quality match pistol called the Beeman P3. I installed a Crosman red-dot scope on it, and it shoots fairly well. It's going to take some getting used to, though (I'm used to shooting a rifle!). At 410 FPS, it's a little to low powered for killing anything humanely, but I am having alot of fun shooting paper targets with it. Here's a picture I took of the pistol:
I have been doing alot of taxidermy in the past couple of weeks. Besides my usual squirrels and rats for Ebay, I mounted my first raccoon! This was for a customer, and when it is finished it will have a base. I mounted him on a McKenzie RC-13 form. Here are some pictures... (for those of you that have slow internet service, the pictures may take a moment to load as they are somewhat large)
I also mounted an adorable little whitetail button buck for a customer! I have posted some pictures of him below. He is mounted on a McKenzie upright form. I have another button buck cape as well, which I plan to mount for myself.
I've been thinking alot about the World Show. After all, it is less than three months now. I plan to mount the Norway rat very soon (which by the way, tanned without any problems).
Speaking of the World Show, it looks as if I will probably be going there all by myself. My dad, who is a Marine, just got word that he will be deployed within a few weeks. He was planning on taking me, like he did last year, but now I can't see how that will be possible. So I will most likely be taking a ride up there with some taxidermists from around here, and sharing a room with someone once I get there. My mom doesn't exactly fancy the idea of me being so far away for a week (I never have before), but I've just got to go!
The sheepskin I have been working on is coming along well. I ordered some of Rittels "Wool Degreaser", which is said to be THE best thing for removing lanolin and dirt from sheepskins. Thank goodness my mom let me use the bathtub, otherwise I don't know how I could have managed washing that thing (it is very large, and heavy). So I put the skin in the tub and mixed up about 8 gallons worth of the woold degreaser. I put on a bathing suit, and got down in the tub to scrub that sheepskin! The degreaser seems to have worked very well on the wool ... and now I am quite clean, too!
Time for a little update on how my airgunning is coming along...
I have come to the conclusion that I have scared away the squirrels near my house! When I first got my rifle, there were loads of squirrels, and after shooting for several weeks, they seem to have dissappeared completely! I think I'll have to take a break and give the squirrels time to come back!
I found a great way to keep my pellets handy while I'm shooting! I can't take the credit for the idea since someone on the internet told me about it, but it works wonderfully. I made it out of some foam tubing, which I poked small holes in, and inserted the pellets into. It fits perfectly around my scope! Mine holds 35 pellets (although you can probably make it hold at least twice that many.. I just spaced mine out far)
Last night I was working on a very simple, yet interesting, project -- deer feet for a gunrack. Unlike most taxidermy I do, mounting them took no time at all, but the skinning of the feet was the tricky part. It was very easy to skin down until I got to the hooves. For each hoof there is a knuckle bone that must come out, but it extends partway down into the hoof. It is very difficult to remove! But once I worked it out, things went pretty easy. The two feet are now drying, and when they're dry, I'll mount them on a solid oak panel that I'm ordering from McKenzie. The gun rack will then proudly display my air rifle! Now I'll have a safe, attractive place to keep my rifle, as well as displaying the gun rack to potential customers when they come in my shop!
I also began working on a Diamondback rattlesnake today. A friend of mine, Evelyn Mills from Texas, sent it to me. She actually catches the rattlers live! She raises some of them in a big tank, and kills and mounts some of them. She sent me a mid-sized snake, measuring 58 inches long. Today I mainly worked on skinning it out. The position it will be mounted in is a "ready-to-strike" pose, with the upper half of it's body raised off the ground. I skinned the lower half of the snake with an incision straight down the belly, since that part won't show. Then I tube-skinned the upper half, so no seam would be visible. I then fleshed and boraxed the skin, and put it back in the freezer. If I can find the time, I will mount it tomorrow. This is all very new to me since I have, until now, primarily worked with mammals!
Today I had my digital camera in my shop, and snapped a few various photos. Since I know everyone likes looking at pictures, here they are:
As of 12/29/02, this is the Norway rat that I am working on for the World Show. It is soaking in a "pickling" solution. I have to leave it in the pickle for three days, after which I will put it in the tanning solution.
This is my salting set-up. I have a wire frame set at an angle, which I lay my salted hides on. The liquids can then drain away, down into the drip pan I have set below it. In the picture is a deer cape salting. It is a cute little button buck I am working on for a customer.
This is my salted hides and antler collection! Stacked up against the wall, I have: 2 whitetail capes, 2 pronghorn antelope capes, 1 mule deer cape, 1 whitetail rump, 2 baby red fox, 1 grey fox, and 1 rabbit, all salt dried and ready for tanning! My antler collection consists of lots of whitetail racks, several mule deer racks, and a pronghorn antelope skull!
I have begun working on one of my entries for the World Taxidermy Competition! It will be held in Springfield, IL in April. My dad has agreed to take me if I pay for the trip, and that sounds fair to me! I am very, very excited. But before I register in February, I need to be sure of how many and what kind of mounts I'll be taking.
If all goes well, my first entry will be a huge Norway rat. It's a gigantic rat! It was living under our house and making alot of noise at night (yes, that's yucky, I know). So my dad put out some poison, and the rat just happened to die right beside the porch steps (we're lucky it wasn't under the house!). But anyway, the moment I saw it, I knew it was competition worthy. I am currently salting it, and will tan it with EZtan. I hope the hair doesn't start to slip (that's my ever-present worry when tanning something). I'll wait until it's tanned before I start working on the body form, just in case. I'll be casting the body out of foam poured into a bondo mold (if you want to see how I do that, scroll down to entry 9/18/02). I'll probably hand carve the legs out of foam blocks, and use the actual skull for the head.
One thing is for sure -- I will leave no stone unturned in this project! This is for a world class competition, so I intend for it to be super-accurate down to the very last muscle!