Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Alum Tanning and New Blog

Today I made a new alum tan/pickle as my previous one was unsuccessful; the skins didn't tan  - they seemed to just be stuck in a suspended state of preservation. After asking a taxidermist I know for exact measurements he told me:

2 pounds salt
1 1/2 pounds alum
1 pound borax

All dissolved in hot water, and then left to cool.

Well, my mixture has been made, and I have stirring it every now and then to help all the powders dissolve before the water goes cool. Hopefully it will all dissolve and go cool by tonight, and I will then put the pelts back in. If this doesn't work, back to the white tan!

Apart from this, I haven't been working much on taxidermy things this week as I was at home the weekend and also have been working on commissioned artwork.

I have a new blog for my pagan and fantasy artwork here:

I will be posting sketches, commission slots, tutorials, photos and all that good stuff on there! Be sure to follow if you are interested in that kind of artwork :)

Tomorrow I will be preparing some rats for a client, and also working on some mice for another client. They want them hanging dead for some owls, so that will be interesting! They are house mice by the look of it, I have only ever mounted their domestic counterparts so I am hoping I can pull them off.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Always learning

Beware this is a picture heavy post!!

So I have been pretty busy on the taxidermy front once again! I currently (still) have no internet but before my phone internet decided to fizzle out, I spent hours a day on the forums. In particular a certain thread 'Lifesize mammals only'. I learned a LOT about the wrapping of specimens from their carcasses. I applied this knowledge to my taxidermy and am already seeing results!

A Least Weasel and a Domestic rat, both wrapped, and both sleeping.
The weasel was originally going to just be standing but I noticed an unfortunate furslip on the underside of him after I had mounted him. So now I have a new plan, I'll post it here in a few weeks when the weasel mount is completed :) The weasel is mounted on a woodwool and wire form, using a casted head and the original leg bones.

Two mice for an art installation.
Once again I have been working on mice for a client, for her art installation. These are mounted on clay forms while it is still wet, and then sculpted from the outside.

Close up of the WIP weasel.
I am a lot happier with the shape of the weasel's head than my previous one (which was a soft mount). All my moulding and casting materials arrived, so I have been using them to make heads. They are so worth it! I will be doing a step by step on how to cast heads in the future! The weasel still needs painting up and such, but overall I am very happy.

Mannikin for a fox cub, WIP

I am also in the process of making a mannikin for a fox cub, as seen above. The skin is soaking in denatured alcohol for about a week, this sets the hair.This is being made with woodwool. The head is cast in plaster and the original leg bones are going to be used. I am still fiddling around with the pose I want her in. Today I found this photo on

I think something like this would be a cute pose for her! This cub is about the same size as my cub also. At the moment the mannikin is a bit all over the place as you can see from the mess below:

WIP mannikin: legs need to be wrapped, along with the tail.
I will take photos of my progress, this is my first fox mount, so I really hope that it will go well! I have another young cub (even younger, poor thing) in the freezer so I will probably mount that one in a sleeping pose also.

Empty coffee mug, need more coffee!!!
Lastly, I wanted to mention this amazing book by Mike Gadd, one of the UK's leading taxidermists that I purchased recently. I was a bit put off at the price, but it is very VERY worth it. It has anything you could even want to know about mounting a small mammal on a wrapped form. It goes into the anatomical details, troubleshooting, materials needed, importance of reference etc etc etc and there are photos for every single step of the way! PLUS it is nice to have a book aimed at the UK taxidermists, and not US. So the materials he mentions are obtainable! :)

Expensive but well worth saving up for! And besides, it is a lot cheaper than his courses.

That's it for now! I will update again soon, and as always, if you have any questions for me, you can email me at:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Of Water Deer and Skulls

I have been pretty busy lately on the taxidermy front!

A few weeks ago I skinned a Chinese water deer head for a trophy mount. This was sent to me in the post by another taxidermist who I am in regular contact with. These deer are not a native species to the UK, introduced in 1870 to zoos. Eventually some were released and others escaped. They are very odd looking deer, they have the nickname the 'vampire deer'! And you can see why!

Male Chinese Water Deer have tusks instead of antlers!
The Chinese Water Deer (CWD) I had was a doe, so her 'fangs' were a lot smaller and didn't even protrude over her lower lip. Apart from that, she looked identical to the male. Gorgeous deer, but from the front they actually look rather dog-like.

So a few weeks ago I skinned the head and fleshed the hide. This all took a few hours. I then stuck the cape back in the freezer. Normally I salt everything but I didn't want to do this, as her hair was brittle and I didn't want to lose any. Of course I made some holes in the skinning and fleshing process, but nothing I can't repair.

The CWD deer cape after skinning.

After the cape had been soaked and degreased the following day, I put her in the tan as normal.

The next day the tan had turned brown! I washed the CWD again and put her back in the freezer for now as I had to throw away the tan. As I can't afford a new kit of white tan again at the moment I made an alum/salt/sodium bicarbonate broth and stuck the smaller skins (guinea pigs and rabbits) in that. Gonna see if that works now! I haven't tanned with alum before but I am pretty sure that the white tan Snowdonia Supplies sells IS the alum tan.

Yesterday I also received a muntjac doe and three squirrels in the mail. I also have a form and eyes for the doe, as I got them free with the specimens from the seller. She was getting rid of her taxidermy stuff so I purchased it all cheap. I was very happy with that!

Apart from the deer, I have been working on some 'soft mounts'. This is where the head is mounted in a tanned skin, and the remainder is filled with foam, stuffing or something that makes the body 'floppy'. Although I am not sure how I feel on this type of taxidermy, I do take them as commissions :) I make sure that the buyer understands that this is the skin of a dead animal and not a toy or plushie.

The two heads I have mounted lately are for another taxidermist who wants to finish them off. They are a stoat and a mink.

Stoat head only mounted.
I am quite happy with the stoats' head, and I feel it is definately an improvement from the last few. I still have a long way to go though and I need to practice more with lips and eyes, in particular.

Mink head only mounted.
The mink was more difficult as it was larger. It is my first mink though, so I will take photos when it's finished, and hopefully it will turn out better when I've done the finishing work.

ALSO (yes I have been busy!), I have been cleaning skulls!

CWD, Rabbit and Guinea Pig skulls
The above skulls were all cleaned using the simmering method. I will post a tutorial on that in the upcoming weeks! The skulls are also for sale! Please email me at if interested!

Also I ordered some alginate, plaster of paris and some sillicone and I am going to have a go at making deathmasks and head forms! I am hoping that this will improve my taxidermy a lot, and I will post photos of them for other people's reference as well.

So that's what I have been up to!