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!

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