Skull Cleaning Tips

After you’ve created a beautiful European skull mount, you want to keep it clean and flawless-looking. Fortunately, if the mount was cleaned properly, bleached, and given a protective coating when it was made, this will be extremely easy.

Mounts that were given a protective polyurethane or acrylic spray coat are a breeze to keep clean. A simple dusting now and then should suffice, though care should be taken to be gentle, so no teeth or horns are knocked loose, and no bones get chipped. Feather dusters and other gentle, minimal-contact dusters are the best for keeping skull mounts dust free, without having to worry about any further damage. If the mount was not given a protective coat, it should be cleaned thoroughly and given one.

Skull Cleaning TipsIf a skull mount ever gets to the point where it requires further cleaning, a damp rag is the best way to do it. Protective coatings can prevent staining, and any cleaning after the coating is applied needs to ensure that it isn’t accidentally stripped off. Rubbing alcohol, acetone, solvents, or some detergents can cause yellowing, clouding, chipping, softening, or even stripping of the protective layer, so they shouldn’t ever be used. A soft, lint-free cloth barely dampened with some clean water is all that should be used, and care should be taken that the skull is allowed to dry out completely afterwards, to avoid mold, mildew, or insects.

Small spaces between teeth and in small skull cavities can be cleaned using artist’s brushes, pipe cleaners, and the canned air dispensers used for keyboards. These areas shouldn’t be allowed to get wet, so a skull shouldn’t ever be immersed, but these tools can all be used to get into tiny spaces and crevices without using any water. Artist’s brushes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials suitable for different parts of a skull, however pipe cleaners have the advantage of being able to be bent into different configurations for cleaning inside long cavities and around corners. However, care should be taken that the hard, wire core of the pipe cleaners isn’t allowed to scratch the skull’s coating, or chip small pieces of bone off.

If any teeth are loose, these can be repaired after dusting with a little bit of carefully applied super glue. Fit the tooth in its socket, remove it, add a small amount of glue, replace the tooth, and let it dry completely. Make sure the brand of glue dries clear, and is guaranteed not to yellow over time. That way, if any glue accidentally makes its way somewhere visible, it won’t be noticeable and detract from the appearance of the skull mount.

European skull mounts are one of the easiest trophies to create and maintain, making them a popular choice for beginners. However, just because they’re easy to take care of doesn’t make them maintenance-free, but with a little common sense care, even an antique skull mount can look just as good as the day it was prepared.

Dangers of Insect Infestation

Even though a preserved hide has had all of the muscle removed from it, been treated, dried, glued, and mounted, that doesn’t mean that something won’t still try to eat it. Moths, dermestid beetles, and cockroaches commonly infest mounted trophies for various reasons, and can ruin even the best taxidermy mount.

Taxidermy Hobbyist - Dangers of Insect InfestationMoths and certain types of beetles can infest woolen clothing in closets, because their larvae enjoy eating the keratinized proteins in hair shafts. Once a hide is mounted, the hair and fur of that animal become a potential moth buffet. While adult moths and beetles aren’t really an issue, the sight of them is probably the first clue that an infestation has occurred. After the larvae get their teeth into mounted animal, bald patches, tracks, and broken hairs will start to become noticeable. Unfortunately, unlike dust or fading, there really isn’t a way to fix that. Methods of handling moth or beetle larvae include temporarily freezing mounts, fumigating rooms, or using special sprays or other chemicals to treat trophies. However, these will only get rid of the larvae; they can’t restore the look of your trophies. Cedar chips, mothballs, and Epsom salts can be used as preventatives, but all have their own limitations.

Though usually associated with cleaning skulls and bones for mounting, dermestid beetles are opportunistic feeders that will move on whatever’s next once the meat is gone. This can include wool clothing, fur coats, or mounted trophies. Signs of an infestation include shed beetle shells, crawling larvae, and signs of damage on mounted trophies. Because dermestid eggs are extremely durable, getting rid of an infestation can be a problem. Boric acid is useful for dehydrating beetle eggs and larvae and causing them to die; while frequent vacuuming can help get rid of larvae, beetles, and eggs. Preventing dermestid beetle infestations mostly consists of keeping a close eye out for the kinds of things they like to eat, and removing any adult beetles before they have a chance to lay eggs.

Cockroaches are opportunistic feeders that will eat fur, glue, and everything in between. Unfortunately, seeing them on or near your trophies (particularly in the light) generally indicates a wide-spread infestation, and the only solution might be to seek professional help. Many roach sprays will damage trophies, so removing bugs manually, sprinkling boric acid around the areas roaches frequent, and fumigating the house as a whole, might be the only viable alternative. Preventing roaches mostly consists of keeping the house clean, fixing water leaks, and keeping any food items in secure, airtight packaging.
Unfortunately, once a mounted trophy has been damaged by infestation, all that can often be done is to prevent further damage. By keeping your home and the room your trophies are kept in clean and inhospitable to bugs, however, you can help keep your trophies in flawless, undamaged condition.

European Skull Mounts Supplies

Mounting skulls European-style is a popular way to show a hunting trophy without having to devote the space that a full-body or shoulder mount would require. European skull mounts are also easy for a novice taxidermist to learn to do. To create this type of mount, three types of basic supplies are needed- supplies to clean the skull, protect it, and mount it on an attractive display.

Cleaning the skull is arguably the hardest part. A variety of methods exist, and one of the most effective supplies to do so isn’t actually a supply at all. Dermestid beetles are used by most museums and a number of professional taxidermists, so, if at all possible, these should be obtained. These beetles eat the flesh and soft tissue off of the skull without damaging it, shrinking it, or making it brittle. Without these beetles, the skull will need to have the flesh stripped from it manually. To do so include a large pot, dish detergent, baking soda, and a dull knife. The pot should be filled with water and brought to a boil, some dish detergent and baking soda added, and the skull should be placed inside. Every ten minutes, the skull should be removed and scraped with the knife, until it is clean. Borax should always be kept on hand for cleaning small cavities a knife can’t reach, as well as for rubbing on the skull afterward to absorb any excess moisture that can cause unwanted odors or attract bugs.

The next step requires its own specific supplies. The skull should be bleached, and many different solutions and recipes exist to do so. However, since most of these chemicals are only available through laboratory or professional taxidermist suppliers, a hobbyist or beginner might be better off purchasing a kit with skull bleach included. After that, some form of protective coating should be applied, like that used to protect outdoor furniture. These generally consist of acrylic or polyurethane, come in a spray can, and are readily available at craft and hobby stores.

The last supplies needed are a display plaque or pedestal, and a means of securing the skull to it. Screws are fairly common and easy to use, and have the advantage over glue in that they won’t degrade with time. Plaques and pedestals are usually wood, though some interesting looking displays have also been made out of slate or other types of stone.

Learning to make a European skull mount is a great way to become introduced to the art of taxidermy. Though it seems easier than mounting a whole hide, making sure to have the right supplies for the job can make it even easier, and create an even more beautiful finished mount.