As my previous article on mounting a Pheasant seems to have been popular I will write this one and link it to the film demonstrating the whole process of Taxidermy - How to mount a Squirrel the traditional way
Taxidermy - How to mount a Squirrel the traditional way.
As my previous article on mounting a Pheasant seems to have been popular I will write this one and link it to the film demonstrating the whole process.
This method uses modern materials but is the traditional way to mount a small animal. It can be used on larger, such as a Fox, but you may need to skin it from the back rather than belly and prefer to use a pre made body former, setting it into the skin from the back. My way you make and do all of the work yourself, but very inexpensively.
So what materials and tools will you require? Well, let’s start with the eyes? Which is why I have a load of cheap, second hand teddy bears and toy animals in these pictures. A ready supply of glass eyes for a very small price from second hand and bargain shops. You can even, still, use the “blind” toys as dog toys afterwards! Above are a pair of proper glass fish eyes as they come from taxidermy suppliers. Note the oval pupils? You have to paint the rear of these to match the natural ones you require, but you can buy fantastically well ready painted eyes of all types, even human!
You will need a box of powdered Borax (washing soda) and a bottle of Formaldehyde. This should be watered down to 50/50 % and is dangerous, take care to use in a well ventilated place and mind your eyes! Once it is inside a syringe it is more easily contained. The borax is harmless and the fish or meat may be washed of any powder and cooked and eaten if you wish.
The following tools are useful – pliers, strong scissors, tweezers, a knitting needle, a sewing needle, 6 lb fishing line, cotton wool, paper towels, wire, syringe, set of scalpels, tin snips, knitting wool, fibreglass insulation wool, block of polystyrene foam, chicken wire.
Start by carefully cutting the skin at the centre top of the chest. Then, with the scalpel, work your way up to the neck and down to the animal’s rear vent. Using the borax powder constantly, prise the skin open adding powder to grip and preserve the skin as you go, right round each side until your fingers meet at the back. Then start on the animal’s rear legs. The same way, almost like peeling off a sock, but this time you may need to use your smallest scalpel to carefully cut any sinews holding the skin down. Do this right down to the very ankle of the foot. Then use your scissors or tin snips to cut it off. Add more borax and even a little injection of formaldehyde if you wish and pull the leg skin the correct way back in. Do this with the other leg and then start in the same way on the tail. Push hard with your thumb nails and cut carefully and finally the rest of the tail bone should come out whole. Inject it with formaldehyde.
Below you can see the whole tail bone has come out and I am injecting it.
Next, remove the front legs in the same way. Then work your way up inside the neck , turning that inside out as you go, like a sock. When you get to the skull keep going right on down to the animal’s mouth, gently prising and cutting the skin away until completed. Take care cutting around the eyes from the inside when you get there, and also the mouth. You will not be using the skull in this case, that is what the polystyrene foam is for, later.
Look carefully at the head, have it nearby, and with your large scalpel, make a copy of it with the foam.
Then take your chicken wire and cut enough to model it into the shape of the body. You may also chosen to have made this with the foam, but it will be rigid that way and this way will be flexible and more easily moved into a realistic position later.
Take some layers of your fibreglass insulation and bind them with the knitting wool around the wire.
Push a piece of the wire in through the foam head where the neck should join, right through and out at the top. Bend it back in a loop and pull it back into the foam. Push the other end into the body and through, then bend that back into the body. Using the knitting needle, push small amounts of fibreglass right to the ends of the legs firmly. Continue until you are up to the shoulders. Cut four wires long enough to go through the base of each foot, right up through the legs and through the body and back later! Push them through the feet and legs, also leaving enough at the feet to attach them to a stand later. Cut small recesses for the head for the eyes and place them in situ. Make sure they are level with each other.
Push the head up inside the mask. Place the body inside the skin and push through and bend back the leg wires into the body. Then, using the fishing line, sew up the skin using locking stitches. Start at the neck working downwards, and end up with any small knots at the base under the tail.
Shape the legs and body basically, by looking at the original body and legs. Then decide on your composition for your stand. I have usually done this before hand and already prepared it. Drill the holes for the feet wires, push through the wires and bend them back. Now the hard part, set the animal to look natural! Then set the eyes and mouth using pins. Once the animal is dry enough these may be removed the wire ends snipped off and moss and grasses added to the base.