Taxidermy - how to mount (stuff) your own fish and paint it - a step by step illustrated article of the traditional method.
Taxidermy Ã‚Â– How to Mount and Paint a Perch
Many fishermen have complimented me on my films demonstrating these traditional methods to preserve your catch, and so I felt it worthwhile to do a written version for you here?
Tools and materials
You will need
1. A filleting knife or large scalpel
2. A small scalpel
3. A pair of tweezers
4. Fibreglass wool
5. Cotton wool / tissues
6. Tin snips
7. The correct glass fish eyes (one will do)
9. Firm cardboard
10. Clear Silicone Sealant
13. A large syringe
14. Darning Needle and heavy thread
15. Dry sawdust
16. Small length of wooden baton as interior fixing
17. Acrylic paints and soft brush. Colours Ã‚Â– black, sap green, yellow ochre, white, cadmium red, chrome yellow.
19. Tin of spray acrylic clear varnish
20. Short piece of broomstick to ram sawdust.
Firstly you need to catch your fish! If you do not have the materials already in stock then the fish can be frozen whole. Do not gut it, Also you will need to order the correct eyes. These may be purchased as clear glass or plastic with just the black pupils already painted and you paint the iris colours or you may spend more and buy ready painted ones. There are many taxidermy firms on the internet. Take care of the fishes fins, they easily dry out and tear up!
Use an old table, or cutting board to skin your fish and have everything ready before you start, including the eyes.
I have a formaldehyde solution at 35% but you may use weaker. Borax used to be known as Ã‚Â“washing sodaÃ‚Â” and both may be ordered from pharmacies. Fill your syringe with the formaldehyde before you start.
Make sure that you have a good photo of the fresh fish before it starts to dry or fade, then you will need to paint the backs of the glass fish eyes, copying the real ones, if they were supplied as clear only. As these dry you may start the skinning process
Choose the side of the fish you wish to have facing on your final mount and turn that downwards, then use the large scalpel or filleting knife to cut from an inch or so behind the gill into the lateral line along the fished body all the way to the tail. Keep the cut shallow and then start paring away the skin from the flesh each way towards belly and back.
Keep your cutting neat and do not pierce the skin elsewhere. The rule is to cut and scrape away as much meat as possible. Any that you cannot reach must be injected with formaldehyde later. Once you have reached the tail and cut around inside as much as you can, work under the tail bone and snip it off, with thin snips or heavy scissors, as close to the rays of the tail as possible, removing all flesh. You can then lift the tail inside and pare the rest of the tail off up to the shoulder. At the shoulder work up under the shin to the head as far as you can then, cut through the spine etc. with tin snips.
At this stage you have to use a bit of force with both large scalpel and snips to remove the back of the skull and rest of spine, even gills if you wish (and are not having gill covers open) in fact all inside of the head except tongue and mouth area. Remove the eyes by cutting around them with a small scalpel and lift them out with your tweezers, from underneath.
Completely clean out the inside of the fish with cotton wool or tissues. Then rub the dry borax into all interior areas of the body and skin. Finish by injecting the formaldehyde into any areas of flesh, fins joints, tail joint, cheeks and within head. Place a wad of fiberglass wool into the rear of the had to block it off completely and stop ant sawdust dropping through. Also place small amounts into the eye sockets to pad them out for the eyes later.
Now you are ready to start sowing up the fish. I usually start at the shoulder and work my way back, you may use a locking stitch and tighten up every three stitches. At two thirds of the way start to add the sawdust and make sure that you pack it in really well as you go with a wooden batten, say a short length of broom handle, DonÃ‚Â’t forget to insert the short length of wood inside and at rear to be able to screw into when you fix it to a case or back board? Complete this sawdust right up to the tail, ensuring that you tamp it infirmly. Try to keep the body shape as you wish as you do this all the way up. Finally sew up the last space and tie it off. Clean up you fish with a wet sponge, taking care of the fines especially and removing all external sawdust and mess.
Squeeze any lumps out and shape your fish. Then cut out firm pieces of card a little larger than the find will be when open. Place these behind the fins and pin the fins into shape, or if you wish sandwich the fins between two pieces in the correct position. Put some clear silicone sealant into the eye socket over the wool and place the eye in, gently leveling and cleaning any excess. Do any final adjustments to the shape and angle of your fish and let it dry for several weeks.
IF there was any damage to the fins, now is the time to rectify this. Remove the fin supports and cut some clear plastic bag. This can be glued to the rear of any damaged areas. Allow it to dry and you can carefully model any rays on the fins with some silicone sealant, again. Once this is dry, trim the edges.
Acrylic paints will cover the fish skin but will resist on the plastic, I have got over this by using oils on just the fin repairs. Or a small amount of matt primer.
You are now ready to paint. Hopefully you will have enjoyed cooking the fish meat earlier? Here we are having traditional fish and chips with it!
How to paint your fish. Print of your photo of the fish for comparison! No priming is required. Firstly mix a thin wash of yellow ochre and glaze the whole fish, working up the colour a little stronger and more thickly on the lighter stripes. Let it dry. Mix a thin wash of the sap green and add this from the back downwards, thinning it in by halfway, with water. Paint the white on the underbelly and blend ion a little yellow ochre as you come round into the light stripes. Paint the top/back of the fish with the black and add a little sap green as you come around into the dark stripes. Glaze it and thin it gently across the upper lighter strips.
Use these same colours carefully where ever required in details on the photo e.g. mouth, fin edges, gill edges. Finally use the chrome yellow and cadmium red to tint the edges of the fins and tail as on your photo. Allow all of this to dry.
Once you are sure this is dry you may then use a spray acrylic gloss varnish. Apply several coats.
Whether you mount your fish in glass case or back board you can have fun adding natural dried plants afterwards or painting or modeling small bait fish to add. This method will work for nearly all fish, although skinning some may prove more difficult.