Clean and Whiten Skulls for a Euro Mount

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European mounting (or skull mounting) your trophies can be a cost effective alternative to taxidermy whist still maintaining a professional and clean look to your trophy room or shed.  Creating a European (euro) mount is very simple and can be done by anyone. By following a few simple steps your trophy will look as professional as one from a taxidermy studio.

There are several methods and techniques that can be used to create a white oil free skull. The process I follow was developed over many years through trial and error. I still make minor adjustments to the process depending on the type of skull.

I learnt very early on that bleach should be avoided at all costs.  It is very aggressive and will erode the bone.  It will give a brilliant white finish, but at a cost, the skull will start to flake and look unnatural.  It will deteriorate to a flaky mess over a short period of time. This method should be avoided if you want to present and preserve your trophies for years to come.

There is no limit to what you can euro mount. I have mounted deer, tahr, chamois, buffalo, scrub bulls, wild dogs, goats, pigs, foxes and recently a bird.

 

To make a professional euro mount I use the following materials and tools: 

  1.        Boiling pot 
  2.        Gurney 1400 psi power head
  3.        1L 40 vol peroxide –  obtained from any hair supplies like Priceline
  4.        Bucket for soaking the skull after boiling
  5.        Strong detergent (for degreasing the skull) - Dish washing liquid
  6.        Washing powder
  7.        Screw driver

 

Additional items to help speed up the process: 

  1.        Aquarium heater 150w (used to speed up the take degreasing process)
  2.        Commercial cleaning grade peroxide (this is a chemical and should be used in compliance with chemical handling regulations)

Cleaning the skull for boiling:  After obtaining your trophy be sure to get all the skin and as much flesh off as possible.  This will always be easier when the animal is still warm, but can be done at any point after the harvest, it just makes the boil out a little easier. I tend to do this as soon as possible to try and prevent any extra grease entering the bone of the skull.  

 

First Boiling the skull out: Whilst this is a very simple part of the process, it is a step that can make or break the final look of your euro mount.  You should avoid boing the skull out at high temperature. This will dry the bone out and drive the grease deeper inside the skull.

Add 300ml of detergent to the pot and half a cup of washing powder from the laundry. Do this  each time you change the water in the boiling pot.

A slow boil/simmer will draw more grease out. In the initial boil I try and remove as much grease as possible. I am happy for the skull to simmer for 4-6 hours. I top the water up over the day, but have learnt, more time here equals less time degreasing and a whiter skull without any grease patches that can appear over time.

 

First pressure cleaning after initial boil: After a couple of hours in the pot remove the skull and give it an initial pressure clean. Gurney as much meat off as possible then remove any loose teeth for gluing at the end. Be sure not to use too much pressure on the skull, you just want enough to clean the now cooked meat off without blowing any bone out.

 

Remove the ear bone:  Removing the ear bone is a key to keeping the skull grease free. There is a lot of grease around this 

Removing the ear bone

bone and by removing this bone you will also gain easier access to the brain cavity. To remove the ear bones place a screw driver in the ear canal and lever back and forward.  See diagram.

 

Brain removal: I generally cheat here and just blow it out with the pressure washer.  A few minutes with the pressure washer inside the cavity will have it completely clean after the initial boil. People also use coat hangers or screwdrivers to remove the now cooked brain.

 

Second boil of the skull: Now that the skull is relatively clean, change the water to a fresh pot and add another 300ml of detergent.  Put the skull back in to simmer to cook off the remaining meat and drag out more grease from the skull.

This can take another few hours (or as long as you can manage). You will see grease forming on top of the pot with the aid of the detergent. The longer the simmer the better.

 

Second pressure wash: The skull should now be ready for the last pressure wash. Ensure that all visible meat is now blown off and that the brain cavity is clear of material. There are 2 small pockets in the bottom of the eye socket that should be blasted as quite often meat gets trapped here.

 

Degreasing: Now that you skull is visibly clean it is time to soak the skull and macerate the last remaining hidden meat and remove the last of the grease of the skull. In summer, just having the skull in a bucket of water in the sun with 300ml of 

detergent is enough.

Over the winter months I add an aquarium heater to speed the process up. You may get a little smell coming from this bucket, but if you experience too much, pressure blast the head and change the water to a fresh batch.

I generally leave the skulls for a few weeks here and just let mother-nature do the work.  If I have the gurney out for another skull I will pull the skull out and give it a blast in all the small nasal passages and behind the teeth. See diagram.

This process for greasy skulls like pigs may take longer and when no further grease is gathered on the top of the bucket it is ready for its last pressure clean.

 

Final pressure clean: At this stage your skull should be grease and meat free. One last blast with the pressure washer will ensure that all hidden material is removed for a scent free skull.

 

Whitening with the use of peroxide: The whitening process is best performed when the skull is heated, on a warm day or next to the fire. Peroxide is activated with heat so the hotter the bone is the better the peroxide will penetrate and the faster it will perform. 

If you place the 40vol peroxide on a cold skull you will see that the reaction is slow. You see little bubbling as it stays just like a liquid paste. Now put a skull in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes then apply the peroxide. You will see the peroxide instantly react and bubble up on the bone. 

If you are impatient, like me, you can heat the skull and paint a good thick layer over the whole head leaving no section uncovered.

Let the peroxide react and after an hour or so heat the skull again. Paint another layer on the skull. Repeat this process until the desired tone of white is reached.

 

Alternatively, you can cover the skull in peroxide and then rap the skull in glad wrap and place in the sun. Repeat this process until you reach the desired colour.

Alternate whitening with liquid peroxide:  I will not go too far into this. Rather just list it as an option.  Commercial grade liquid peroxide can be very dangerous when not handled with care. It is an option for whitening skulls but requires care when handling the chemical.  It also requires that you recolour the antlers when dealing with deer as the coronets will usually have to sit in the liquid solution.

Finishing the skull: Once the skull is clean you may have to glue some teeth and the front nose pieces back in.  Tarzan’s grip does a good job here.

 

Quick Checklist:

  1.        Lightly boil/simmer the skull in a pot with degreasing detergent
  2.        Clean the skull
  3.        Lightly boil/simmer the skull in a pot with degreasing detergent
  4.        Clean the skull
  5.        Place the skull in water to degrease the skull
  6.        Clean the skull
  7.        Peroxide the skull

 

If you follow this procedure you should end up with a very professional looking euro mount. If you find over time that the skull is leaching grease to the surface you may have to soak the skull further to remove any grease. Pigs and goats can be particularly bad and not rushing at the grease removal stage will see these skulls stay clean.

After you have completed your euro mount, the skull can be placed on a board or skull hooker to finish off the final presentation. If later down the track you want to mount the head this process will not have any detrimental effects.

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