Improved Euro Mount technique

Foxtrot1

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Sep 2, 2011
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Jacksonville, Alabama
I've been making my own euro mounts for the past several years and have slowly refined my technique. It's slow, but provides a quality mount that isn't too labor intensive. I've tried boiling, but prefer the quality of skulls cleaned with cold water maceration. Here's a run down of changes I've made that seem to help.

When I have a head I want to euromount, I skin the skull and freeze it until summer when ambient temps will keep water in the desired range (80-90 degrees). If it's something big like an elk, you can proceed in the fall with an aquarium water heater and insulated container, but it will take longer.

As far as skull prep, I now just remove the hide. If you go crazy removing flesh, it will actually slow the process down. I put them in a black garbage bag and leave them in the sun for 3-4 days. Letting maggots feed on it seems to speed up maceration when moved to water. You don't want to wait too long, maggots can damage delicate nasal turbines if you let them grow too big. Transfer skull to a bucket of clean water and let it sit for approximately 1 week. At this point, change approximately 50% of the water. This is the worst part smell wise and it's all down hill after this water change. Change water each week, being careful to leave some for a culture starter. When it's hot down here, a skull will be clean in 2-3 weeks. When the nasal cartilage comes out easily, I will take a stick and scrape off all the loose flesh if any stuck to the skull. I'll give it a week in mostly fresh water after it's clean to "defunk".

At this point the skull is ready to degrease. I initially used dish soap to degrease my skulls, but have had problems with grease leaching out later on and skulls yellowing. This year I changed to using 10% ammonia and heated water, and it seems to be doing a better job. This year, I switched to a food grade container that holds 4-5 gallons of water. I keep it warm with an aquarium heater and add 1/2 gallon of ammonia to enough water to cover the skulls. With this set up, you can see the grease coming out of the skulls. It will cloud the water and form rafts of fat on top of the water. I change the water weekly until it remains clear at the end of the week. My deer skulls took 3 weeks to degrease. They are now being whitened with 40 volume peroxide, this is their second coat. With the new degreasing setup, the skulls are whitening quicker/easier than when I was just using dawn.

These antelope in the degreasing tank had all been degreased 7-10 days in soap. This is after 2 days in the heated ammonia solution.

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cahunter805

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May 27, 2014
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Looks great. Seal them with a little mop and glow. Works great to keep them clean and dust wipes right off.
 

RobG

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Dec 10, 2010
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Bozeman, MT
Ive wondered how well ammonia would work for degreasing And bleaching.

When bleaching fly tying materials if you add a little ammonia to drug-store hydrogen peroxide the bleaching takes minutes instead of hours. I suppose it would also be true with skulls.
 

trb

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Aug 29, 2019
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Colorado
When you are doing the first soak...or any of them for that matter, is there any issue with allowing the antler bases to be halfway in the water?
 

Bambistew

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Dec 10, 2002
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Chugiak, AK
d
When you are doing the first soak...or any of them for that matter, is there any issue with allowing the antler bases to be halfway in the water?
I don't put the antlers in the water, ever. The fat will soak into the antler, as its porous, and will stain the coloring on the antlers. Its very hard to degrease later, and natural color will be ruined. If you look at some skulls you can see they are painted around the bases or have dark rings on the antler. Some people will wrap the bases in foil/tape/plastic whatever to keep water and steam off (if boiling). I just use a rag draped across the top of the skull to keep it wet when boiling and degreasing. There usually isn't a lot of fat/grease on the top of the skull though.

Also make sure to skim off the grease before you pull the skull out, best you can.
 

trb

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Aug 29, 2019
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Colorado
d

I don't put the antlers in the water, ever. The fat will soak into the antler, as its porous, and will stain the coloring on the antlers. Its very hard to degrease later, and natural color will be ruined. If you look at some skulls you can see they are painted around the bases or have dark rings on the antler. Some people will wrap the bases in foil/tape/plastic whatever to keep water and steam off (if boiling). I just use a rag draped across the top of the skull to keep it wet when boiling and degreasing. There usually isn't a lot of fat/grease on the top of the skull though.

Also make sure to skim off the grease before you pull the skull out, best you can.
Thanks! Yea I've done the same when boiling and decreasing in terms of wrapping them and making sure they weren't in the water, but I wasn't sure if there was the same concern when trying this maceration technique.

I appreciate the advice...getting my mule deer skull going now.
 

OntarioHunter

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Sep 11, 2020
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I'll have to look into the ammonia/acetone alternative. Thanks. We now use Dawn and about a half a cup of soda ash per pressure cook pot (which is the container we use to simmer the deer skulls ... moose skulls go in a specially modified metal garbage can). Then the peroxide/whitener paste overnight or a couple of times as needed. Occasionally we'll still get some grease yellowing but only slightly. Maseration process is out of the question for us. No time for that. We do a fairly high volume euro skulls because no one else in the area doing taxidermy wants to mess with them.
 
Joined
Oct 20, 2019
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Tucson, AZ
Has anyone tried using a sous vide device to get all the flesh and connective tissue off? I saw a video WGFD posted using one but I’ve not come across the method otherwise.

Will definitely try that ammonia/acetone this year - that sounds great!
 

ajricketts

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Sep 19, 2016
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East TN

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