Anonymous asked
Hey Shady! I don't want you exposing any tricks of the trade or anything but I'm interested in painting skulls. Aside from starting with a nice and clean skull with primer, are there any tips or essential advice you can give us?

Hey Anon!

No worries! So long as you start out with a nice clean skull you can really just go ahead and start slinging paint! When I first started out I would prime them first but it didn’t seem to make any difference so I just cut that step out. 

I use acrylic paint (folk art, apple barn, liquitex, it’s all fine) and just build up the color in one thin layer at a time, as you do with acrylic. If you’ve got an intricate design you want to work with it’s good to lightly sketch it on with pencil first and then either remove it with a kneadable eraser or just paint over it. 

Once you are done it’s a good idea to seal the finished painted skull to protect the paint. Liquitex makes a good paint-on varnish (I like the matte finish myself but they also have gloss) and I also use a varnish made by Winsor & Newton. It comes in an aerosol can and is just a general purpose varnish but I dig it and it does a nice job. I used to use Crystal Clear by Krylon but the last couple of cans of it I bought did weird stuff to the paint so I switched to the Winsor & Newton varnish. Just make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area and on a day when it isn’t too humid because it won’t dry right if there is too much moisture in the air.

Hope that helps! Best of luck with your painting projects and have fun! :) 

Coming Soon! The Skull Cull!

I’ve decided to try and downsize my collection a little bit. The wall of skulls in my bedroom should be more than enough room to display most of it but even that is overflowing right now. So that means you all can reap the benefits through my skull cull! 

It won’t just be skulls but I’ll be listing some bones, fossils, and other cool oddities in my Etsy shop over the next few days too. It will all be priced to sell and most of the funds will be going towards the future production costs of my dead stuff book. It will still be a while before that is done but I know printing costs are going to be painful so I want to start saving up now. 

So yeah, be on the lookout for loads of awesome curiosities up for grabs in the shop soon, most likely starting tomorrow!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Anonymous asked
so I'm trying to wet preserve a small lizard of mine that died. But I need to inject her with the solution I read. But I do not have a needle with a syringe :C do you know how I would get one?

I’m sorry to hear about your lizard, Anon!

You can buy syringes pretty cheap on ebay. You may even be able to get them at a pharmacy but I imagine you’d have to ask the pharmacist for them (if they ask tell them you just need one for an art or DIY project like getting some glue in a tiny space). Or if you live near a CO-OP or Tractor Supply you can get them there too.

Anonymous asked
Hi there! I saw your picture comparing the donkey and horse skulls and I was wondering if there is a significant difference between the lower incisors (or lower canine teeth) between a horse and a donkey?

Hey there!

There isn’t much of a difference that I’ve noticed. I’ve yet to get my hands on a full size donkey skull for comparison though so I can’t say for certain but I think they are very similar. The main difference I’ve noticed between donkey and horse skulls are just what was shown in that photo with the eye sockets (donkey skulls tend to have ‘sad eyes’ with zygomatic arches that are slightly drooped) and donkey lower jaws are often a little shorter and thicker than horse lower jaws. 

Anonymous asked
(1) Hey there! I love your blog! I'm new to taxidermy and I need your advice... I've always wanted a croc/alligator skull bc I really like the patterns on their facial bones. I found an online shop in my country that sells nile crocodile skulls (legally imported from leather/meat farms in S. Africa). They're dried in salt, meaning I'd have to rehydrate and remove the tissue etc., which I think would be a cool project to work on. Here's the thing though: They're "only" 9 to 10.2 inches long,

(2) have small bullet holes in the cranium, and cost $75 per piece!! I don’t have a lot of money and I’m only just starting my collection. I have a few nice bones but nothing as cool as your conglomeration of oddities, and I was thinking about “pimping up” my collection with the nile croc.. Do you think this is a fair price? Should I purchase the skull? Have you ever/would you buy animal remains from a meat/leather farm where they’re bred/killed for profit? I’m quite torn. Thanks for your help!

Hi Anon! Thank you for your message and kind words!

Well that’s all really just up to you. Personally I think $75 for a croc skull that size and in that condition that needs that much work is too much but then again I’m seeing a lot of prices going up for dead things so depending on where you are and how easy those sort of skulls are to access it may be just a fine price.

As for it coming from a meat/leather farm, I think it’s good that they are making use of as much of the animal as possible and not letting the skulls go to waste. I’ve bought lots of skulls from hunters, farmers, and taxidermists and a lot of times the heads, especially if they have any damage just get tossed in the trash. So I’m all for preventing any sort of waste!  

So yeah, it’s really just up to you, Anon. When I buy a skull that needs work I always calculate what I actually pay for it and then add in how much time I’ll spend working on it and if I can’t resell it for that much (even if I plan to keep it) I usually pass on it. But if it is something you really want and you have the money to spend then I say go for it! :)

Good luck and happy collecting!

Anonymous asked
My dad is going hog hunting in a couple of months and said he would help me clean the skull, any tips on doing so? It would be my first time cleaning/degreasing a skull. Thank you!

Hi there!

A hog skull will be quite a project for a first time skull cleaner! I’ve been cleaning skulls for years and I still dislike working on them, haha. But it’s definitely doable, you just need a lot of time and a whole lot of patience! 

Fatty animals like pigs have very, very greasy bones. So after you clean it via your preferred method (maceration, nature cleaning, beetles, etc, it’s all good, just up to personal preference) you can plan on a few months, sometimes even over a year of just degreasing. 

Cutting off most of the meat will help decomp go faster. Removing the eyes, tongue, and brains will especially speed things up. 

Ideal degreasing temps are around 90-115 degrees but you don’t want to go any hotter than that otherwise you might actually cook the grease into the bone instead of melting it out. You can build your own bucket heater or buy one, get a fish tank heater that gets hot enough, or if you live in a climate where the weather is hot enough just keep your bucket out in the sun and let the weather do the work for you. You can paint the bucket black or wrap it in some old insulation to help hold in the heat. 

In with the water you’ll want a good grease-cutting soap. I usually use Dawn but I’ve had good results with Cascade too. Pour in around a fourth of a cup per five gallons. 

Change the water as it becomes cloudy or when you start seeing a thick grease slick on the surface. And just keep at it until the discoloration of the skull starts to fade (skulls dry whiter than they appear when wet) and when the water starts staying clear. Then on to peroxide whitening and you’ll be good to go! 

Some folks use acetone to degrease and have good results with it but I’ve never really cared for it myself. I’m always happy with plain old hot water and soap. Hell of a lot cheaper than acetone too! Ammonia is supposed to work pretty good too but I’ve yet to try that out. 

Hope that helps! Feel free to ask if you have any other questions and best of luck with your project! 

Anonymous asked
Hey, I love your skulls! You are one of my favourite blogs & share such great info & beautiful pictures. X I wanted to ask about your draft horse skull, which is AWESOME, you referred to him as male? I was wondering if you knew that for sure, because if so it would be a very interesting abnormality! I studied horses at college & one of my classes was on equine dentistry, horses are sexually dimorphic when it comes to teeth with males very very rarely having less than 4 fully erupted canines (1)

Mares usually have no canines, around 20% do but it varies between 1-3, not 4. They’re usually not fully erupted & very small. Horse teeth are quite a good way of sexing using just the skull. Of course because every individual is unique, it’s possible you could end up with a no-canines male & four-canines female, but it would be so so rare. You knew one of your other horses in life (the one with the missing tooth!!! AWESOME!) so I was wondering if you knew this one. If so that’s supercool Oh also! Would you mind if I sent a picture of the missing-tooth mustang to my leaders from college? I think thy would find it very cool and may end up using it in class powerpoints of info sheets. I won’t send it if you’re not okay with that, they won’t be selling it or making money but if you don’t like the idea then I will not pass it on. Thanks for your time!

Thank you so much for the message, Anon! Oh wow I bet that equine dentistry class was interesting!

Unfortunately I don’t know much about that draft horse. I bought it from a trapper a few years ago who just found it out in a field in Montana. I have a habit of referring to a lot of my skulls as ‘he’ when I don’t know the history of them but is very likely a ‘she’ for the reasons you described. I apologize for the confusion there! 

Hey thank you for asking! Please help yourself! I think that would be awesome. I’ve got some other horse skulls with some interesting pathologies that you are more than welcome to share too. Here is a post I made about that mustang with the missing tooth a while back and it has a couple of larger and better photos of him. His owner (who is a farrier and knows horses) didn’t even realize he had the issue until he saw the skull so I guess it never gave the horse much trouble. 

This 26 year old mare has some interesting and pretty worn teeth. She had some sort of bone disease and died from a heart attack or stroke while her owner was riding her.

I’ve also got a mini donkey skull with some bad caudal hooks on the rear molars and a mini horse skull with some weird incisors if you need any photos of them too. I love oddball horse skulls, haha. 

Thanks for the message!

Anonymous asked
Alligator-skull here! Thanks for the reccomendation, I think I may very well just go with a real one (or a cheap aquarium ornament. it's not anatomically correct, but it'll give me the effect I want...I just need the jaws for a dragon mask.) I can't promise that you'll see much of the bones themselves when I'm done, but I'll definitely share pictures!

Hey there! No problem! Oh I’ve seen some of those aquarium ones that are pretty nice-looking. That might be a good way to go! 

Sounds awesome! I look forward to seeing it all and best of luck with your project! :) 

Anonymous asked
Do you mind if I ask why owning bird of prey items is illegal in the US?

Not at all, Anon! It’s all part of United States conservation laws. Birds of prey were not covered by the original Migratory Bird Treaty Act which was passed in 1918 in the US. That left them exposed and many people believed that they were destructive pests so it was basically open season on them.

Thousands of hawks, owls, eagles, and other birds of prey were poisoned or shot for fear of them killing livestock or other ‘prettier’ birds and just for the hell of it since there were no rules against it. This lead to a drastic decline in their populations so in the 1940s a new law was passed protecting our national bird, the Bald Eagle, and then later in the 1970s the MBTA was edited to include protection of all native birds of prey.

So since they are all protected unless you have a special falconer’s permit or are a member of a Native tribe (and have the paperwork and go through the right channels to prove it; pretty sure there are years-long waiting lists for Native Americans to obtain legal eagle feathers) then you cannot legally possess any part of a native bird of prey here.

Anonymous asked
Would you happen to know where one might acquire a resin alligator skull or resin jaws? I'd rather not use a real one because I'm making a costume and it will require some sanding-down and paper mache.

Depending on what size you are wanting you honestly might be better off buying a real one price-wise. Smaller skulls usually aren’t too bad, especially ones that aren’t perfect specimens. Hunt around on ebay and you’ll probably find some pretty good deals for real ones there.

Bones Clones and Skulls Unlimited both have a couple different resin ones but the cheapest one is over $100. A lot of hard work and material is required to make nice replicas so they can get a little expensive. 

Hope that helps! Best of luck with your costume! I’d love to see photos of it if you feel like sharing them when you are done. Any costume involving skulls is going to be kick ass awesome in my book. :)