Methods in the Art of Taxidermy

by Oliver Davie Published in 1900

Taxidermy Materials

Materials- In addition to the excelsior, tow, plaster and other materials already mentioned, our workshop would be very much lacking in its requirements if the following were not included: i.e., spirits of turpentine and boiled linseed oil with which to mix paints for painting the discolored parts of mounted animals, benzine, hard oil finish (white, for varnishing), arsenious acid, common whiting, bi-carbonate of soda, muriatic acid, shellac, white glue, arsenical soap, twine of two or three sizes, cotton batting, sponges of several grades and sizes, coarse and fine long-fiber hemp tow, fine flax tow, as used by upholsterers.

Most of the tools used by the carpenter are essential adjuncts to the taxidermist's outfit; also many of those used by the blacksmith, including the anvil, portable forge, and bolt clippers. A small supply of walnut, oak, ash, and hemlock lumber is always useful, besides , , 7/8, and 1 inch dressed pine boards and 2x4 pine scantling. Essential to our stock is an assortment of annealed wire, and, for the benefit of those who are inexperienced in the matter, I give below the common names of a few North American birds and mammals, and the various sizes of wire which I have used in their mounting. I take for my standard wire gauge the one manufactured by The Washburn & Moen Manufacturing Company, Worcester, Mass.

No.6-American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Whooping Crane. No.6 or 7-WhistlingSwan, Olor columbianus (Ord.), Trumpeter Swan, Olor buccinator (Rich.), Sandhill Crane, Grus mexicana (Mull.), Wild Turkey. No.8 or 9-Flamingo, \Vood Ibis, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle. No.9 or 10-Loon, American White-fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Brant, Branta bernicla (Linn.), Great White Heron, Ardea occidentalis (Aud.), Great Blue Heron, often erroneously called "Sandhill Crane" or "Blue Crane," Roseate Spoonbill, American Egret Ardea egretta (Gmel.), Turkey Vulture. No. 10 or 11-Double-crested Cormorant, American Herring Gull, Mallard, Redhead, Canvas-back, American Eider, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Osprey, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl. No. 11 or 12-American Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Shoveler, Wood Duck, Surf Scoter, Barred Owl. No. 12 or 13-American Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Sage Grouse, Crow. No. 13 or 14-Hooded Merganser, Baldpate, Green-winged, Blue-winged, and Cinnamon Teals, Pintail, Buffle-head, Old-squaw, Ruddy Duck, Florida Gallinule, American Coot, Ruffled Grouse, Prairie Hen, Marsh Hawk. No. 14-Reddish Egret, Louisiana Heron, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, King Rail, American Barn Owl, American Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl. No. 16 or 17 Dabchick, Greater Yellow-legs, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden Plover, Mourning Dove, Screech Owl, Belted Kingfisher. No. 17 or 18-Least Bittern, American Woodcock, Wilson's or Jack Snipe, Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer, Bob-white, Saw-whet Owl, Flicker, Blue Jay, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Meadowlark, Purple, Florida, and Bronzed Grackles, Brown Thrasher. No. I8-Wilson's or Common Tern, Yellow and Black-billed Cuckoos, Hairy 'Woodpeeker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Redbellied Woodpecker, Robin. No. 19-Black Tern, Virginia and Sora Rails, Baird's Sandpiper, Piping Plover, Downy Woodpecker, Crested Flycatcher, Red-winged Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole, Rusty Blackbird, Wax-wings, Mockingbird, Catbird. No. 20-Red, Northern, and Wilson's Phalaropes, Least Sandpiper, Semi-pal mated Sandpiper, Kingbird, Cardinals, Wilson's Thrush, Olive-backed Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Bluebird. The sizes from Nos. 21 to 24 are suitable for so many of the diminutive birds found among the Finches, Fringillidae, and in the family of Vireos, Vireonidae. Nos. 23 and 24 are particularly desirable for nearly all the American Warblers, Sylvicolidae; these sizes are also necessary in mounting all of the diminutive Wrens, the Titmice, Paridee, the Creepers, Certhiidae, and the dainty little Sylvians, of which I may mention the Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. No. 26 is suitable for any of the North American Hummingbirds. In each instance where two sizes of wire are mentioned for the severally named species, I have invariably used the larger when I was sure the size of the wire would not break the skin along the back of the leg, or disfigure it in any way. In mounting a half dozen Flamingos. I used No.9 wire. In many birds the sizes of the wires were stil1larger than the largest given, especially when the bodies of the birds were massive and heavy, as in the Loon, Pelican, and Swan. When the bird is to stand on one leg, and sometimes when it is to be mounted with wings spread, a larger size is necessary. The smaller sizes of wire, it is true, will support the specimens when thoroughly dry, and they are, in fact, the sizes most commonly used, but the object is to make every structure so strong that there will not be the slightest doubt as to its firmness when finished. What is more aggravating than to discover, after your specimen is standing, that the supports are not quite strong enough; that your specimen wabbles, and that, in order to remedy the defect, it must be taken down and taken apart and heavier supports inserted! One or two experiences like this, especially with mammals, will teach the novice that to adopt heroic sizes of wire in the first place, when possible, is the best course to pursue, even if it does involve a little more physical labor all around. Let me recommend to my readers the use of copper wire in the mounting of birds and the smaller mammals; for more than one reason it is far superior to the annealed iron wire which is so generally used. It is more easily worked, because it is more pliable, and, best of all, it will last forever. For my first knowledge of the use of copper wire in mounting specimens, I am indebted to Dr. Jasper, my artist, and the inventor of so many of the devices in the art which his own hands have so faithfully delineated in this work.