Mickey Alice Kwapis

taxidermy & craft

LINK ROUND UP - BONE CLEANING

I get asked a lot about how to clean bones. It's not surprising, because it's become a pretty popular thing to do lately, but there is definitely no one right answer. Choosing a method to clean bones breaks down with a whole lot of factors: what kind of bones you want to clean, what state of decomposition they are in, where you live, and what resources you have at your disposal. I've gone ahead and done a round-up of some of my favorite links. I'll start with my own.

Kinkajou skull, whitetail vertebrae, shark jaws (from an antique store) and a jar of kangaroo bones.

Kinkajou skull, whitetail vertebrae, shark jaws (from an antique store) and a jar of kangaroo bones.

You can find my guide to cleaning bones here, by scrolling to the bottom past all the taxidermy tips. It's pretty basic, but it's a good start.

One of my favorite comprehensive guides is from Jake's Bones. There's even a handy chart that tells you what methods work best for which stages of decomposition.

One of the most well-done and beautifully laid out bone-cleaning guide comes from my friend Corinne of Stuck With Pins, who is a hobby collector and does not want to maintain a dermestid beetle colony. Make sure you read the comments for additional input from Corinne and her readers.

Speaking of dermestid beetles, if you are interested in starting and maintaining a colony then the Kodiak Bones & Bugs guide is the one for you. Dermestid beetles (not domestic beetles, or dermatitis beetles. Dermestid!) are flesh-eating beetles that can also be quite finicky. They don't smell great, they work slowly, and you have to maintain a certain climate for them. When you maintain a colony you have to remember that they require care and attention - if you do not take care of them, they will die. Please be a responsible caretaker if you choose this method of cleaning bones!

The University of Arizona published a comprehensive guide on cleaning skulls to museum standards. That guide can be found here.

Shearwater also published a comprehensive guide, but theirs covers methods for cleaning the skulls of seabirds. DO NOT TOUCH A DEAD SEA BIRD UNLESS YOU HAVE A FEDERAL PERMIT. Illegally obtaining specimens contributes to poaching. Don't turn your bone-collecting hobby into one that is detrimental to the environment. This guide is specifically meant for federally-accredited educational institutions like museums and universities or federally-licensed commercial taxidermists who donate remains to museums when their projects are completed.

Lastly, Jana Miller of Bonelust has published a series of posts on her blog on her favorite methods. She lives on a large plot of land and has room for a bone cage. I do not recommend a bone cage unless you can keep it very far away from your home - they smell ripe and not in a "juicy peach" sort of way. Here are two different posts: one and two.

What are your favorite bone-cleaning guides? Are there any I left out?

Mickey Alice Kwapis is a Chicago-based taxidermist, jeweler, and person who does a lot of stuff. All site content ©2011-2017 Mickey Alice Kwapis and Niche Lab LLC. Questions? Use the contact form.