Rustic Skull Mount, the Easy Way
Creating a rustic European mount is an easy task that provides a unique look. Rustic mounts are also a good option for skulls that have difficulty getting perfectly white such as a deadhead, a heavily stained skull, or a greasy skull, such as a bear or hog. There are many different methods to create rustic mounts such as employing the use of coffee, walnut hulls, oak leaves, dyes, and even pine cones. My preferred method which provides high quality results while being extremely simple and cost-effective is to use tea bags and hot water. My friend David at D & A Skull Mounts in North Carolina was the first person to introduce me this method. Below are the steps to create a high-quality rustic European mount.
Creating a Rustic Skull Mount
● Process the skull as you normally would (cleaning, degreasing, whitening). However, do not glue any loose teeth or nose pieces, do not paint the antlers (if it’s an antlered skull), do not fill the tusks (if it’s a hog) and do not apply a finish to the skull. After whitening the skull, let it fully dry prior to continuing to the next step.
● Heat a pot of water to a strong simmer by use of a propane burner or heat by use of a stove top.
● While the water is heated to a strong simmer, add in roughly 20 tea bags, and stir them for two minutes. I use Tetley Classic Blend tea bags which I purchase from Walmart. Other tea bags such as Clover Valley from Dollar General and Lipton can be used. After two minutes of stirring, turn off the heat.
● Immediately after turning off the heat, place the skull in the pot, fully submerged in the tea water. If any bone is exposed in the pot, add water so it’s fully covered in the tea water. Place any loose teeth, nose pieces, and/or tusks in the pot. If working on an antlered skull such as a deer, keep the antlers out of the water.
● Allow the skull to soak in the tea water for 16 hours then pull it out to examine the skull. If the skull is not as dark as you would like, continue to soak the skull, and check on it every few hours for up to 48 hours. The time it takes to get the skull to the darkness you prefer depends on the size of the skull you’re working on, the amount of water, the number of tea bags used, and the brand of tea bags. Once it looks acceptable, pull the skull out and dump the tea water into a strainer to catch any loose teeth or nose pieces. If working on a deer, place a rubber band around the upper nose. If the lower nose pieces fell off, attach them to the skull and place a rubber band around them. Let the skull air dry for 24 hours. Once the skull is fully dry, continue to the next step.
● When working on a deer skull, glue any loose teeth and/or nose pieces back in and glue the upper part of the nosefrom the inside, if there’s a large gap. I apply glue to a long q-tip or a thin screwdriver to apply it to the inside of the skull and then place a rubber band around the upper part of the nose to hold it together. Loctite Super Glue Gel Control is what I use for gluing rustic skulls since it blends into the skull when dry.
● When working on a hog skull, fill the lower tusks (cutters) with silicone or caulk and glue in any loose teeth. I also fill the upper tusks (whetters) with silicone or caulk, however the upper tusks are thicker and less prone to cracking. Once the silicone or caulk is dry in the tusks, glue the tusks in the skull. I use J-B Weld ClearWeld Epoxy to glue in the tusks.
● Keeping a couple rustic skulls on display in your shop is helpful for clients to view.