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Columnists : Taxidermy - Larry Reese
Last Updated: Feb 22nd, 2007 - 18:37:03

The Nyala Bull ... Start to Finish, Part 2
By Larry C. Reese Wildlife Artistry Taxidermy
Aug 21, 2006, 00:14

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 The NYALA Bull
Start to Finish

Part 2


   Depending on the outfitter, permits, and flight scheduling it will take anywhere from 4 months to over a year to get your hides and horns back from Africa. Hopefully you have done your home work and picked a quality outfitter who has looked after your trophies after you have returned to the States.

Click on the image for enlargement

     This is how the Nyala hide came out of the crate.  As you can see, it has been fleshed and salted properly. I wish all the skins I get from other outfitters in Africa looked this good.

     The Next step is to rehydrate the skin to prepare it for tanning. I do all the tanning in my studio to maintain the high quality my clients expect.


     In my studio we wash and shampoo everything so it is nice, clean and soft. In this picture is an elevated tub that we do our soaking and some hand washing in. The elevated tub makes it easy to stand and work over.

     With a salt dried skin from Africa we use some special chemicals to help rehydrate the skin to make it soft and pliable. Once that is done it gets quite a few rinses to get out all the salt and chemicals.


     Once the skin has been rinsed numerous times and the water is clean it is hung to drip dry for a few hours. Above my tub we have these hangers to allow the skin to hang and drip. Even though the skin at this point is fairly clean it will be washed and shampooed again after the skin has been tanned.


     While the skin is dripping we need to turn our attention to the form I have chosen for this project. This is how I got this form from my supplier. I had requested no steel rods in the legs because I am going to alter the form to make a custom pose.

     What I need to do now is put all the pieces together before I can test fit the skin.


    After the form has been temporarily screwed together I need to get it on my armature so it can be worked on. Doing this makes a big animal much easier to handle.

   After holding the form in the air in the position I wanted I had Terry (my faithful assistant) mark the form so I could cut out a slot to install a 2x4. Once the 2x4 is installed it will slide into the steel bracket that is on my armature.


     We now have the Nyala form on the armature in the exact position I want. This has to be done now cause when I set the eyes, rotate the head etc. it will be anatomically correct.

     I like action poses so when someone is looking at one of my custom pieces they can visualize the animal in motion just like it was frozen in time.

     For this project I wanted the Nyala  leaping off the rocks just like it did when I shot it, but the trick is that I plan to balance the entire mount on one foot. So do to this I am going to need a strong piece of steel that has to go up the leg and through the body.

     The next step is to make a template for the 5/8" cold rolled steel that I am going to install in the front leg. What I have done here is take a piece of 3/8" all thread rod and bent it in the exact position I am going to need the 5/8" cold rolled steel bent.    


With the template made for my welder we can concentrate on putting the form  together so I can test fit the skin and make the alteration so it fits 100% correctly.

     Terry has taken the form off the armature and placed the steel bracket into one of our mounting stands so we can pour the foam that will hold the two pieces together


     Now that Terry has foamed all the pieces together and added some extra reinforcing rods through the body it is time to put it back onto the armature. The dark line that is drawn on the form is where I will need to carve out the form so the 5/8" steel can be installed.


     The Nyala hide has been tanned and is now ready for a quick test fit. During this stage I will make notes on the form where I need to make alterations. This is sometimes a long and tedious task and there will be many test fittings to get this form to fit this skin correctly.

     I think a note is in order here; doing African work is a lot different from doing your normal type deer heads. There are very few African forms to choose from and the taxidermist must be able to alter the form, know anatomy, etc. to be able to do it correctly. So if you are going to Africa please look for a taxidermist that is experienced in African game. They are a minority.


      Here I have made some rough alterations to the front half to prepare to install the steel rod. The steel is back from the welder so it is time to carve out the slot that will accept it.


     The form has been carved out and the rod has been test fitted a few times with more adjustments to the form. I also had to get the welder to bring his torches over to my studio to bend the rod in a few places so it would fit correctly. As you can see the left front leg got broken off as it got to be too thin to accept the steel rod.  No big deal; I will just hand sculpt a new leg around the steel.

     At the bottom of the round steel rod is a solid piece of 1" x 1" solid steel that will slide into a hollow square tube that will be fasten to the final base. This will allow me to remove the Nyala from its base in case I need to move it or take it to a show. You will see more about this later in this article


      I had to remove the Nyala form from the armature so I could start to foam in the steel rod and make it part of the form. I will also rebuild the leg around the steel rod with fiberglass body filler.


 Now that the form is back on the armature the steel rod has been foamed in solid. I decided to reinforce the entire leg with fiberglass body filler so there will not be any movement that may cause me problems later.


 It is now time to bend rods for the other legs to make them strong and prevent them from breaking. The rods will be installed the same as we did with the steel rod that went into the main front leg.

     If you look close at the front right leg I have decided to give it a bend to make the front left leg stand out.  You can see there is a bend at the knee as well as the ankle joint.

     I also temporarily set the horns to give me an idea how I want the head and neck to look.  I will do some alterations to them also.


Again the Nyala form was removed from the armature and laid flat so the liquid two-part urethane foam could be poured into the slot we had made for the steel rods.


    Now that we have the steel rods installed in all the legs the next step is to make custom alterations to the form as well as alter the form to fit this particular skin which I will do in:

Nyala Part 3


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