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
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
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
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: