Feather Care during mounting

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Feather Care during mounting

Postby Wood-E » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:03 pm

First I want to say a big THANK YOU to all the people contributing to help us learn taxidermy. I have been reading and studying many entries and then finally have done a couple of birds. If I can figure out how to post pictures, I will post my first birds for your critiques and make an entry with what I have learned that might shed light for others in my novice state... :thumbsup:
My question for the bunch is feather care. On my birds once completed, the mounts at the initial mounting have pretty "rough" feathers. Meaning they are not perfectly laying down, more like they are up and at weird angles from the blow drying and mounting. As the days pass and I tweak the feathers, they start to lay down better and align with each other. They don't seem to lay down however and look as natural as the mount pictures you all show, nor the professional mounts I have done. :huh: What is your secrets to this issue I am having? Or is it just an issue I am having and nobody else???
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Forgot...

Postby Wood-E » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:06 pm

One thing I forgot to add. These are waterfowl: Drake and Hen Eider and Old Squaw Pair...
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Postby fowl minded » Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:17 am

wood,
I'm picturing a pretty rough looking bird based on your post. Pic's would be great if you can figure a way to get 'em up.
I often give the bird a good shake once sewn up. This tyically helps the bird's skin "relax" and many of the feathers will adjust themselves accordingly. I've also heard of guys using caulk to filling the feather tracts. Having not done this, I can't speak to it's effectiveness.
The rest, it seems, would be typical taxi work. It can be tough to get a bird to lay up right. Couple things to keep in mind:
Get the right size form, size does matter...
The better the specimen, the better, and easier, the taxi too.
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Postby Wood-E » Tue Feb 05, 2008 7:44 pm

Hey fowl,
Thanks for any help here. I haven't painted these yet, so the colors on the feet and beaks are not there yet.

As you can see, the feathers are just not perfect like the day these ducks decided to see what all those ducks were doing sitting around that rock in the water.... :thumbsup:

[img]http://duckhuntingchat.com/user
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So any help in keeping me from destroying future mounts I would seriously love any help while I'm still in my novice stages here.
Thanks,
Wood-e
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Postby fowl minded » Wed Feb 06, 2008 9:44 am

Wood,

Nice pic's. Seriously, they show what you're talking about well....

First off, if these are your first few birds, they aren't terrible. Couple things I see (and the pics may not do the birds the justice the deserve). IT looks like you're neck length may be a little long, or the wings aren't adjusted quite right (front to back). Also, the wings themselves look out of whack. I believe the secondaries need to be pulled down closer to the body of the bird. Keep in mind, if things like this are truely out of adjustment, then the feathers are not going to lay as they should.....

Couple questions I guess.
what are the wires coming out the back of the squaws??
When drying, are you sure to get all the feathers dry, especially the down underneath? It's very important that ALL is dry.
Also, is the skin drying up while you mount, ie. getting "crunchy" or kinda stiff causing the feather tracts to start drying wrong?
Still curious if the form is right too, there should be some room left and the skin shouldn't be tight to the form (tight enough that is pulling and keeping you from making adjustments).

There is some "typical" taxi work that should be done too. What I mean is; fussing with the skin on the form, adjusting so the feathers lay right and cover as they should...."finish" work. This is where any wrong measurements or miss alignment will "show" and should be fixed if possible. I suspect there are a few minor things adding up to "the problem", not that you're doing ONE thing wrong.

Sometimes a blow dryier or airbrush (obviously no paint!!) blown opposite the natural feather direction will stand them up, and if the skin isn't too dry, they should relax in a more natural state. running a pin backwards to full feather can help too. (grooming can take a while. A prime bird may lay up easy....say 15 min., a less mature bird typically takes longer...say 1 hour, with many re-visits to adjust things again.

Practice, practice, practice....I'm never statisfied with my work...always striving to make it "more real". Along with practice is referance! Pictures, pics, and more pics. These will aid in showing where certain feather tracts should lay and how body parts (wings, head, neck, etc.) should look in the pose you're going for.
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Postby Wood-E » Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:58 am

Fowl,
Thanks for the help. The eider neck seemed to grow an extra inch during the time it made it from the freezer to the mannikin... :oops: I wasn't sure how to fix it w/out cutting out some neck, so I lived with it. The squaw seemed better length, and I took extra effort in not stretching them while skinning and cleaning the skins as I felt that was what caused it... (do you agree that I could have stretched the eider neck by pulling on it too much skinning and degreasing???)

The wires... Well, the tails would pop out of the V in the back when I was doing final mount onto the board, and I had no pins available, so they are my quick grab pins to hold the skin in place that I just never took out yet... :oops: again...

When I dry, I use a toothbrush and hair dryer to get down to the down and make sure everything is dry. I don't go to 100%, buy maybe 90% dry (i.e. some down isn't perfectly fluffed, but almost all of it is.) but the skin is very still very moist. It takes a good day or more before I notice the skin on the mounts starting to really dry out well when I'm primping the feathers during the drying phase.

My first few forms (including this eider) seemed to have WAY too much room in them so I actually put in some cotton filler to make up for it. (Even though the form matched the body measurements almost exactly...) On the squaws I worked very hard at not stretching anything and the forms were closer, but not pulling at all. I still had some wiggle room. If I had to put in in percent, I'd say the body was about 95% of the room I had and I could move skin and such around easily when setting the pose up.

It seems that the feathers are "up" after I finish the blow drying and don't lay down well for a few days as it starts drying. Maybe I'm too damn rough in drying all the down that is deep in the feathers? I DO however blow them in the opposite direction that they lay down starting at the neck and working backwards as that seems like the obvious way to do it. Is it the obviously backwards way and the root of my problem???

I'm putting the wings in the small dimple in the mannikin and xchecking that spot with the actual body to make sure they are similar. I always have what feels like a huge space in the front of the duck around the neck on these mannikins / necks. Is this normal or does everyone else's fit right up nice and tight? Do you use your hands after fluffing/blow drying to lay the feathers down again (which seems counter-intuitive to the fluffing with the air), or do yours just do it all by themselves????

Sometimes I hate not knowing what I don't know..... :mad:

Thanks for the help I really appreciate the thoughts.
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Postby fowl minded » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:35 pm

wood,

a couple possibilties are, the toothbrush could be roughing things up (getting feathers or down out of alignment). Not sure on this cause I never done it. I simply use a blow dryer and let the air do the work...maybe unstick "clumps" with my finger to speed things up. I also dry mine 95%+.

Form size could be part of it. The squaw forms sound right, the Eider was/is too big. I quit using cotton batting, personally, I never got things to lay up as well, the batting always seemed to clump and make the skin/feathers look bumpy.

Neck length: I always measure that after I skin. I use foam, and cut to the length of the actual bird's neck. (2 pieces, one for the "meat", one for esophogus(sp?)) I also estimte the diameter size then too, trying to match the real one as close as possible. If you do this, stretching during whatever process shouldn't matter.

Don't be afraid to move things around. Obviously care must be taken, but pulling on the skin to adjust on the form or laying down or standing up feathers by hand seems common (and needed) to me. I tug, pull, twist, and manipulate the feather quite a bit to get 'em to lay up right.

The wings sound like they're in the right spot, be sure the wire follows the bones to the primaries. If you invert the wing, you'll recall scraping the "secondaries" from the bone, they need to be back against the same bone in the end.

The space in front is typical. You can build up this crop area on your form somewhat. You may also need to pull the whole skin back toward the tail some. This will create less of a void up front, and may erradicate some of the lay-up issues you're experiencing. (not saying you've done it wrong, but it's something to watch out for)

the important thing is, you're learning from your mistakes, and better yet, you're noticing them.
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Postby Whistlerwhittler » Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:23 pm

Thanks guys for the questions and answers. I find this feather adjustment to be the hardest part and you've given me some things to think about.
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Postby Wood-E » Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:46 pm

Fowl,
Thanks for the info. I'll be starting another duck next week and I'll be careful with the feathers the way you do it and see if that was it.
Thanks for all of your help and tips. You were very very helpful and I appreciate the time you took helping out. :thumbsup:
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Postby duckhunt » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:23 pm

Alot depends on how good you defat the bird's and what kinda wash routine you use!!
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Postby Wood-E » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:42 pm

DH,
Thanks for the thoughts. I want to ask because I can take what you say 2 ways. :huh: Do you mean...
1. If I did a thourough job of defat'n the bird. Probably what you meant.
2. If i did a "good" job of defat'n the bird and not too rough. Can I hurt the bird in the defat'n process with a wheel? I am moving the wheel so lightly across that I barely touch each "layer" of fat till I get to skin and usually without heating the skin at all.
My first bird was pathetic in this area. Then I learned how to get down to what was actually the skin and feather tracks and saw what people were talking about with the fat between them. The old squaw are done pretty thourough by my small knowledge level, but I did attempt to get all fat off the skin from beak to butt...

The wash routine affecting this I'm very interested in also. There seems to be dozens of ways, temperatures and soaking agents to use for doing ducks in the forum. What I eventually settled on was this and would WELCOME all thoughts on what I'm doing wrong if I am on this stage...
1. I put I get done defat'n I put d-duck in d-plastic sink.
2. I fill it with hot (tap) water and a good squirt of dawn that I pre-mixed in a cup first.
3. Then I carefully go over the inside/skin area rubbing soapy water around and just agitate the entire thing.
4. I let it soak for about 10 minutes to release the gelatinized fat.
5. I repeat these steps about 3 times but use warm water and the last 2 times I do the feathers by moving my hands around the body, wings and neck looking for any blood, dirt and fat that got on them
6. I then rinse with warm water repeating as necessary to remove all soap. No agitation, just more like moving the bird back and forth in the water gently. Although I am going to make an outomated rinser I saw on a site with a 5gal bucket and valve.
7. Then I usually freeze the skin in a ziploc and water while I order the manikin parts.
8. When I am ready, I put the frozen duck in warm water for a few hours to thaw it completely.
9. Sometimes I wash it once more.
10. I inspect the skin for any fat missed and then blow dry the entire bird with a hair dryer and a toothbrush to get down into the down as needed. The dryer is warm air, not cool and not hot.
11. Once the feathers are about 90% dry, I then prep the duck for mounting.
12. I then mount it and do a final blow dry / fluffing and set the mount.
13. I then get mad at the feathers not laying down and primp them for a week as they seem to start laying down better each day for a few days straight.

Thats it in a nutshell and somewhat detailed if there is anything there to catch me on.

Any thoughts are WELCOME. :welcome:
Just the drakes everyone... Take Um...
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Postby duckhunt » Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:00 pm

I understand problem's with the wheel, alot of diver's you have to really work at it to damage the skin these are the easiest to wheel, mallards and black duck's can make you pull your hair out sound's like your doing it rite light pressure always keep the skin moving if you stop with certain puddlers you can instantly burn through the skin with a fine wire wheel. some people just get the heavy layer off and call it good and leave some on the skin washing will get off the residue but if you leave a thin layer on the skin this will harden and make the feathers with a lumpy look, one way to avoid the skin ripping in area's were the stem's of the feather's come through, wheel it in the same direction. the wetter the skin the better if your wheeling a bird when its drying out it will catch alot easier. As far as washing goes you are rite there are a ton of way's to do it after a bird is totaly wheeled i like to soak it in cool water and dawn, after it has soaked for a while change the water and repeat, if there are blood stain's that are stubborn use warm water i just done like to use it if a bird is penned up it will help loosen the feather's, now is the part were i know people disagree with me, I like to use white gas it really cleans the feathers and remaining fat it also tightens the skin up more natural around the body and tightens around the quill's, If you are worried about safety do this step in your garage or a shed, but once you use gas the bird has to be tumbled ( i like corn cobb grit ) and mounted if you are just going to clean a bird do two rinse's in dawn and put in a ziplock and back in freezer As far as the feathers not laying down after you mount the bird do you fluff the feather with light air?? how about carding certain area's ?? I also have my doubt's about the toothbrush i would just use the blow drier or the hose from your air brush with light pressure :thumbsup:
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