Taking stock

As those of you who follow my main blog may know, I was recently out of state for two weeks vacationing in Arizona and visiting my family, and after flying home a couple of weeks ago, I promptly caught a really nasty cold. Because of this, I hadn’t had a chance to check on my bones until just yesterday, so I was really excited to pull everything out of the garage and see what four weeks of macerating and degreasing had done!

I was also looking forward to trying out some new cleaning brushes on a few of the more stubborn bones I’ve been working on. In the past, I’ve just used a plain old toothbrush to clean my bones, but I wanted to see if I’d get better results with different tools.

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I found the Libman dish brush and the Quickie stove top brush at Menard’s for about $2 each, and the Rubbermaid detail brushes at Farm and Fleet for $4. The Quickie brush has fairly soft bristles, while the Libman brush has thicker, stiffer bristles, and the Rubbermaids are somewhere in between, but are pretty similar to a regular toothbrush. At the very least, I figure it can’t hurt to add a little variety to my selection of cleaning supplies!

The first batch of bones I brought in was the sixty or so deer bones I’d picked up when I was visiting Arizona in November. Since they weren’t too messy when I found them, I ended up having my mom mail them home for me! (You can click here see what they looked like before I started macerating them.) I’ve been keeping them in two separate maceration baths: one for bigger/longer bones, and another for all the smaller bones.

I wasn’t surprised to find that they were still pretty smelly, but the month-old water was much clearer than I thought it would be. The small batch wasn’t too exciting… there are still a lot of bones that have some white tissue stuck to them that wouldn’t come off, no matter how hard I scrubbed (some of it is visible in the photo above). Unfortunately, the extended bath seemed to have softened an unidentified jawbone to the point where it was nearly falling apart in my hands. Fortunately, some of it – including the teeth – did survive, though I’m not sure if it can be identified at this point, or even saved. I pulled the jawbone out of the maceration bath in the hopes that letting it dry out will keep it from degrading further. Fingers crossed for this one!

In the second bath, I got to put my new brushes to the test on some of the leg bones, parts of which had connective tissues glued stubbornly to the ends. While I wasn’t able to remove much of it, the Libman dish brush did help me scrub off some bits of the white, filmy layer covering the bone, which has me hoping that this means my bones will get cleaner even faster!

These deer bones are way less greasy than when I first started cleaning them (as seen here), but since there wasn’t much flesh on them to begin with, I’m thinking that what they probably need is a nice long soak in a degreasing bath. Judging by that discolored water, though, it seems like macerating this batch is still doing some good, so I’m planning to let them macerate until the water starts looking clearer.

The last batch I worked on was a degreasing bath that had two deer scapulae that I’d gotten for Christmas, and a raccoon skull that I found nearly a year ago.

The scapulae are almost completely clean compared to how they looked a couple of months ago (which you can see here), except for that pesky white coating that ends up making the bones look chalky when left to dry. Scrubbing them with the dish brush helped remove a little bit of the coating, but it took several minutes just to get rid of the minuscule amount that I did, so I decided to leave these to soak again.

Though the raccoon skull looks quite a bit better than it did when I found it (seen here), it was still really discolored, despite having been in a degreasing bath for nearly ten months straight. I’ve heard that sometimes bones can take several months to fully degrease, but I haven’t had much noticeable progress with this one in a while, so I’m not entirely sure where to go from here. Since bones look darker when they’re wet, I ended up pulling this skull out of the degreasing bath to dry out so I can get a better idea of how much discoloration is still present… then I might have a better idea of what to do next.

I usually try to check on my bones and swap out water in the maceration baths every couple of days, but since it’s been slow going with the batches I’m currently working on, I may only update every week or so, depending on what my progress looks like. I’m also trying to get a bone cleaning walkthrough written up and published eventually, for anyone who wants a more in-depth look at my process. Stay tuned for more content, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me with any questions or suggestions!

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