How to Create Fish Replica Blanks

Written by tonya yirka
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How to Create Fish Replica Blanks
Fish replica blanks can fool just about anyone. (stuffed fish image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com)

Fish blanks are becoming more popular with anglers who wish to display their trophy catches but still want to comply with the "catch and release" program in which the fish is released back into the water after capture. Blanks are replicas of fish, not the fish itself, and these lightweight fibreglass or urethane replicas will not smell, leak oils, cause scales to lift, nor fade or become brittle as do some of the more traditional taxidermy specimens. The fisherman can also create his own fish blanks.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Molds of fish parts: head, gill plate, body, fins and tail
  • Can of PCA primer/sealer
  • Carnuba wax
  • Small brush
  • Poly Vinyl Acetate alcohol
  • Small can white resin, gel
  • Small can of polyester resin, heated
  • Fibreglass/resin epoxy
  • Fibreglass/resin epoxy catalyst
  • Small can micro bulb filler
  • "C" clamps
  • Epoxy Release agent
  • Small can of urethane
  • Photo of the trophy fish
  • PVA glue or white school glue
  • Small electric hand tool with grinding attachment
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Apply PVA primer sealer (Poly Vinyl Acetate) liberally to the indentations in the mould in order to compensate for the porous nature of the mould. Dry the mould.

  2. 2

    Wax it. Apply carnuba wax with a small brush and allow the mould to dry. This should only take about 15 minutes. Buff the wax out using a bit of fresh wax and the small brush.

  3. 3

    Spray with PVA alcohol. This not only preserves the mould but helps release the casting.

  4. 4

    Coat the mould with white resin gel. This coating makes the fish look and feel natural. Let the gel coat dry for 24 hours.

  5. 5

    Brush a thin layer of hot polyester resin over the gel coat. This enables the mould fillers to adhere to the resin gel.

  1. 1

    Mix the fibreglass/resin epoxy. Add micro bulb filler. This filler, comprised of microscopic glass spheres, adds strength without adding weight. Add catalyst. The catalyst causes the epoxy to set much faster than it normally would.

  2. 2

    Fill the body and head moulds with the fibreglass/resin epoxy. Fibreglass is lighter and easier to paint than the urethane that will be used for the fins and tails.

  3. 3

    Press the two sides of the mould together using "C" clamps.

  4. 4

    Allow the epoxy to dry thoroughly.

  1. 1

    Pour urethane into the gill plate, the pelvic, pectoral and all dorsal fins and tail moulds. Urethane is rubbery, can bend without breaking or cracking and is transparent, thus creating a more natural look to the fins, gill plate and tail than does the fibreglass/resin epoxy.

  2. 2

    Press both sides of the mould together using "C" clamps.

  3. 3

    Allow the urethane to dry thoroughly.

  1. 1

    Remove the clamps. Release the clamps slowly but firmly to allow the blank to come away from the mould slowly.

  2. 2

    Apply the release agent. This may have to be done a couple of times to ensure that the entire blank is accepting the agent.

  3. 3

    Remove the blank from the mould. Gently pull the moulds away from each side of the blank.

  1. 1

    Examine the photo carefully. Notice how each part of the fish is positioned on the body.

  2. 2

    Determine how the fish blank will look when it is completed. Some anglers want a docile look, while others prefer a wild action specimen.

  3. 3

    Attach head to body using PVA glue (also known as carpenter's glue or school glue). Allow glue to dry.

  4. 4

    Sand and polish the seams, tail and fins.

  5. 5

    Glue the gills and dorsal, anal, and adipose fins and tail to the blank. Do not attach the pectoral and ventral fins because they will be attached by the artist after he paints the blank.

  1. 1

    Ground and sand the extra bits of material from the blank. The small electric hand tool can get into those hard to reach areas that the sandpaper cannot reach.

  2. 2

    Spray the blank thoroughly with warm clean water to get all the release agent and loose, unwanted material off the blank. Allow blank to dry thoroughly.

  3. 3

    Seal the blank with a good paint basecoat sealer. Allow blank to dry completely.

  4. 4

    Apply a coat of white acrylic primer to the head and body only. Leave the fins and tail unpainted so the artist can create a translucent effect.

Tips and warnings

  • Auto white primer can be used in place of the white acrylic paint.
  • Use urethane for all the parts.
  • Eyes can be added by the taxidermist or artist.
  • Take a photo of the prized fish to professional fish artists who can recreate your fish on the blank.
  • Have good ventilation when using the epoxy, sealants, urethane and primer.

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