Taxidermy Form Sculpting Tools

Written by dan ketchum
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Taxidermy Form Sculpting Tools
Tools small and large are used to sculpt realistic taxidermy forms. (at the museum image by Eric Isselée from

The traditional art of taxidermy has many methods of application. Modern taxidermists generally freeze animals, remove, tan and preserve the skin and then mount skins on a sculpted clay form. A variety of tools help the taxidermist create, shape and sculpt the forms essential to a lifelike creation.

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Sculpting Materials

The one essential tool in taxidermy form sculpting is the material used to create the taxidermy form. Taxidermists employ water-based modelling products that dry to a hard, lightweight finish. The popular Critter Clay features great detail, fine texturing capabilities and a low shrinkage rate when drying. It air dries, with no need for kiln firing. Apoxie Sculpt air dries to a super-hard waterproof, shrinkage-free finish and comes in a dozen different colours. Websites such as Continental Clay sell Apoxie Sculpt. Both types of clay can be painted. Pre-made forms of virtually any game animal can be found at websites such as Van Dyke's Taxidermy. These forms come in full-sized, full-body varieties or single parts such as heads, and can be sculpted on, modified or used as part of a hand sculpted form.

Hand Sculpting Tools

Basic taxidermy sculpting tools are simple, handled tools that carve, cut and shape taxidermy forms and natural materials. Companies such as Kemper offer wooden-handled tools with cutting heads of sharpened steel wire used for basic large-form sculpting--the smaller the diameter of the wire, the greater detail achieved in sculpting. Heavy-duty stainless steel scrapers with plastic or wooden grips clean surfaces and compress slabs or tiles, while spatulas smooth and sculpt large surfaces. Small tool sets made of tempered steel, plastic and nylon feature heads of various shapes used to create details in plaster and clay, while fine spear-tip modelling tools carve minute lines and details. Websites such as Continental Clay and Quality Taxidermy Supply offer these tools.

Automatic Sculpting Tools

Rotary hand tools such as those offered by Dremel and Black and Decker use various attachments that sculpt, shape, detail and smooth taxidermy forms. One of the few multipurpose tools designed specifically for taxidermy sculpting, King Arthur's Tools presents the Merlin Taxidermy Tool Set. The set consists of a lightweight variable speed (6,500 to 13,000 rotations per minute) rotary tool, a miniature angle grinder and six taxidermy-specific accessories. Accessories include a finishing blade, carbide disc, 8-tooth saw chain, flap disc sander, aluminum oxide cutting disc and a silicon carbide grinding disc. Designed with input from leading taxidermists, the tool sets uses include sculpting, fleshing, cutting, trimming, sanding and grinding. The Merlin Taxidermy Tool Set sculpts and shapes wood, plaster, bone, horn, antler, fibreglass and foam. King Arthur's Tools offers this set for sale on

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