Polecat taxidermy on commission. This is a step by step guide to the process I used. I am completely self taught and took all steps on my own initiative.
First I work out where I want to start skinning by keeping in mind how I want the finished piece mounted. As she is going to be stood up on a piece of wood it’s best to make the incision on the stomach as this will be least visible when sewn back up.
I make a parting in the hair and follow this as I cut. You want to be really careful when you cut to not rupture the stomach as it will release all its contents.
One of the most important disciplines I’ve leant over time is to know how much pressure to apply to the scalpel.
I peel back the skin and release it from the flesh by cutting these gossamer membranes. You only need the weight of the scalpel to do this so I apply no pressure and just drag it along to cut the skin free. You can see on the right the side I’ve worked on compared to the side I have not.
Progress over the ribs and up to the spine. At this point I turn her over and go in from the other side.
Both sides complete making a gap.
On to the leg I first push these up out of the skin by using the natural leg bend then skinning all around the leg until i can push my thumb through. Here I cut it off at the ankle. Sometimes I keep the bone attached as it can then be used to anchor the foot when the inner form is made.
Completing the lower half and front legs using the same method as before.
The head is by far the most tricky, you need to be really careful and patient when cutting out the ear canal and the eyelids.
Skinning complete. I keep the lips and nose attached and will remove the body but keep the skull. I will remove all the flesh from the skull and then build it back up again in milliput (an air drying epoxy putty).
Removing the flesh from the skull.
It took about an hour and a half to do this, it is quite arduous and fastidious work. To do this I used a scalpel, pliers, tweezers and two different pairs of scissors. It is important to change the scalpel blade frequently, it’s paramount that the blade is incredibly sharp. Then I build up the removed flesh with miliput. I use the other side as a guide and try to mimic it.
Now using the built up side as the guide I complete the other side. As her eyes are black with no visible iris or pupil it’s ok to use a black bead the same size. I didn’t have any that fit but these red ones are a perfect size so I will use them and paint them with nail varnish. Nail varnish works well as it leaves a smooth high gloss finish.
Removing the brain. There is a hole at the back of the skull where the spine would have attached so I widen this with pliers. After that it’s a case of scraping it all out with cotton buds.
Removing all bits of flesh and fat still attached to the skin then massaging in borax powder.
I make the form with wood wool wrapped in thread. Layers are added to copy the shape and a wire ‘spine’ using the body as a guide. It’s best to add less than you think rather than more as it’s easier to add to it then remove.
Bending the top of a piece of wire to put in the leg. The loop at the top will cut as an anchor when I cover it with miliput. A leg shape is sculpted then a wire is pushed through the pad and the skin rolled back over the miliput form.
With both legs done the miliput can be molded through the skin to get the correct shape. A wire is put through the wood wool form into each leg (using the looping method as before).
Sewing up the body and packing more woodwool where needed. The back legs are then completed like the front legs.
Pinning the eyelids in place while she dries.
When the skin contracted the eyelids raised and moved passed the eye. To rectify this I sculpted some with miliput and painted them.
I want her standing on a piece of wood so mark where the feet will do then drill a hole the depth of the exposed wire. I then put miliput in the hole then insert the wire.
All complete she is now ready for her new home.
The last thing I do is bury her body in my garden so it can return back to the earth.