For mounting the bird some additional tools and materials are needed, namely: A pair of wire cutters. A pair of pliers. A file, Some glass eyes, Some annealed or soft iron wire of several sizes, Some tow, and a ball of stout packthread with needle to match.
A few ordinary carpenter tools are needed to make the stand, but that is another department.
The first part of the mounting is the skinning carried out exactly as in making the skin, up to the point where the cotton is put in. Now there is a difference. You cannot put a wire through cotton, therefore use no cotton in a bird to be mounted; use tow instead. Plug the eyes, wrap the legs and wings as before, but with tow.
If it is a dry skin that is to be mounted remove the cotton body and replace it with a lump of cotton soaked with water. Wrap damp cloth or cotton around the outside of each leg, and on the bend of each wing. Shut this up in a tin box for twenty-four hours and it will be soft and can be treated like a fresh skin.
cut a wire (of stovepipe size) about a foot long. File a sharp point at one end and bend the other end into a hook (Fig. 8). Take tow in long strips and lash it tight over, around and through the hook - stitching it tight and binding it on with plenty of packthread - until you have a body the size and shape of the one you took out of the robin, with a neck on it also, like the bird's own neck (Figs. 9 and 10). Of course the real body should be at hand to give the measurements. Keep the neck lower than it appears, because the real neck is supple and drops low between the shoulders in a way not possible for the substitute. This body should be hard enough to hold a pin or needle driven into it; indeed some taxidermists use bodies carved out of cork.
Put the point of the wire up the neck, and out through the top of the skull between the eyes (N. W. Fig. 11). Gently work the neck up to the back of the skull and the body into its place.
Now make two other sharpened wires. Work one up through each foot under the skin of the leg, under the wrapping, and on straight through the hard body - which it enters about the middle of the side (X in Fig. 9). When this is far enough through clinch it and drive it back firmly into the body; taking care to avoid tearing the skin, by easing up the leg on the wire, as it is drawn back.
Do the same for the other leg. Get the tail into its right place; drive a sharpened 3-inch wire through the pope's nose or tail bone into the body to hold it there; work the skin together till the opening can be closed with a few stitches; and now we are ready for the stand. The simplest is the best for the present purpose. A piece of a board slightly hollowed on the under side is got ready in a few minutes. With an awl bore two holes through this about one inch apart and run a foot-wire through each. Clinch them on the under side, fastening them firmly with tacks or small staples. Now we are ready to give the robin its natural pose. This is done by bending the wires in the neck and legs. A wire or a large pin will have to be driven into each wing to hold it to the side, at least while drying (X, Fig. 11); and another in the middle of the back (B P, Fig. 11).
The prinking of the specimen is now done chiefly with needles reaching through the feathers to the skin. Pins may be driven into the body anywhere to hold the skin or feathers in place; and cotton thread may be lashed around the body or the wings and around the projecting wire till everything is held in the position that is wished. Then the bird is set away to dry.
In a week the specimen should be ready for the finishing touch - the putting in of the eyes. A plug of damp cotton is fastened on each eye-place the night before. In the morning the eyelids are once more soft. The eyes are put through the opening in the sockets, the lids neatly set around them. Some prefer to set them in a bed of putty or plaster of paris. cut off the projecting wires flush, so that the feathers hide what is left, remove the thread lashings and the mounting of the robin is finished.
The process is much the same for all birds, but the larger the bird the more difficult. Seabirds, ducks, and divers are usually opened at the back or under the side. Woodpeckers and owls and some others have the head so large that it will not come through the neck skin. This calls for a slit down the nape of the neck, which, of course, is carefully sewn up in finishing.
If the bird is to have its wings spread, each wing must be wired to the body in the way already set forth for the legs.
If the bill keeps open when you want it shut, put a pin through the lower jaw into the palate toward the part in front of the eyes, or even wind a thread around the bill behind the pin (see Fig. 11).
The mistakes of most beginners are: making the neck too long, stuffing it too full, or putting the body so far into it as to stretch the skin and show bare places.
To make good accessories for a group of mounted birds is another very special business. It involves a knowledge of wax flowers, imitation woods, water, stones, etc., and is scarcely in the line of the present book. Therefore the beginner is advised to use the simplest wooden stands.
Not every one has the taste for natural history, but those who have will find great pleasure in preserving their birds. They are not urged to set about making a collection, but simply to preserve such specimens as fall in their way. In time these will prove to be many, and when mounted they will be a lasting joy to the youthful owner. If the museum should grow too large for the house, there are many public institutions that will be glad to offer their hospitality and protection.
There is, moreover, a curious fatality attending a beginner's collection. It hardly ever fails. He speedily has the good luck to secure some rare and wonderful specimen that has eluded the lifelong quest of the trained and professional expert.
(From Country Life, June 1904)
Fig. 1. The dead owl, showing the cuts made in skinning it: A to B, for the body; El to H, on each wing, to remove the meat of the second joint.
Fig. 2. After the skinning is done, the skull remains attached to the skin, which is now inside out. The neck and body are cut off at Ct. Sn to Sn shows the slit in the nape needed for owls and several other birds.
Fig. 3. Top view of the tow body, neck end up, and neck wire projecting.
Fig. 4. Side view of the tow body, with the neck wire put through it. The tail end is downward.
Fig. 5. The heavy iron wire for neck.
Fig. 6. The owl after the body is put in. It is now ready to close up, by stitching up the slit on the nape, the body slit B to C, and the two wing slits El to H on each wing.
Fig. 7. A dummy as it would look if all the feathers were off. This shows the proper position for legs and wings on the body. At W is a glimpse of the leg wire entering the body at the middle of the side.
Fig. 8. Another view of the body without feathers. The dotted lines show the wires of the legs through the hard body, and the neck wire.
Fig. 9. Two views of one of the eyes. These are on a much larger scale than the rest of the figures in this plate.
Fig. 10. The finished owl, with the thread wrappings on and the wires still projecting. Nw is end of the neck wire. Bp is back-pin, that is, the wire in the centre of the back, Ww and Ww are the wing wires. Tl are the cards pinned on the tail to hold it flat while it dries. In the last operation remove the thread and cut all these wires off close, so that the feathers hide what remains.