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Support for Bird Skins


This storage system replaces the frequently used method of storing bird skins on flat surfaces constructed of reactive materials, such as wood or acidic paper products. This system helps to prevent flattening of the backs of the skins, protects the specimens from contact with acidic materials, and restricts movement when the drawer is pulled out.


Tamsen Fuller
325 S.E. Alexander Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97333 USA
Tel (504) 752-1475

Illustrations: Tamsen Fuller

Publication: 1992


Troughs of a pH neutral material are constructed and fastened to a rigid support. This support fits the bottom of the storage drawer and has lateral handles for ease of removal. The troughs are oriented perpendicular to the sides of the drawer to prevent movement of the specimens when the drawer is opened (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Cross section of trough support for bird-skins.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Bone folder
  • Cotton jersey or muslin
  • Glue gun and hot melt adhesive
  • pH neutral blotter paper
  • Pinking shears
  • Polyethylene foam, 1/8in thick
  • Polypropylene fluted board
  • Staple gun
  • Staple pliers
  • Straightedge, heavy


Rigid drawer insert with handles

  1. Measure the width, height and depth of the drawer. Add the dimension for the height to each end of the width.
  2. Draw these measurements on a polypropylene fluted sheet with the flutes running in the same direction of the depth of the drawer. You may want to create a template for these measurements if you have more than one drawer to construct (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Rigid base.

  3. Cut the polypropylene fluted sheet along the outer dimension.
  4. Score the flutes and fold up according to figure 1 to create handles to lift the insert from the drawer.


The troughs are oriented across the flutes of the polypropylene fluted sheet. Two trough systems are suggested; one has polyethylene foam troughs, the other is of pH neutral blotter paper. Both may be attached to the rigid insert with hot melt adhesive or by stapling.

Polyethylene foam trough

  1. Measure the width of the polypropylene fluted sheet insert. Cut a strip of 1/8in thick polyethylene foam from a roll. The other dimension can be approximated based on the dimensions and the number of troughs that will fit on the insert. A paper template can be used to simulate the structure before the polyethylene foam is cut.
  2. Staple one edge of the polyethylene foam sheet along the width of the polypropylene fluted sheet.
  3. Push the polyethylene foam evenly towards the stapled edge to form a rounded trough.
  4. Staple the trough floor at each end. Repeat this until the rigid support is covered with troughs (Fig. 1).
  5. Line the troughs with unbleached, unsized cotton jersey or muslin to reduce the risk of damage from static electricity or from melted plastic in the event of a fire. Cut the edges of the cloth with pinking shears to prevent raveling and rolling. The cloth may be washed and reused if it becomes greasy.

pH neutral blotter paper trough

For best results work on a clean table, with clean hands and tools.

  1. Fold the blotter paper at intervals before it is stapled. To create a series of troughs that are 1in high and 21/2in wide, make folds at 3in intervals. The first two and the last two folds are made 1in apart (Fig. 3).

    Figure 3. Fold lines on blotter paper for troughs.

  2. Mark the folds lightly in pencil and use a heavy metal straightedge to fold the blotter. A sharp, unwrinkled crease can be made with a bone folder.
  3. After the folds are made, staple the end of the blotter paper to the rigid support.
  4. Bend the second fold perpendicular to the rigid support. Keeping the pressure on that element, push the blotter evenly to form the first trough. The troughs are stapled at each end and at the center of the trough floor.
  5. Repeat the trough fabrication as above.
  6. Staple the last fold in the same manner as the first one.


This system may be used directly in specimen trays without the rigid support. Acidic cardboard or wooden trays should be lined with polyester film to protect against acid migration.

Suitable methods of attachment for the film include a staple gun or hot melt adhesive.

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