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Support for Small Taxidermy Mounts

Purpose

This system is designed to provide a stable and efficient storage system for small taxidermy mounts of birds and mammals. It is especially good for diorama specimens that are unstable without their original display supports. It is appropriate also for taxidermy specimens that are mounted on free-standing pedestals with narrow bases that don’t provide balance for the specimen in a drawer as it is opened and closed.

 

Author(s)

Linda L. Thomas
Pratt Museum of Natural History
Amherst College
Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002 USA
Tel (413) 542-2165
Fax (413) 542-2713

Photographs: Frank M. Ward

Publication: 1992

Description

The supporting structures used here are carved from 1/2in and 11/2in planks of polyethylene foam. The polyethylene foam planks can be used in two ways depending on whether the mount is free standing or on a diorama prop.

For freestanding mounts, a single plank of foam, cut to fit the full inner dimension of a drawer, can be cut out to accommodate the bases of several mounts (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Foam plank drawer liner is cut out to accommodate specimen pedestal bases.

Polyethylene foam supports also can be cut for individual mounts (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Individual polyethylene foam mounts are used to stabilize specimen bases.

Specimens originally mounted for diorama props may be supported with polyethylene foam plank (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Taxidermy mount attached to branch is stabilized with pieces of polyethylene foam.

Creating such supports for individual specimens will provide greater flexibility when moving and rearranging drawer compositions, particularly when a wide variety of pedestal shapes is involved.


Materials Tools Supplies

  • Hot wire cutter or styrofoam cutter or utility knife
  • Metal T-square or metal straightedge
  • Polyethylene foam planks 1/2in and 11/2in (cut by supplier from 2in plank)
  • Wire, 24 gauge or thinner


Construction

To make the supports, sculpt a plank of polyethylene foam with a utility knife, hot wire or styrofoam cutter. Finer or more complex sculpting details can be achieved with the utility knife or a 3-dimensional hot wire cutter.

Two methods are described below.

Free-standing pedestals

  1. Cut a 1/2in plank of polyethylene foam to the inner dimension of the drawer. A snug fit will insure the least movement of specimens due to vibration.
  2. Position the taxidermy mounts on the plank as they will be arranged in the drawer. Trace the outline of the bases using a soft-leaded pencil.
  3. Cut the outlines with a utility knife or styrofoam cutter to insure a snug fit between the pedestals and the foam. The resulting cutouts can be used for individual mounts.
  4. Place the sculpted plank inside the drawer.
  5. Place the mounts into position (Fig. 1). To protect finely finished or historically important pedestals from being scratched by the cut foam surfaces, a sheet of acid-free paper or polyethylene sheeting can be used to line the holes before inserting the mounts.


Custom pedestals for diorama props

The following directions apply to bird specimens mounted on tree branches (Fig. 3). Each specimen requires its own particular support design according to size, shape, and center of balance of the mount.

  1. Hold the mount in a balanced position – the most appropriate position for storing the specimen securely. Determine two or more contact points where the polyethylene supports will provide stability to the mount.
  2. Cut polyethylene foam supporting blocks and place them so that they support the props but are not in contact with the specimen. The irregular shape of the diorama prop (i.e., branch) may require different sizes and shapes of supports. The length of the support should extend beyond the edge of overhanging specimen parts. For example, if a bird mount tilts forward, position the foam support so that the front section is longer than the back section (Fig. 3). Width is a less critical dimension. A 11/2in width usually is adequate for small mounts.
  3. To trace the irregular shape of branches on the foam plank, wrap a thin gauge wire (24 gauge or thinner) around the portion of the branch that will be placed in the support. The shape of the wire is traced on the foam with a soft lead pencil (Fig. 4). 


    Figure 4.  Polyethylene foam support for specimen in figure 3. Wire at right was molded around 
    branch and used as a template for cutout. A small extension has been added to the right of the 
    cutout to accommodate a branching twig.

    Use the hot wire or styrofoam cutter to cut along the inside of the line. Cut conservatively to keep a snug fit between the foam and the branch.
  4. Repeat this process for the other support taking into account that it may have different dimensions.


Comments

When choosing mounts to be stored together, taxonomic affinity is a primary consideration. However, tight storage conditions may necessitate placing a priority on grouping similar-sized mounts over systematic consistency. The need to “mix or match” taxa will depend on the size of the collection and storage area.

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