sampotter

DIY Skull Boiler

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I've had a Buck Boiler for a couple of years and it worked great (30-40 heads) until the end of last spring. I've taken it apart twice and removed a ridiculous amount of rust and slake from the elements. Even after cleaning it I can't get it to heat above 140 degrees.

I saw a thread about a DIY version so I went to Tractor Supply to try to buy the components. They were sold out of the drain-plug tank heating elements but the manager did point out this unit that you just drop in the bucket. I was skeptical but she suggested that if it didn’t do what I wanted it to that I could just return it. For $36.99 I figured what the heck.

Well, it works really well ! I had a head of my cousin’s (including hair, eyes, jaw, brains, etc.) that I had been working on in the old Buck Boiler and I threw it in a new bucket with some cascade, water, and the new heating element. After 3 hours it was up to 200 degrees. At that point I removed the head and gave it a good shake. The bottom jaw fell off and all of the major flesh came off with a few flicks of my knife. There was still some cartilage left so I replaced the water and let it go 2 more hours. I hit the skull with the pressure washer and the end result is below. I still need to degrease the skull, but otherwise it is done.

I found the same heating unit on Amazon for $39.99. The reviews are the most interesting part. People are using it to heat hot tubs and swimming pools! The big thing about this unit is that it is a HEATER, not a de-icer, so it has no thermostat and will not shut off on it's own.

http://www.amazon.com/Allied-Precisi.../dp/B000BDB4UG

Today I ordered a thermostat control unit off Amazon which shipped for about $27. I am going to add this so I can maintain a 180-190 temp and not over to prevent damage to the skull.

 

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IMG_20140202_135255_009_zpsc539aee6.jpg

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Sam, very cool project. I have a buck boiler right now, but I can see me going this route when it stops working.

How do you degrease?

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Honestly, I haven't degreased any to date. After I get one cleaned today I will have 4 that I've done recently. I think I'll soak all of them together in water with Dawn. From what I've read that's what works well.

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That's what I have read too. Supposedly it takes months to completely degrease a skull. I read of another method that lets it soak in the dawn water then uses high air pressure to blow the grease out from inside the brain cavity.

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That seems like a pretty easy and convenient set up...How long do you have to keep the skull in the water and do you have to do anything to prevent discoloration to the part of the antlers near the skull that are submerged in the water 

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That's what I have read too. Supposedly it takes months to completely degrease a skull. I read of another method that lets it soak in the dawn water then uses high air pressure to blow the grease out from inside the brain cavity.

It appears that the grease gets trapped in the sinuses as the grease spots always seem to appear between the eyes. I use a pressure washer after I take the head out of the boiler but there is no way that water pressure is actually removing grease that is soaked into the bone. I have another head in there right now. Because me Dad didn't skin it last November I just threw this one in hair and all just like the picture above. After 5 hours the water temp was up to 200 and I was able to push off all of the flesh, leaving just a little bit of cartilage hear and there. I put new water in the bucket and added a healthy squirt of Ajax dish detergent. I'll post before and after pics tomorrow when it is all done.

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That seems like a pretty easy and convenient set up...How long do you have to keep the skull in the water and do you have to do anything to prevent discoloration to the part of the antlers near the skull that are submerged in the water

So far this set up is performing just like an actual Buck Boiler would. A skinned head would probably take 4 hours, but the one I put in with the hair still on it looks like it will take about 6 hours. I wrap the heavy-duty saran-type wrap used on pallets around the bases as tight as I possibly can. Initially I did several without wrapping the bases and you would end up with a white fat film on the antlers and the bark that was in the beading and burr would come out. The fat comes off with really hot water, but I also like to keep the antlers as natural as possible, so using the plastic wrap makes a big difference.

Also- being able to do this at the farm is convenient. Some of the steps can be a little messy especially when I hit it with the pressure washer.

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I think I remember seeing that before- the end result looks great but he could save some time by using a pressure washer instead of the air gun and all that soapy water. Mine are coming out just as clean without so much work- except for the degreasing method. We'll see how this works. The other thing is that the grease really doesn't start to show up for several months. I know that if we didn't boil them at all we wouldn't have the grease problem, but I'm not patient enough for the beatles and the masceration process sounds absolutely disgusting.

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I've thought about getting the buck boiler from cabelas but read mixed reviews. If I knew I would get that many skulls out of it, I would buy it

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"The sportsman lives his life vicariously. For he secretly yearns to have lived before, in a simpler time. A time when his love for the land, water, fish and wildlife would be more than just part of his life. It would be his state of mind."

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Hey I might try this! Btw whats up w doing ur cousins head?!? Lmfao!!!

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 NYS Trooper Joel R. Davis

EOW: 7/9/2017 

 

 

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Hey I might try this! Btw whats up w doing ur cousins head?!? Lmfao!!!

Sent from my DROID2 GLOBAL using Tapatalk 2

 

 

I like collecting skulls and thought his head would be an interesting addition....

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Here’s a deer my Dad shot. Because he didn’t skin it out 4 months ago I wasn’t really compelled to do it either. I boiled this one yesterday.

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After 6 hours in the boiler and then drying overnight:

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Interestingly, this deer had some dental issues that may have become a serious problem over time:

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IMG_20140205_103127_620_zps85d5fcc3.jpg

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I wired up a temperature controller for my DIY skull boiler to keep the water temp consistent.

STC-1000 temperature controller (~$20 on Amazon) , electrical box ($10 Home Depot), single female outlet ($3 Home Depot) , and corded GFI ($25 Home Depot), all ready for assembly.

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Wired, just prior to closing the box.

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It works! The outlet on the left side of the box is where the heating element gets plugged in.

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I ran the controller with the heater for about 2 hours. In that time it took the water from about 30 degrees to 85. I currently have it set on 85 degrees Celsius (185 Fahrenheit) with a 3 degree tolerance (once the water reaches 85 the power to the heater shuts off until the water cools back down to 82). The tolerance can be set to the tenth of a degree.

The controller came without a wiring diagram and I initially wired it improperly (safe, but the unit didn’t run). Once I did an internet search I was able to get it to work just fine. The controller can also be wired to run a compressor to cool as well. If I did this again I would try to find a cheaper GFI- maybe use one that is built into the outlet.

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Awesome work Sam! In thinking about picking one up tomorrow.


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I made this exact setup.  It took a lot longer than 6 hours and I had to whiten the skull with hair bleach for 12 hours after, but the end result looks great.  Thanks for sharing the idea.  


"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, I require the same of them."

- The Duke

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I made this exact setup.  It took a lot longer than 6 hours and I had to whiten the skull with hair bleach for 12 hours after, but the end result looks great.  Thanks for sharing the idea.  

 

As far as time goes- a lot depends on your water start temperature, ambient temperature (I made an insulated shell for mine), cook temperature, and how much flesh is removed ahead of time. I've found some skulls come out nice and white and some don't, even if everything was done the same way. Also plan on degreasing the skull. You won't notice it at first but after a few months the forehead area of the skull will start to get a oily look. I've been using Zep citrus degreaser from Home Depot at a 1 to 3 ratio with water. I let the skulls soak in this solution for several weeks at room temperature.

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Thanks for the head's up.  This was my first one so I hopefully got the mistakes out of my system.  I didn't flesh it at all prior to boiling.  That was a mistake.  It took almost 8 hours just to see bone.  Next time I'm definitely fleshing as much as I can beforehand.  


"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, I require the same of them."

- The Duke

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I throw them in skin and all. Make sure you wrap plastic around the bases up to the brow tines as tightly as possible. Keeps the bark in and the greasy scuzz from sticking to the antlers.

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