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November 17, 2008 9:13 PM   Subscribe

What to do with a very, very dead mouse?

I have a mouse skeleton in a bucket, and just throwing it out feels wrong, somehow. I want to preserve it, if possible, but I don't even know where to begin. I envision the little skeleton encased in something akin to amber. Is there some resin that I could use to do this? Health issues to be aware of?

Backstory: About 8 months ago, we had a mouse problem in my apartment building. My cat would be a real sport and help me track the little monkeys down. I would do a catch and release in a forested area nearby. During this time, I had a covered bucket under my kitchen sink that I used to use for cat food storage. This week, I opened the bucket and was pretty surprised to see tufts of fur, dead maggots and a perfectly hunched mouse skeleton. Smelling the enticing aroma of cat food, the poor little guy must have squeezed into the top of the bucket, fell in and slowly starved to death. This makes me rather sad, so I'd like to do something the little mousie (and maybe make a neat little creepy thing, too).
posted by Cat Pie Hurts to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What about Lucite?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:21 PM on November 17, 2008

A guy in one of my art classes (college) encased numerous bird skulls in polyester fiberglass resin and it looked very much like amber. Could be done in a frame and backlit for a cool effect... Or you could probably just dip the skeleton a few times to build up a good coating. Polyurethane might work well too.

Health issues? Well, any chemical like those I've suggested isn't something you want on your skin or something you should inhale. Work with them in open, well ventilated spaces. Wear gloves/apron/mask.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:22 PM on November 17, 2008

blaneyphoto - my health concern was more about the fact that a mouse died and rotted away under my sink, and now I want to make it into a touchable thing! Will I need to clean the skele first? (And will I be able to move it intact without it falling apart?)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:37 PM on November 17, 2008

The Light Fantastic - good idea, but I don't think Lucite is pourable (not at room temperature, anyway. According to this wikipedia entry, the acrylic needs to be processed at 250C.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:40 PM on November 17, 2008

You can use epoxy, the kind they use for super thick bar tops.
posted by lee at 9:48 PM on November 17, 2008

The little guy is probably being held together right now only with his own juices, which is both delicate and gross. You say you're worried about moving it without it falling apart, so I assume that means he's still in the bucket like you found him? If so, he's probably just as much stuck to the bottom of the bucket as one bone is to another. If he's somehow out of the bucket and still intact, this'll be easier. But anyway, if you really want to try to preserve the whole guy, I'd get some crazy glue and set about painstakingly putting a tiny drip at each joint. Once he's dry, you can take him out and clean him. Which I would do with rubbing alcohol and a q-tip. If you want to encase him in something after that, that's up to you...I don't know what would be your best bet.

What I would do, however, (since mouse skeletons are fragile little things and you're likely not going to get to the end of the process with a whole skeleton) is take the skull, clean it, and preserve it however you see fit. Skulls are cool. You can start a collection!
posted by phunniemee at 9:59 PM on November 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

This google search seems to think a clear, pourable resin that you could pour several inches thick at once exists. (The bar top kind may need to be done in stages).

Whether it's cost effective or will come out looking nice is a totally different story.

Also, you should be super thankful you discovered him already dried out. Grossest thing I ever saw was one not quite that... dry.
posted by nat at 10:17 PM on November 17, 2008

Just might have luck with that plastic water people use in fake flower arrangements. I haven't used it myself and don't know the brands, but this stuff turned up in several searches. I've seen similar stuff used in various craft projects before, and I think it's probably just what you're looking for.
posted by phunniemee at 10:40 PM on November 17, 2008

Make a very, very small zombie.

be sure to post a picture
posted by davejay at 11:27 PM on November 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

When I was little (8 or so), Dad was doing some renovation work in the kitchen, and found a very old mouse (or possibly rat?) body in the wall. It was dried to the consistency of a Peruvian mummy, so he made a small wooden box for it, made a box lid by gluing down a piece of hard clear plastic, and VOILA : a Show and Tell piece for my 3rd grade class that could never be bested.
posted by HopperFan at 11:49 PM on November 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

There is stuff called envirotex that is good for this. Make a mould- the bottom half of a cherry tomato or strawberry punnet from the supermarket works well. Place mouse skeleton in punnet, very slowly (lest air bubbles form) pour mixed (it's a two part thing) envirotex into punnet. Leave it somewhere dust free for at least 24-48 hours. Break away plastic, you will have paperweight with dead mouse inside. This technique works well dead with aquarium fish.
posted by mattoxic at 3:54 AM on November 18, 2008

What's the bucket made of? If it's a cheap bucket and the bottom is easily cut I think that would be your starting point.
posted by mandal at 5:17 AM on November 18, 2008

What you need is Casting Resin, obtainable from Michaels (craft store).

Here is a link.
posted by lungtaworld at 5:18 AM on November 18, 2008

I took some before pics this morning.

I think the polyester casting resin may be the ticket. I have to head to Jo-Ann fabrics today anyway, so I'll see if they have some there.

lee - the more I read about epoxy, the more it looks like it won't set the way I'm thinking. Thanks, though.

mandal - it's a heavy painter's bucket. Cutting won't be too easy without lots of shifting. (but it would be pretty damned creepycool to preserve the entire bottom of the bucket as is, furbits and all!)

mattoxic - I'm going to go with the casting resin, but envirotex is exactly what I'm looking for for another project, so thanks!

I'm going to go all archeological on it and start gently brushing away all of the bits. I'll do some gentle q-tip tests to test structural intengrity. If all holds up, I'll try to slip some thin film underneath and lift out. If I can't do that, I'll brush away as much as I can and setup a form around Sr. M. and pour, THEN cut the bucket after it dries.

I'll report back when something is done. Thanks everyone!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:19 AM on November 18, 2008

I believe maggots are used by taxidermists to clean skeletons, so I think you're all set. It's sad that the creature starved, but it will be a very cool project.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 AM on November 18, 2008

Actually, these are the guys usually used to clean bones.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2008

Transparency paper might work well for doing the slide and lift, or as a bottom liner for your in-place form, so instead of having a big hunk of opaque bucket plastic stuck to the bottom it's just a thin hunk of clear plastic. Or actually, maybe the plastic of the bucket would make a good base for the finished piece.
posted by contraption at 11:01 AM on November 18, 2008

contraption - I'm -hoping- to get a floating-in-resin effect, so I'll probably start by casting a base. The transparency paper would work well to that effect. Maybe I'll try a combo of using transparency paper for extraction and phunniemee's crazy glue idea. I have a feeling that I'll be doing a lot of test casts to get comfortable working with the resin before finally doing the mouse.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2008

For anyone still following, here is the almost-complete mousie. I'm going to do some cutting and polishing tomorrow to make him oh-so-perfect. I think I'm also going to embed some LEDs in a resin block and make a little glowy-mousie-monolith type thingy. Thanks for all the help everyone!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:08 PM on November 19, 2008

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