Tail Fan, Beard and Spur Preparation Instructions
There are many reputable taxidermy instructions available online to prepare your beard and fan. I recommend the National Wild Turkey Federation’s instructions found at https://www.nwtf.org/hunt/article/fan-mount or Van Dyke’s Taxidermy found at http://www.vandykestaxidermy.com/How-to-Mount-a-Turkey-Tail-W63.aspx.
Tail Fan – I highly recommend the tail fan base is coated with a two-part epoxy, Bondo or simaliar equivalent to prevent fan breakage.
Beard – Make sure and leave about 1/4″ ring of skin surrounding the base of the beard hairs to hold the beard together. After you have Borax cured the base of the beard, I higly recommend you gently compress and modify the shape of the beard base with pliers or a vise to ensure it properly fits into the receiving chamber on the bottom of the plaque. After ensuring a proper fit, I highly recommend you coat the lower 1/2″ of the beard base with wood glue, epoxy or similar adhesive. This will help keep the beard in tack for a long time and prevent the beard from breaking when you screw it for final assembly. And lastly, most turkey beards have a natural curve that makes it difficult to have a symmetrical presentation on the plaque. It is extremely easy to straighten your beard. To do this, get an empty paper towel tube and cut it lengthwise all the way and unfold it. Take your beard and wet it under a faucet, then wrap it tightly in a dry paper towel. Wet the paper towel. Take the wrapped beard and lay it in the paper towel tube. Carefully and tightly wrap the paper towel tube around the beard forming a straight beard. Use a few small rubber bands to hold the tube together and let it sit in a cool dry area for 5 – 7 days. The paper towel tube will help wick away water to dry the beard in a nice straight line.
Spurs – This is the step you need to take your time doing because the spurs are small, made of hard bone, and hard to work with. To prepare your spurs, you can use one of three methods. Again, take your time and don’t rush this for best results. If you have access to the following tools, they will help a lot! A small workbench vise; hacksaw or fine-toothed blade band saw; an electric bench grinder or Dremel tool or metal file. A small workbench vise works great to hold turkey legs in while cutting the spurs off. A hacksaw or band saw works great for cutting your spurs off and for trimming away bone and skin. Avoid using any coarse-tooth saw blade. A knife simply won’t work for cutting any bone. A bench grinder, dremel tool, or hand metal file will be needed to finish the edges and bottom of the spur base.
Please note the spurs on a turkey normally project inward, but it’s your choice as to whether you mount them point inward or outward. Be thinking about how you want to position them before cutting or grinding. If you project or point them inward, they will have to be switched from the legs the came off of.
Method 1 – The first and simplest method, but less finished looking, is to simply cut the spurs off flat from the legs at the same angle they are attached to the leg. Cut off as close to the leg as possible. Use whatever available grinding tool you have to dress up the edges and make the base flat so it fits flush in the spur mounting socket. Glue the spurs in using a small dab of wood glue, two-part epoxy, or superglue.
Method 2 – A second and more finished looking method that leaves no gaps in the spur mounting socket, involves cutting the spur off about 1/8″ below the base of the spur and setting in a bed of epoxy, woodglue or gorilla glue. First cut the spurs from the legs leaving at least 1/4″ to 1/2″ of leg bone above and below the spur. Then, one at a time, clamp each spur in a workbench vise with the spur projecting away from the vise. Visually project an imaginary line 1/8″ below the base of the spur and start cutting off with a hacksaw and at the same angle the spur is connected to the leg. Once completed, use a combination of your hacksaw and whatever grinding tool or file you have, and remove excess bone and to shape the base of the spur to be about the same diameter and shape as what it was when it was connected to the leg. Frequently check the fit in the mounting socket. After you are satisfied with the fit, place a small bed of wood glue or two-part epoxy in each spur mounting socket. Slowly insert the spur flat against the bottom of the socket checking to see if the glue or epoxy pushes up and fills flush or slightly above the top of the mounting socket. If it does not, add a little more. With wood glue, you may need to add a little extra because wood glue is water based and will shrink upon drying much more than epoxy will. We recommend using gorilla glue only if you have experience using this product before because it expands and foams about 3 times its original volume when fully dry. You should be able to visually estimate how much to use versus the expansion volume of the small space it will fill and expand into. Using too much gorilla glue will cause excess glue to flow out and dry on the spur and finished wood surface. If you used a little too much gorilla glue, you can use a steady hand and an exacto knife to trim off excess glue, but be careful to not damage the wood finish. Please take you time with this step. The spur may want to fall over while drying, so find something to help prop it up and hold in place or slightly tilt the mounting plaque with a pencil to help the spur stay in place. After your glue has dried, take a black fine tip Sharpie marker pen and carefully color in the glue or epoxy to blend with the black color of the spur. This make a nice presentable finish leaving no gaps.
Method 3 – The third and most finished looking method that leaves no gaps in the spur mounting socket, involves custom fitting the spur to the mounting socket. Again, cut the spurs from the legs leaving at least 1/4″ to 1/2″ of leg bone above and below the spur. Then, one at a time, clamp each spur in a workbench vise with the spur projecting away from the vise. Visually project an imaginary line 1/8″ to 3/32″ below the base of the spur and start cutting off with a hacksaw and at the same angle the spur is connected to the leg. Make sure you leave plenty of bone and skin on this first cut that is larger than the outline of the spur mounting socket. You will need this material to slowly and gradually grind or file down to make a near perfect fit into the mounting socket. I have a found a Dremel tool with a grinding stone works pretty well to remove excess bone, but a bench grinder will work to as long as you use light pressure when grinding. Frequently check the fit in the mounting socket during this step. Please note you may have to slightly bevel the side of the spur near the bottom to make it fit into the socket. When satisfied with the fit, make sure you have a nice flat surface on the bottom of the spur so it can be glued into the mounting socket. Use wood glue, two-part epoxy, superglue or a sparingly small amount of gorilla glue to permanently attach.