Mounting Shark Jaws

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Catching the shark and removing the jaws are prerequisite procedures. Using a circle hook can help to preserve the teeth by hooking the shark in the corner of the mouth. I still like to make sure that the teeth are intact and that it is worth taking the time to preserve the jaws. If they look OK, I usually remove them after cleaning the shark and putting the meat up. It can be done beforehand, but it is important to make sure that the shark's muscular reactions have completely ceased.

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The jaws can be removed from the carcass using a fillet knife and some cautious handling. I begin the process by inserting the knife between the shark's outer skin and the top of jaw. I work using the tip of the blade and cut from the center of the upper jaw outwards to the jaw hinge on one side. This is followed by extending the cut down to the corner of the jaw in the other direction. The same steps are then repeated on the lower jaw. This will separate the outer skin from the jaws. Then the blade can be used like it would be skinning game - running it between the outside of the jaws and and the inner skin. Eventually, a flat section of the cartilage at the corners of the jaw will be exposed. Next, the tissue on the inside of the mouth needs to be cut away using the same skinning blade motion. Working parallel to the inside surface of the flat section of cartilage mentioned above will expose an attachment point at the inside corner of each jaw hinge. This needs to be cut free. After cutting the rest of the way around the jaws, there are two cartilage 'horn' attachment points on top of the upper jaw that need to be severed.

When the jaws are removed from the shark and most of the flesh and skin has been cut away, they can be frozen. The rest of the process can completed at a later date when there is time available to finish it. After a getting the gear loaded, fishing, cleaning the boat, cleaning the fish and putting everything up, I usually stick the jaws in an ice chest and work on them the next morning.

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I spend an hour or two doing a very detailed scraping. Small jaws and large jaws usually take more time. I use several different knives and a scalpel. Sitting down at a table with the jaws on a large cutting board and working with my arms supported helps to avoid staining the jaws with fresh blood while handling the sharp blades and the pointed teeth. The goal is to remove all of the flesh and as much of the tendon material as possible from the jaws because it makes the next step a lot easier and the results turn out better.

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I also cut out the soft cartilage (the gums) that covers the replacement teeth on the inside of the jaws. To do this I cut in from the back side of the jaw towards the front of the jaw, working in from above the tips of the last row of the replacement teeth. There is a slight difference in color and texture where the gums meet the cartilage and this defines where the cut needs to be made.

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After they are scraped clean, they need two or three 30 to 60 second 'baths' in straight clorox to dissolve any leftover flesh / tendons and to deaden any odor. The cartilage in the shark jaw will dissolve in straight clorox, so it has to be short baths followed by a good wash in tap water. Working them over with a stiff nylon brush during the rinse may help to clean them up depending on how good a job was done scraping.     {~;   Note:   Pulling them out of the clorox without using gloves or tongs is a good way to clean the cuts received from the teeth while working on the jaws.   ;~}

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An optional one to two minute soak in a three percent solution of hydrogen peroxide will whiten them up. Then they are ready to "pose" and dry. I use a block of Styrofoam as a base and bamboo skewers to hold them in position. When they are in position (posed), they get put them under a 75 watt bulb (about 12 to 15 inches away) to dry for 4 or 5 hours. After that, they sit for the rest day to finish drying out.

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When they are dry enough to hold the pose without being supported, I apply several coats of two part epoxy. It helps to keep them from drying out too much, to preserve the pose and it gives them a glossy finish. I use one with a 30 minute setup time and try to rotate them in front of a fan until it gets tacky enough not to run. This helps to smooth out the brush strokes. A small butane torch or a hair dryer can also be used to smooth out the epoxy - as long as it's not hot enough to cause the finish to bubble. I set them teeth side down on a piece of wood to finish drying. The small contact points of the teeth keep the jaws from becoming anchored to the support. This usually allows the jaws to be removed without having to use a chisel after the epoxy sets up.

It's worth mentioning that the epoxy I use tends to yellow after 2 or 3 years. Several different finishes have been suggested and I need to try them out to see how easy they are to work with and how they hold up. These include Eucothane, Pac Bay 2 part epoxy, and suncure polyester.

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Since the inside of the jaw is hollowed out where the replacement teeth are, I'll epoxy in bamboo braces in back of some of the jaws to keep the pose from getting distorted as the cartilage ages.

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This tends to be a hobby where results improve with experience. Also, if I haven't done one in a while I get a little rusty. If I have a nice set of jaws (without any teeth knocked out from the hook or from landing the shark) and I want to do a good job on it, I'll do one or two "warm up" jaws for practice.



I use the same approach on different types of jaws ...


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The gator jaws came from a friend who got them on one of his gator permit hunts.




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All of the shark jaws pictured above have come from fish cleaned, fried or grilled and eaten.



See also ...

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Serving Sharks

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Mounting Fish Jaws





A search on the Taxidermy Net Forums for "Shark Jaws" will give a different perspective and additional info ...
Taxidermy Net Forums


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CAUTION:     The process described within should only be done by trained professionals and should not be attempted without adult supervision and adequate medical supplies on hand.

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   Limbatus {AKA} WB Drifter



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