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Do-it-yourself Taxidermy

Tim Schablin taught himself the skills of the trade

January 17, 2010
By Jeremy Behnke — Journal Sports Editor

MORTON - Ever since he can remember, Tim Schablin has always been fascinated by wildlife and animals. Thanks to an idea he had as a teenager and an ad he saw in a magazine, Schablin gets to spend a lot of time doing the thing he loves.

When he was younger, he spent time hunting and trapping and grew up next to a river, giving him easy access to fishing and hunting.

Schablin is a do-it-yourself taxidermist in Morton. He grew up in Springfield, and as a 16-year old, he saw an advertisement and decided taxidermy was something he wanted to try on his own.

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Self taught taxidermist Tim Schablin works on a dear head.

"It was about 1981," Schablin said. "I seen an ad in a hunting magazine and it said learn taxidermy. I didn't even know what it was, so I responded to the ad to find out what taxidermy was, and they sent me a brochure and I thought, 'hey, this is for me. I like this kind of stuff.' So I sent off for some books on how to learn it, and I went from there."

Once Schablin got his books explaining how to do taxidermy, he went to work. His first project was a fish and he was pleased with his work once he was done. From there, he was hooked and he began working on other small-game projects.

Soon, word spread around Springfield about Schablin's work and people were bringing him business while he was still in high school.

After high school, Schablin attended college in Hutchinson and after that he moved to Seattle, where he lived for about seven years. Once he moved back to Minnesota in 1997, he decided to try taxidermy again, and now he's gotten more serious about it.

"When I picked up on it again, it was more of a hobby until about a year ago when I said 'I'm going to do this full-time,'" he said.

When he first started, Schablin said he had problems with some animals, particularly ducks.

"They're very delicate and their skin is very, very thin," Schablin said. "You really have to have a lot of patience and be willing to sit at the table for hours and be careful you don't cut through the skin."

But as he kept working, he got better at his craft, and now he wants to try working with different animals down the road. He has worked with deer and fox and he'd like to work on larger animals such as a bear in the future.

He said the projects are fairly time consuming. He estimates it takes him a few months to do each individual animal. Most of the time is waiting for the materials to get to him and preparation of the animal itself. Some of the materials he uses include needles and scalpels and various chemicals to treat the hides as well as paints to give the animal fur or feathers more color.

He said that he works on each animals about eight hours each day, depending on how much needs to be done on any given day.

"You gotta go through the tanning process and put the preserves on the hide," he said.

"Then you gotta allow time for it to dry. If I start on a deer head today and worked on it every day, it would take 20 days.

"But it depends, too," he said. "Some days, you take the hide and you put it in chemicals so you're really not doing anything. You let it sit for three days, and then you dig it out and put it in the next chemical, and then you let it sit there for three days. So you're not working on it steady."

The process itself involves several steps that can vary in length.

"Step one would be fleshing it, where you take off the extra meat off, and then you tan it," Schablin said. "That permanently preserves the hide."

After that, he waits for the form, which is a styrofoam piece that he forms until he gets the pose from the animal that is needed for the final product.

"When you get that, you put the skin over it and you sculpt them so that you have your eyelids and all that, so you're preparing the form. You put the hide over it once it's done tanning. You put it on and sew it up, and you have to make adjustments with the lift and the eyes and make sure it all looks natural."

Schablin said that it's hard to get the exact size of Styrofoam for the animal that he is working on.

"You order the size that comes close and you usually have to alter," he said. "You can sand the foam down other spots you might have to add like a clay material to build up the other areas."

Once he has all of the animal formed the way he wants and the skin and all of the other details perfect, he lets it dry, which can take up to a week.

"You just let them sit out, and sometimes you can put a fan on them if the humidity outside is really high," he said. "But in the wintertime, the air is dry so it doesn't take quite so long."

Schablin has a business that he started called 4most Taxidermy. He does all of his work in a shop at home and he seems to love his new career. He also has a myspace page ( which he displays a lot of his work.

After all of the hard work that goes into the finished product, he said that he is most proud of the end result.

"You look at something after you've finished it, and there's that pride. You look at it and you say 'I did that,'" he said.



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