Supplies 101- Everything You Need to Process and Articulate Bones

What Do I Need to Get Started Working With Bones?

That is one of the most frequently asked questions I get, so I figured it only makes sense to make a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to work with bones, from the basic dissection tools, to the more advanced tools and tricks I’ve learned over my years of cleaning and articulating skeletons. I’ll be discussing and reviewing the supplies that I personally have used, but I am also including tools that friends and colleagues use that I personally have not. Click the pictures or titles to be taken to Amazon where you can buy anything you like from this list. If you use something that is not included in this list and think it should be added, please Contact Us

Skinning/Dissection/Fleshing Supplies

This is what I use as my dissection table. It’s stainless, easy to wash, cheap considering its huge (Amazon prime gets free shipping!), and overall super sturdy (I’ve stood on it too many times to count to skin big stuff). I attached J trim around 2 of the open edges and siliconed the gaps so I can use my hose to wash it off and push all the water straight into the sink. There’s also smaller versions available if you don’t need a 6 foot one like I do

I bought this kit, and it has several things that you’ll probably never use, but it also has some good stuff so I figured this was a better deal than buying them individually. I personally just use a #3 scalpel handle with super cheap #10 or #11 blades (Click the blue to be taken to the exact blades I use- They dull kind of quick, but 100 blades and a new handle for around $10 is unbeatable). The Surgical scissors in this kit are actually very good and are an immense help. Only thing I’d add to this kit is a good set of hemostats, those work great to grip onto flesh while cutting.

Okay so I haven’t used this before, but it looks awesome! Basically it’s like a pocket knife with a replaceable blade similar to a scalpel! This would probably work great on larger animals or if you don’t like using such a small scalpel handle. You can buy replacement blades Here

These are absolutely amazing. When I first started working with dead stuff I rarely used gloves. I started wearing them after I contracted cellulitis in my thumb when a nasty drill bit went into my thumb…… wear gloves! These are 5mil Nitrile gloves. They’re not flimsy and powdered like the gross latex gloves, and are much much thicker than the blue nitrile gloves. And to be honest, the black just makes you look super cool. These won’t stop a scalpel blade, but they sure will slow it down!

I use these to hold up animals to help with skinning. Simply cut behind the Achilles tendons on the back legs, slip one of these through, and then hang it from somewhere. Being able to pull on the skin while cutting makes skinning so so much easier. I accidentally bought some super super cheap ones that bent super easily, so I linked above some heavy duty ones that should work better.

These are absolutely fantastic at absorbing liquids, and work fantastic when dissecting. By soaking up all the blood and other….fluids.., it’ll make clean up much much easier. I believe this brand is also waterproof on the other side, so you can literally just fold up the bloody pee pad, throw it out on garbage day, and your table/workplace should still be relatively clean!

Processing Supplies

I already have most of these supplies listed in my various Guides on Processing Bones, but I’ll link them below as well!

I LOVE these bags! I must have at least 200-300 of them….. so many that they actually sponsor me! The company is called Purifyou and I absolutely love them. These bags are super fine mesh, with a draw string on top to close them. They come in 3 sizes (I own all of them), and have color tags on the side that you can use to sort bones if you like things organized like I do. The best part? They have a lifetime warranty! If a bag ever rips, stitching starts coming undone, or a spring in the draw string lock rusts, just send them an email and they’ll send you new bags! I use these for degreasing, whitening, and drying to keep everything together and to not lose any bones. You can use my special sponsor link Here if you’d like to let me get a small percentage of the sale so I can feed my unhealthy addiction of buying more bags!

If you’ve ever read any of my Processing Guides, you’ll know that I absolutely love these bucket heaters. I have two of them, and have used them for going on 4 years now. Simply wrap them around the outside of a 5-gallon bucket (I use a 14 gallon barrel and use some extra springs to make it stretch), set the temp (it is in CELCIUS. Don’t burn down your workspace by forgetting that!) They don’t burn out, they don’t get dirty (because they’re on the outside), and they can get really, really hot. They also auto-regulate, so no need for a thermostat- it’ll turn off and on by itself to maintain the temperature you set.

This thing has saved me from losing teeth too many times to count. It’s a mesh screen, I think originally intended to filter paint? The one I use is 600 microns, which translates to REALLY SMALL holes. Not even a kitten incisor can fit through. How I use it: Get an old 5-gallon bucket and drill a bunch of holes in the bottom and sides. Put the bucket in a deep sink (or anywhere outside). Then put your micron screen in the top (it fits perfectly), and pour your maceration, degreasing, and whitening liquids through it. All the nasty gunk will go through, but not a single bone will! This thing is a lot lot sturdier than it appears, too!

I do not have this exact one, but the next respirator I buy will be like this. Respirators are absolutely needed when working with formalin, other hazardous chemicals, drilling/carving bone, or just if you don’t want to smell anything. These organic vapor cartridges will protect you from harmful fumes, and they are easily replaceable when needed. Many vapors (i.e. ammonia) can irritate your eyes, which is why I opted for a full face. It also protects your eyes from bone dust and peroxide splashes.

These are only needed if you’re working with acetone. These will not instantly melt when in contact with acetone like regular latex or nitrile gloves will. Of course there are also other protection needed when degreasing with acetone, so definitely read my Degreasing Guide to know all of the proper precautions to take before trying to degrease with acetone!

There are several different whitening options, so please go read my Whitening Guide to see which you’d like to use. Linked to the picture is Creme peroxide, but you can also use Liquid Peroxide, or a mixture of Creme and Basic White Powder. So definitely go read the whitening article to see which would work best for you.

Guys….. these are some serious magnets. My workshop is a large steel building, so I use these on the walls and roof instead of command strips. They claim one of these clips can hold 120lbs, but in my experience its about 80lbs- Still VERY strong. I use them to hang up bags of bones to dry, move my Dremel around, and hang up stuff.

Okay these will be extremely useful even if you don’t have a metal building. I screwed two of these into my wall and use them to hold all of my tools. Pliers, scissors, scalpels, hemostats, etc. It’s a very very strong bar. I could throw a pair of wire snips across the room and these things would catch it. They also come in different sizes if you don’t need/want a 24″ one.

Pretty self explanatory…. they’re sharpies, but in bulk for really cheap. If you’re constantly writing on small labels and need a fine point permanent marker like I do, these are what you need. The reviews mentioned some being dried out, but all 12 of mine were/are perfectly fine.

I get asked pretty often what kind of labels I use that’ll survive processing, these are them! I used to use big planter labels with strings, but those warped, faded, and the strings got tangled. These are perfect! They’re very small, but should be plenty of room to write the animal/number with a fine tip sharpie. The black tags are useless with a black sharpie, but if you have a different color sharpie they might work fine.

This is what I use to sort/store my clean skeletons. Different size drawers, movable dividers, labels, wheels, and it’s very sturdy and well made. I quickly filled mine up, so I might be buying another soon. The drawers also will hold themselves (like in the picture) without falling, and you can store more stuff on the top shelf. They make smaller ones if you don’t need one this large.

Articulating Supplies

Used for drilling, cleaning, and carving bones, a Dremel rotary tool is absolutely essential for articulating anything of moderate size. Glue alone is simply not strong enough to effectively hold bones together. This kit comes with a ton of useful things that you’ll use when articulating. Make sure to get a respirator (like the one linked in the Processing Supplies) to protect your lungs from bone dust!

This is basically a mini-Dremel that screws into the end of your Dremel. It’s much smaller than the normal Dremel, so it’d ideal for getting into small spaces that the bulky Dremel wouldn’t be able to fit. It’s also just overall more comfortable to hold. Cons are that you still have to turn the main Dremel on/off, you can’t do that from the attachment.

I know people say that the invention of the light bulb was revolutionary, but I think this attachment is better! This screws right into the end of your Dremel (or your flex shaft), and simply twists to accomodate any size drill bit or attachment. It says it’s keyless, but still make sure to tighten it with your key to be safe. This saves me SOOOO much time because I no longer have to switch collets to fit in different size bits. This thing even fits the TINIEST drill bits linked in the next product on this page!

This is the absolute cheapest drill bits I have found. You get 150 bits, ranging from 0.4mm (that’s TINY) to 3.2mm in size for about 10 cents per bit. Are the bits indestructible? Of course not, they cost 10 cents…. but you get a ton of them, so it’s more than worth it. Honestly the case they come in sucks because the smallest bits are small enough to slide all around, but keep it upright and you’ll be fine.

Okay I don’t have this exact one, so I hope I didn’t link a sucky one. These are often called “Helping Hands” and are used when working on jewelry or soldering. They also are great when articulating small/medium sized animals! The little padded alligator clips can hold spines and legs in the perfect position for you to glue them. The problem I ran into with mine was it wasn’t weighted well, so it often tipped over. You could maybe screw it down or something to prevent that issue.

Unless you’re weird with freakishly small, steady hands, you’ll likely need some forceps to pick up tiny bones like toes or ribs. I use an array of different forceps, along with a pair of Reverse Forceps that are amazing, though they pinch quite strong, so bend them a tad before use so they don’t crush itty bitty bones.

I’ve never had to buy wire for articulating, so I honestly don’t know what kind/size to get online. I always just find/get given wire that I use. I think it’d be better to get the drill bit kit above and then use the size of those to judge which size of wire you’ll need for your project. Some of my wire is copper, some is steel, some is coated in plastic…. I think just about any wire will do.

I use these to extract teeth (so I can whiten them separately and not lose them), to remove plaque from teeth, to scrape off residue tissue/glue, and to unclog my glue bottles. Just overall a useful set of tools to have laying around.

I’ve never used this specific headlamp, but it looks very well made so I’m linking it. These things are very bright, and should work great when articulating and needing some extra light directly where you want it.

I get asked almost on a daily basis what kind of glue I use, and today is not your lucky day! Still not revealing my choice glue, but I’ll say that any kind of superglue will work when paired with a good Accelerator. Superglues come in different viscosities, so you’ll have to figure out which works best for the task you have. Superglue accelerator is a spray that you spray on superglue and it makes it dry INSTANTLY. Simply put glue where you want it, hold it in place, and spray it with accelerator. Magic

For jobs that need something stronger than superglue we have Epoxy! Epoxy is a two-part substance, meaning you have to mix equal parts of the two bottles, and then put it on whatever you want to bind together. Pro: It’s really fricken strong. Con: Takes a while to dry, and can make a mess while mixing. I’ve used a few different brands, and some wreak of sulfur (smells like boiled eggs- I HATE boiled eggs), so hope yours doesn’t!

I’ve never used it, so I don’t have much to say. E6000 is apparently some kind of glue that some people swear by, which is why I’m including it in this list. I don’t know anything about it, so use at your own discretion.

Okay this is different from Epoxy. Confusing, I know. Same concept, different application. This is like PlayDoh in consistency. Just like epoxy, you need to mix equal parts of this puddy stuff for it to begin to harden. It’s not very sticky, so don’t use it as an adhesive. I use it to fill in gaps, like in between vertebrae to represent vertebral discs. Also, unlike the epoxy I listed which smells like eggs, the darker container of this smells a bit like tortilla chips to me. It’s also important to note that although this is advertised as WHITE apoxie, it is NOT white, but instead a grey color.

Packing Supplies for Frozen Goods

I have a full list of instructions on how to pack frozen animals/pelts for transport that you can read Here

Personally I think fiberglass insulation works better than a styrofoam cooler…. simply line the box with this stuff, throw in a few icepacks and your frozen animal, and you’re good to go!

These work good too, but don’t think that you don’t still need some ice packs to go in there! Always use ice packs!

These stay cold a pretty long time. I like these malleable bags more than the thin plastic ice packs- those suck. Don’t think you can just freeze water bottles- that won’t work.

Packing Materials/How to Print Labels from Home

Wrote a whole guide on how to go about getting discounted shipping rates, printing your own labels, discounted shipping materials, and shipping your packages without ever leaving your house! You can read that article by clicking this link or the picture of the label printer

If You Found This Page Helpful

I’ve been working on this page for the past several hours, so I really hope someone finds this useful. If you found it helpful, feel free to leave a comment down below or share it with your friends! I don’t get anything directly from making these articles, but it saves me time answering questions and helps you all so I’ll continue to do it! I don’t ask for/accept donations, but feel free to grab something small from my Shop buy anything from this page (or literally anything from Amazon after clicking one of my links- go buy a TV or some new socks, I’ll get a tiny cut from the affiliate links), or follow me on my social media (InstagramFacebook, or Tumblr) if you’d like to support my work!

If you noticed any typos while reading this, any links don’t work, or have any suggestions or questions that weren’t covered in this article or the other articles on my Blog, please leave a comment below or Contact Me.

6 Responses to “Supplies 101- Everything You Need to Process and Articulate Bones

  • Awesome to have these all together in one article! You rock, dude!

  • Clément
    9 months ago

    Hi,
    I found this page really helpful!!
    Really good to know what are the good products to use.
    I have juste one question.
    What’s the saw can I use to cut bones and skulls? Is it the saw to cut wood of the Dremel is OK?
    Thank you for all your tips! Have a nice day!

    • Hi there, If you don’t mind a potentially ugly cut (like cutting a head off a roadkill animal), you can use a bone saw, but if you want precision cuts you’ll need to invest in a fine band saw or a precision Dremel saw attachment.

  • You are doing an awesome job with these posts so noobs like me can start somewhere, I have a bit of experiencie, but i havent used wired yet, do you think its necesary for the long run on something small like a leopard geckos or a blue tongue skink?

    • Hi there, for something that small, glue will suffice for the most part. You can run a small wire through the spinal canal if you wish to add extra support, but you definitely don’t need to wires every joint, every toe, etc. like you should on larger animals. -Dalton

  • Anne Beaudry
    7 months ago

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful information! Ive been interested in articulation for a long time, and your page is extremely helpful. I follow you on Instagram and Facebook, and love your work. I appreciate all of your wonderful information!!!!!!

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