Cleaning a Turtle Shell

HighCotton

Senior Member
Thread starter #1
I found a large turtle shell in the yard last week. Just the shell. I guess the turtle had died for some reason and the body had already decayed and been eaten out I guess my ants or something else.

The shell is in good shape top and bottom. The inside of the shell still contains some remnants of the body flesh, blood stains, etc.

I'd like to clean it up and keep it. Any suggestions on how to do this? I thought about boling it but I don't want to mess up the shell in any way.
 

Al33

Senior Member
#2
Most turtle/terrapin shells have a skin on them that comes off after being exposed to the elements awhile. If yours still has it's skin and you want to keep the skin on it do not put it in water or try to wet wash it. Put it in the shade somewhere a critter is not likely to get it and let the ants finish cleaning out the inside. Once it has cured the skin scales will likely either fall off or come off very easily. You will then need to glue them back on. The hard shell will have a pattern showing you how to put them back on, kind of like a gig-saw puzzle. Once you have them glued back on coat it with a heavy coat of clear spray polyurethane. That's all there is to it.

Note: If the skin is intact you may want to go ahead and spray it with the polyurethane now versus after it has cured out. This might save you the trouble of having to glue them back on later. Be sure to spray both top and bottom.

Here is a gopher-tortoise shell I did a few years ago.
 

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HighCotton

Senior Member
Thread starter #3
There were a couple of real thin, almost paper-like things on the shell that have already come off. I discarded them. Is this the "skin"?

So, there's really no way to clean up the inside? I can put it on an ant bed, that's no prolem.
 

Al33

Senior Member
#4
There were a couple of real thin, almost paper-like things on the shell that have already come off. I discarded them. Is this the "skin"?

So, there's really no way to clean up the inside? I can put it on an ant bed, that's no prolem.
Sounds like the skin has already come off. If the shell is white or bone colored, it has.

Sure, I'm sure you can clean it out but why mess with the stinky stuff when the itty bitty critters will do it for you?:)
 

Son

Senior Member
#5
Ants will finish the cleaning job. Clear coat to keep it in good shape after they clean it.
 

HighCotton

Senior Member
Thread starter #6
Sounds like the skin has already come off. If the shell is white or bone colored, it has.

Sure, I'm sure you can clean it out but why mess with the stinky stuff when the itty bitty critters will do it for you?:)
Shell is still the original color.

Everything is out of the inside except for just a little stuff. I think I'll try just getting down in there with a tooth brush and some hot water and see if I can get the rest of it... but an earlier post said keep the shell out of water. :huh:
 

TNGIRL

Senior Member
#7
I hate you pitched the turtle scales, they could go back on with some superglue gel.
As for the remaining flesh inside, the ants will take care of it, or you can take a sharp implement and scrape it off. Much like the "fleshing" out of a hide, only smaller scale. I always wash my turtle shells no matter what shape they are in. Soap and water and a medium stiff brush, if the scales slip off, save and glue back once it's dry, and before you apply the poly coats. Then I just put the shell on a papertowel to dry completely. Once good and dry, if that's all you want it to look like, get some polyurathane and I usually brush it on so I can get in the nooks and crannies underneath the edges. If you find a bleached out shell, without scales, you can paint it up right purty, let dry then poly coat it. I always put 2 to 4 coats of poly on it. It can get real hard then and pretty durable as well. I have also had shells that was older and dried out to have the "bones" seperate like the puzzle Al was talking about, I saved it all, then used superglue gel and put the puzzle back together, once dried, then polyed it well. Sometimes, I still run some of the superglue gel along the inside of the shells seams just for strength. Turtle shells are my favorite thing to work with!!!! So enjoy yours and post up a picture when you are finished OK?

Here's a large shell I found, on a ladies only hunt, got it home, it dried out and fell totally apart, and had no scales left on it. I painted it up and pieced it back together with superglue gel etc. etc. and here's my possibles bag!!!

This is the underside of the shell. I took it and after trimming edges, reconnected it with sinew to make a hinged top and added the leather bag inside and the fringe!!!!

Oh yeh, Happy Birthday BTW!!!!!!!
 
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Toxic

Senior Member
#8
the "scales" all called scutes, if they come off, soak them in warm faucet water til they are soft, best glue to use is elmers, it dries clear and also won't yellow like super glue. towel dry the scutes , coat with elmers and put into position. when all are replaced and dry. thats when you coat with polyurathane
 
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