Crafts Crafts

A More Humane Trophy Head

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the CEO of GoDaddy, Bob Parsons, killing an elephant in Africa and posting it on YouTube. Now this is a very controversial subject and I’m sure there are two sides to the story, but even after watching the video I found the whole thing, well, disgusting. Surely he could have spent his money relocating the elephants rather than killing one. Surely some of that money spent could have gone to feed those hungry villagers. It really left me with a sick feeling in my stomach.

I am not a hunter, but I am not fundamentally opposed to hunting. Many of my good friends hunt an elk every year in Jackson. But they do not do this for sport. They do not mount his head on their wall. They haul the animal out of the wilderness on horseback and eat the meat all winter. There are also an estimated one million elk in North America alone. There are an estimated 400,000 African elephants remaining in the world. In the 1930’s there were between five and ten million living in the wild.

I find the “sport” of big game hunting revolting.

By complete coincidence I was in Anthropologie about a month ago buying my oldest daughter some birthday gifts when I came across some paper mache trophy heads. The first one I noticed I thought was a goat, but it turned out to be a gazelle (that looks like a goat). I happened to stop the woman who was the manager of the store to enquire about them and we got to talking about them and somehow got onto chickens and my blog and well, pretty soon we were like best friends. There were all kinds of different animal “trophy” heads available. It turns out they are made in the Haitian town of Jacmel with recycles cement bags and book pages. I loved that. I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them. I wanted to hang them in my office. Unfortunately I don’t have an office at the moment, so I bought them with plans of making them if I ever do get the office we’ve had plans drawn up for, or move. I may be dead before either of those two things actually happen, but that’s the way my mind works. I left the store with a gazelle (goat) and a rhino head. I went back the next day for the elephant, as he was just too beautiful not to have as well.

However, this elephant kill by the GoDaddy CEO brought the whole idea back to the front of my little brain, and I decided now was as good a time as any to make them.

I knew I wanted beautiful wood to mount them on, which meant a trip up to an amazing lumber mill I visited a few months ago called Berkshire Products in Sheffield, Massachusetts. It’s a 2-hour drive up there, and once you’re there it’s easy to get lost in all of the amazing woods that they have there. That consumed my day on Friday.

I left there with 3 beautiful pieces of wood. An incredible redwood burl for the elephant, a claro walnut burl for the gazelle, and a beautiful maple burl for the rhino. I also left with the most stunning piece of live-edge quilted cottonwood and some purple heart to make a table with, but that’s for another time.

I spent the weekend sanding and finishing the wood. First I sanded them all with by belt sander. Then to get the surface really smooth I sanded them with my random orbit sander.

Then I applied some pre-stain to the best side of each of them to bring the color out in the wood, and then I applied several layers of matte varnish, sanding lightly between each coat.

The sanded & varnished wood ready for the "trophy" heads

The trophy heads were flat on the back and had a simple hole poked in them for hanging, so I decided long screws at an angle coming from the back of the wood would be the easiest way to hang them. I added an additional screw and hole in the back of each head for stability. I used a countersink drill bit so the screws lay flat on the back of the wood.

So my dining room got a makeover today. I like it.

The Elephant Trophy Head on a Redwood Burl

The Rhino Trophy Head on a Maple Burl

The Gazelle on a Claro Walnut Burl

Now in my opinion this is just so much more tasteful than having a real animal head on your wall. It will be a good conversation starter too I’d imagine.

Take that Bob Parsons.

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