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Baby-Shoe Bronzers Reborn as Platers of Animal Skulls

April 27, 1994

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (AP) _ David Champagne and Robert Whipple wanted to revive the rage for bronzed baby shoes. But customers didn’t bite.

Until one showed up with the skull of a 260-pound black bear. ″He said ... I want to bronze it for my stepmother,″ Champagne recalled Tuesday. ″I said, ‘Sure you do 3/8’ ″

But he really did.

So, with a shrug and a philosopher’s ″why not,″ a new business was born: METAL-HEADS by Mr. Whipple’s Bronzing.

Champagne and Whipple, buddies who used to work in construction, now bronze animal skulls as trophies for proud hunters or display pieces for taxidermists and outfitters.

Heartened by the budding bull market, they have plated about 30 skulls since February, including that of a fox, wild boar and turtle.

″Turtles themselves are kind of prehistoric. The way it came out, it looked like it was made of solid bronze,″ Champagne said.

In a process akin to making candles, a skull is dipped into a liquid mix of pulverized metal and resins. Over three days, the coating hardens into a molded shell that, if handled carefully, will last practically forever.

At $10 an inch measured over a skull’s length and height, a medium-sized bear skull mounted on wood costs less than $200, Champagne said.

Taxidermist Rick LaBlue of nearby Adams bought a bear skull for display at his business and another for his father who had bagged his first bear.

″I think it gives it more of a finished look, more of something that you would put on your mantel - something that gives a little class,″ said his wife, Phyllis, who helps runs the business.

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