Frequently Asked Questions
General Information and Accuracy
Q: Are your products real bone?
A: We sell NO natural bone.
Q: If not, what are they made of?
A: Our products are cast in a custom-formulated polyurethane resin.
Q: What's the difference between your Economy skulls and Regular?
A: Please see: About the Bone Clones® Economy Series
Q: Are your skulls and skeletons actual life size?
A: With a few exceptions our skulls and skeletons are actual life size. They are reproduced from real bones. Scaled items are identified as such, and can be found in the Scale Series category.
Q: Are your casts of skulls and skeletons based on real bones? How accurate are they?
A: We produce accurate skeletal models that are molded and cast directly from real skulls and skeletons (with the exception of our Fossil Hominid line of products, which are recreations based on the original bones). Our production process and quality control are designed to assure accuracy in all details of products and reproduce the actual size of the original.
Q: Are Bone Clones® skeletons accurate reproductions of human skeletons? Why are they more expensive than other skeletons I can buy?
A: Bone Clones® human skeletons are accurate osteological reproductions. They are produced to meet the needs of medical professionals that require precision in detail, and are used in medical schools to teach Advanced Anatomy. We are very selective in the originals we cast from, and concentrate on retaining the organic elements that are essential for advanced study in medicine and osteology. Why Choose Bone Clones is informative on this question.
Q: Are your skulls hinged? (jaw attached via flexible spring)
A: The only skulls that are hinged are the calvarium-cut skulls, as well as most of the skulls that are attached to our articulated skeletons. The rest are not hinged.
Q: How sturdy are your skulls? Can they take repeated handling in an educational setting?
A: Bone Clones® custom formulated resin is durable and resists breakage. While some of our skulls are more delicate than others (ex: bird or snake), with reasonable care all our specimens can be handled repeatedly in an educational setting.
Q: What is the difference between BC-018 and BC-067 Sabercats?
A: Both skulls (BC-018 Sabertooth Cat and BC-067 Deluxe Sabertooth Cat) are Smilodon fatalis.
Size: BC-067 is the larger of the two.
Completeness: BC-067 Cranium, jaw and sabers are associated and complete.
Provenance: BC-018 is part of the large collection belonging to the LACMNH, licensed to BC by the Museum.
BC-067 was found on private land across the street from the LA tar pits.
Septum: Another important distinction is one can see through the septum of BC-067, and the septum of BC-018 is blocked.
Product Maintenance and Modification
Q: Our Bone Clones® casts are becoming quite dirty from handling and accidental pen markings. How do I clean them?
A: The "antique" skulls and other skeletal elements should be cleaned with a rag dampened with warm water and a small amount of mild soap. Gently clean and dry with a soft cloth. If some stains persist, then a diluted form of ordinary household alcohol will also work. However, it may remove some of the antique paint in sutures, so this should first be tested in a small area. The heavily painted products can be cleaned more aggressively with soap and water, but never use alcohol on them as it will probably remove a significant amount of the color. Likewise, never use acetone on heavily painted products. If you think your casts will get especially heavy use, we suggest coating them with a marine varnish finish.
Q: How can we repair broken casts?
A: Our Bone Clones® casts are quite durable and don't break easily. But if a cast does break, it can be repaired with Superglue, which should work unless there is some residue that prevents bonding. We suggest cleaning the two mating surfaces with acetone to be sure there is no residual barrier. When the two surfaces are clean, sparingly apply Superglue to one surface and press together. If the damage is extensive or is difficult to repair, Bone Clones Inc. can repair Bone Clones® products. Please contact customer service to discuss the nature of the repairs and the costs involved.
Q: How can I prevent the color/finish of my Bone Clones® cast from changing over time?
A: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is the source of changes in the color/finish of Bone Clones® casts. UV rays are emitted by both the sun and florescent light. So, the casts should not be placed in sunlight. If the casts must be exposed to florescent lighting, filters can be placed over the florescent lights to limit UV ray exposure. Incandescent lighting does not emit the damaging UV rays.
Q: How do your products do in extreme temperatures? Can they be outside for long periods?
A: Our products are polyurethane and are custom-formulated to withstand heat up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and cold below freezing. Above 120 degrees, the resin will get soft but will not melt. If the cast has delicate areas, such as the zygomatic arch, and a heavy item is placed on it during extreme heat, it might bend. Exposing Bone Clones® casts to sunlight (or florescent light) for prolonged periods may change the color/finish of the casts.
Q: What is the best way to color and stain a Bone Clones® product?
A: Most of our Bone Clones® casts come painted. If you intend to completely refinish a cast, the surface must first be treated with acetone to remove what you can of the existing paint or stain. Not all of it will come off. Our custom-formulated polyurethane resin can be easily painted with oil stains, enamels, water-based paints or dyes (inks). To prevent the finish from wearing away due to handling, we suggest a clear coat of lacquer applied sparingly. If heavy wear is expected, then we recommend a polyurethane or marine varnish finish.
Q: How workable is your material? Can it be filed, sanded, drilled, and machined?
A: Our products are made from polyurethane resin and are very workable. It can be sanded, drilled, and machined. There shouldn't be any heat buildup unless you're applying heat.
Q: I want to purchase a disarticulated skeleton but have never assembled one before. Do you provide any general directions for how to assemble a skeleton?
A: We sell many disarticulated skeletons and, on occasion, are asked how to assemble them.
Our disarticulated skeletons are bought for many reasons. Among them are: 1) To study the individual bones, 2) To exhibit individual or groups of bones, 3) For use in film or other media productions, 4) To save money and assemble the skeletons themselves, and 5) To assemble them as a student or educational project.
The disarticulated skeletons offered by Bone Clones are produced to appear like real bones that have either come out of the ground or through laboratory preparation. As such, there are no pins, mounting holes or anything resembling a kit. We also do not supply any instructions. We have over 40 years preparing and assembling skeletons and have developed many varied techniques to do so efficiently and accurately. Most Natural History Museums have also developed these techniques over many years. Depending on the final position and use, the variations of assembly procedures and techniques are endless.
We recommend that those wanting to assemble our skeletons either have sufficient experience articulating real or cast skeletons or are willing to experiment, innovate and learn. The casts are made from polyurethane, are easily drilled, and can be bonded with super glue or epoxy. With a pilot hole drilled, screws will bite well and hold (a touch of superglue will secure it even more). All the hardware we use can be purchased at a hardware or building supply store. And only normal hand and electric tools are needed. For those attempting to assemble for the first time as a student, educational or personal project, the process may, at times, be frustrating, but, in the end, will be extremely rewarding. As a group project the process will be as valuable as the final product.
Q: I would like to obtain Bone Clones products through DonorsChoose.org. However, the Donors Choose site limits the vendors from which projects can be selected. Do you know of any work around so that I can submit the project for the items I want for my students and not the versions available?
A: DonorsChoose.org Teachers who have at least 6 points can submit a Special Request for outside vendors, so they can submit a Special Request project for products at Bone Clones. Please visit this page for assistance.
Fossil Hominid FAQ
The Bone Clones® Hominid line is composed of discoveries from anatomically modern humans, archaic humans, early Homo, early hominins, and other hominids. The majority of the casts in this line have been recreated by our team of anatomical sculptors. Some are reconstructions made by anthropology professionals using fragmentary elements from original discoveries and extrapolating the missing parts from those (i.e. Neanderthal skeleton). A small portion of the hominin line has been cast from original material.
Our Managing Director answers the question: "Why do you sculpt fossil hominids?":
The reason we started sculpting at all (over 15 years ago) was that we received many requests from physical anthropology professors wanting quality casts that were as close to the original as possible. Casts from originals were not generally, or easily available. At that time there were sculpted casts sold by several companies that these professors were not happy with. They were familiar with the quality of our other products and so encouraged us to try to produce casts of the same high quality. Over the years I have contacted researchers, museums and host countries to request access to mold and cast from their masters/original specimens. Although a number of contacts were made over the years with representatives of the countries that host the originals, there has been some reluctance to go forward. At the same time we continued to get numerous requests from the educational community. Finally we decided to research the possibility of sculpting recreations of these hominids. We enlisted the help of physical anthropologists and hired a number of talented anatomical sculptors. We spent a great deal of resources in not only sculpting, molding, casting and promoting these recreations, but also an incredible amount of time and money in researching them. It would have been preferable if we were given access to real specimens in some form and royalties would have been paid to the institution to further research. This has always been our preference. With a few exceptions, the fossil hominids are the only product we sculpt; about 60 skulls out of nearly 3,000 products. All other specimens are molded and cast from the best originals available.
Q: Which particular specimen of Australopithecus afarensis is represented by specimen BH-001 in your catalog, or which specimens is the reconstruction based upon?
A: The Bone Clones® BH-001 is a cast of a generic male A. afarensis and is based on composite reconstruction from several specimens from the Hadar AL 333 region, circa 1979 and 1988.
Q: You wrote in the fossil hominid page that you commissioned a team of anatomical sculptors to re-create the fossil hominids. Did you reproduce the Dmanisi Skull 3 from another cast, pictures, both or in another way? Is it the original size? And do we get a certificate or document that you are allowed to reproduce and sell Dmanisi skulls? We must be sure that we do not buy any illegal reproductions - I don't want to suspect you, but as a museum, we need it in written form.
A: Bone Clones® Dmanisi skull BH-028 was recreated by Bone Clones using published photos and published scientific descriptions, and is not an illegal reproduction. The recreation and the resulting cast are considered an artistic creation by the US Copyright office, which has reviewed our process and granted Bone Clones, Inc. copyright for this and all of our other sculpted recreated Fossil Hominid skulls. Every attempt was made in both the sculpting and the casting to achieve accurate dimensions and details. Bone Clones® fossil hominin skull and skeletons are found in numerous museums and universities worldwide.
Q: Is it possible to use your hominid skulls to measure cranium volume, or are the skulls shaped on the outside only? Are the outsides to scale?
A: Yes, it is possible to take cranium volume measurements from our hollow casts, but keep in mind that these are spin casts and the thickness of the resin may not be as precise as the thickness of the bone, even though we try to get close. We would suggest that the real volume may be 1 to 3 percent less than that of the cast. On the other hand, the outside measurements should be accurate to 0.5 percent as our molding and casting processes take the real measurements into account when preparing and producing the casts. One note of caution, however: it is our position that NO casts, neither Bone Clones® nor others, should be used for scientific measurements and should only be used for approximation and general study. For scientific accuracy, only real skulls should be used.
Additional Fossil Hominid Notes:
• In the 70s people mostly used either plaster or epoxy to make fossil hominid casts. Today, researchers often use epoxy to make casts as they produce fine results but are not amenable to multiple casts.
• Our casts are made from polyurethane resin.
• The original sculpted recreation is molded and then a master cast is produced. From that master, additional molds are made when needed and casts are then produced, leaving only one generation of casting between the original and casts offered.
• The original recreation is made using written and photographic research, and viewing casts of the original when possible.
• Only real fossil material can be confidently used for scientific study. Original epoxy casts can be used but only in a limited fashion. Resin casts should not be used for accurate scientific study.
• Bone Clones® fossil hominin casts are widely used for a realistic depiction of the original find, and for general comparison of the many discoveries made in recent time depicting many epochs.
Bone Clones Terminology use for Ancestral Affiliation
Here at Bone Clones, we strive to use up-to-date science and terminology for all of the products we manufacture. When it comes to terminology usage for ancestral affiliation, we adhere to the accepted terminology used by the anthropological community and refer to the skull's ancestral geographical affiliation (i.e. African-American, Asian, European). Our BC-178 African-American Female skull, is a female that lived here in North America. Most African-American people are of mixed ancestral heritage. Many will exhibit predominantly African traits but will also posses traits from other ancestral groups (European, Native American). In this case, it is appropriate to refer to this skull as African-American to reflect that information. Those of European and Asian ancestry also have mixture of traits, but this is a very small amount and usually within their own geographical region. It is not the same kind of mixture one would see in an African-American. When we selected skulls for casting, we choose those that exhibited the most traits from a particular ancestral group in order to show the differences between geographical groups.
In some cases (white, black, Asian) are terms that our forensic consultant uses in reports because it is the terminology that law enforcement uses in investigations.
The following are terms used and the reasons why:
African, Asian and European:
• Used in comparative sets.
• With one skull BC-110 however, we use the term "African" alone because the provenance is known.
African-American, Asian, European:
• Used in all the articulated and disarticulated skeletons.
Black, white, and Asian:
• Used in reports by forensic consultant as described above.