Building Bones: rearticulating animal skeletons with Lee Post and others
November 5, 2015 12:47 PM   Subscribe

In the late 1970s, a bicycle mechanic named Lee Post moved to Homer, Alaska to run a small bookstore with his mother. He also volunteered at the town's natural history museum, where he took on the task of assembling a beaked whale skeleton.

Post thought, well, I've repaired bikes — surely I can repair a whale skeleton if I have a book to follow, and conveniently, I run a bookstore. He searched for any books about reconstructing whale skeletons. “There was no such thing,” he says.
This is the story of how a bookseller from Homer, Alaska became the an international animal skeleton re-assembly expert (Bay Nature).

See also: The lost and found art of assembling whale skeletons (Atlas Obscura). Lee calls himself the Boneman, and has a website dedicated sharing information that he has learned about skeleton articulation, or bone building as he calls it.

While he shares a good bit of his information for free, if you want to get really in-depth information on how to articulate specific animal skeletons, he has 9 books on that very topic, plus a Bone Guide To Selected Land Mammals of the Northwestern States.

But if you want a quick and dirty how-to, there are a few of those online, including some write-ups from: But remember, if you're collecting wild animals, even dead animals, consult your local laws regarding wildlife and taxidermy. A local taxidermy shop may be able to guide you in this effort.
posted by filthy light thief (10 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Oh... Oh, my. There is a lot to dig through in this post. Thank you!
posted by brundlefly at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

international animal skeleton re-assembly expert

Best business card ever.
posted by Fizz at 1:26 PM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the UK Ben Garrod (who does similar things for museums here) presented a fantastic TV series called “Secrets of Bones”. Well worth catching if you get the chance. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere, unless you’re willing to channel your inner pirate.
posted by pharm at 1:39 PM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

There’s a taste of his work in this YouTube video though.
posted by pharm at 1:48 PM on November 5, 2015

pharm, thanks for info on the series (BBC episode list), and the sample! If you're willing to traverse into light-grey waters, you can search for that show and find it on streaming media sites with apparently little trouble (at the time of making this comment - those things might disappear in the next 5 minutes, striking this comment null and void).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:52 PM on November 5, 2015

In the future I imagine you’ll be able to pay for it at but they don’t seem to have it at the moment.
posted by pharm at 2:05 PM on November 5, 2015

Wow, this is neat stuff.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:55 PM on November 5, 2015

This is so cool. A couple of years ago one of my kids and I tried to clean chicken bones so he could keep them, and were not successful. I want to get us his "Bone Builder's Notebook." I bet we could clean some chicken bones then!
posted by not that girl at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2015

This is awesome! How could there NOT have been manuals for this sort of work?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:23 PM on November 5, 2015

not that girl, if all you want to do is clean the bones, there are plenty of free guides online. For instance, Jake has a guide with a comparison chart that includes 9 methods of cleaning bones, ranked for 5 types of remains. The tricky part is re-assembling the skeleton and not leaving out any bits, like the "secret seven" of a canine skeleton.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:27 AM on November 6, 2015

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