finally, a herbivore.

I have a confession to make. I love food. I love tasting new things, experimenting with flavors and figuring out new ways to cook stuff. Too often when I see fluffy bunnies, cute cows or silly pigs I end up thinking of my favorite dishes. So naturally, it would follow that when I think of lower-of-the-foodchain dinosaurs, I really wish I knew what they tasted like.

I finally got to decorate a bag with one of my childhood favorites, Parasaurolophus walkeri. The idea was pretty cool, too.The bones that are present in the holotype get tooled in as they are. The parts that are not present appear as more of a silhouette style illustration.

Pardon the lack of ‘early on’ photos. I’m getting forgetful in my old age.

The holotype is pretty complete, nearly everything but the tail was recovered. Those parts got the fossil-bone texture and contours.

ornamented cranium

The illustrated parts were done shallow and flat.

I have recently fallen in love with Fiebings Mahogany oil dye. Now that I’m all fancy with an airbrush, I can put in on lightly, resulting in an ‘old copper’ color, or heavy saturation which goes deep reddish brown.

Here’s the skull, with that crazy crest. I had a dinosaur book growing up that still taught the ‘snorkel’ theory for the crest. Then there was that bunch over at the Sandia National Labs who 3D scanned the thing then modeled what sorts of sounds it could make….


Scapula detail:

It’s worth mentioning the holotype of P. walkeri shows some great pathologies. It seems this guy had a theropod of some sort kindly offer to massage those tight neck muscles. As we know, dinky arms were a HUGE issue for theropods, so clearly this P. wakleri’s buddy had to use his teeth to deliver said massage. Here’s the result:

a little to the left...OUCH

…and a close up of the parts that helped it run away!

Filling in the illustrated bits to get that silhouette look took a LOT of applications of thick stain. Here’s what it looked like after 2 coats.

I went with a 2-tone leather combo. I am really happy with how it turned out.

Not wanting to do anything halfway, I made the stitching 2 tone also with the pale thread matching the lighter colored leather.

Here’s the whole thing, after much fiddling, sewing, and riveting.

This was also the week I got OBSESSIVE about branding and packaging. I made this box from scratch. While I’m never going to do that again, the ‘crate’ look (with label) and the ‘specimen’ label tags are here to stay.

Brett-Surman, M. K. and J. R. Wagner. 2007. Discussion of character analysis of the appendicular anatomy in Campanian and Maastrichtian North American hadrosaurids–variation and ontogeny, pp. 135-169. In K. Carpenter (ed.), Horns and Beaks: Ceratopsian and Ornithopod Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Parks, W. A. 1922. Parasaurolophus walkeri: a new genus and species off crested Trachodont dinosaur. [Toronto]: The University Library, published by the Librarian.

Scott Hartman at

Miller, Chris. December 19, 1997. Digital paleontology: Producing the sound of the Parasaurolophus dinosaur. Sandia Lab News.


IT’S ALIVE!!!!!!

Oh, sorry. Wrong project. Here’s nice pictures of an amazingly cool project- geology bag with a lovely Microraptor gracing the front.


Stainless steel trigger snaps and D rings, 7-8 oz leather body saddle stitched for durability. Strap is adjustable by 5″, made of 6-7 oz leather, lined with suede. Guts of the bag are lined with glazed pig skin. Front pocket 5 oz leather wet molded and lined. Coloration done with Tandy water stain in Light Brown with Smoke Black Hi-lite. Sealed with Resolene and a lot of patience and swearing. Microraptor tooled and hand painted with acrylic artists paint.

Design references:
New Specimens of Microraptor zhaoianus (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) from Northeastern China
Sunny H. Hwang, Mark A. Norell, Ji Qiang, and Gao Keqin
American Museum Novitates Aug 2002 : Number 3381, pg(s) 1-44

Four-winged dinosaurs from China
Xing Xu, Zhonghe Zhou, Xiaolin Wang, Xuewen Kuang, Fucheng Zhang & Xiangke Du
Nature January 23, 2003 : v. 421, pgs 335-340

Preserved Feathers on the Four-Winged Dinosaur Microraptor gui under Ultraviolet Light.
Hone DWE, Tischlinger H, Xu X, Zhang F (2010)
PLoS ONE February 15, 2010 : 5(2)


Yesterday morning I set off to my local (and awesome!) Tech Shop for a bit of recreational leather working. After a bit of frustration with the laser cutter, I finally had things all ready for my latest custom order, a field bag with everyones favorite quadra-winged raptor, Microraptor zhaoianus.

Specific tooling designs call for scribbles and notes. I prefer to do mine in as obnixous color as I can find.

I decided I wanted to keep the cracks in the slab as part of the design. This can be accomplished with tooling, but also picking a piece of leather that has some natural marks and scars.

The pale lines visible at this stage will take up dye differently than the other parts.

Then there’s the not so subtle approach where you just beat the texture into the leather with a pointy metal stick.

Once that is done, its off to adding depth and texture. Most people call this stage ‘beveling’. I call it the ugly stage. But it’s necessary, because in the final dyeing steps, those little checkerboard textures get filled with a deep stain, adding another layer of depth to the tooling.

Part of what makes these dinos so fascinating are how well the feather imprints get preserved. Grain size of the sediment that buried it millions of years ago is one factor that allows for this incredible preservation. I wanted to carry that into this design, but really was at a bit of a loss for how to do it. In the end, I grabbed some 80 grit sandpaper and a 4 lb deadblow mallet. The little pock marks in the image below are the result. It feels really cool, too. It actually feels a bit like limestone. I’m thinking it will look really great when the stain gets into those little divots.

At last, it was time to clean up the epic mess I made and go home.

(it’s not ALL my mess. Only about 7/8th of it…)

I still have a bit of the uglies to beat out of it, and the areas that I want super detail in still have some work that needs doing. A lot of the detail for the bones will be taken from the Hwang et al 2002 paper. And the feathers- I can’t wait to see how those will turn out. I have a feeling there are some really good images to work from for those.

For the record, I don’t really know what’s going on with that toe…