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bone-msg - 10/26/01


Working with bone and antler. Cleaning bones. Whitening bones. Sources of bone and antler.


NOTE: See also the files: horn-msg, Horn-Spoons-art, glues-msg, leather-msg,

lea-tanning-msg, leather-bib, leather2-bib.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

From: malmberg at badlands.NoDak.edu (Kenric D Malmberg)

Subject: Re: working skeletal materials

Date: Mon, 15 May 1995 20:22:34 GMT

Organization: North Dakota Higher Education Computing Network


Good gentles,

Nahum asks:

: have folks had a bad problem of shrinkage? [in bones/antlers]

: how to deal with this?


: I had made a thumb ring (middleeastern archery device) from antler and

: it worked great...

: for awhile...

: then it started bothering - I had first thought that this was because

: of my thumb swelling (after shooting alot)

: but last time I was about to use it, the thing did not fit at all.


: I could continue sanding - but eventually I'll be left with no ring.

: So,

: is it gonna stop shrinking?

: when I make a new one, how much shrinking do I need to account for?

: any other advice?


Well, I hate to have to use modern references, but the Boone and

Crockett rule on measurement of skulls is that the skull has had to

dry for at least a year before measurement.  Thus a year of drying

_before_ making the item is a good idea.  Secondly, remember that bone

is a porous substance.  Sealing it after shaping it should slow or

stop the shrinkage.  Hope this helps.


In service,

Kenric Bjarnarson



From: "Falcone al Rasool ibn Muhajir" <polearmed at worldnet.att.net>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: working with bone

Date: 12 Feb 1997 15:38:11 GMT

Organization: Elvegast.Windmasters' Hill.Atlantia


Allah's Peace unto you!!


Scott G. Hofer <simplex at pipeline.com> wrote:

> I'm looking for information on working with bone. In specific, I have

> two racks of deer antlers that I'd like to make into buttons and

> needles. If anyone has any advice or can point me towards some good

> sources I'd be be very grateful.




I suggest you use a little know Xacto tool.  It is a small coping saw, for

which Xacto sells tiny little saw blades.  The blades are like 6 inches

long and very thin.  Saw the buttons by hand(you should always use a

comfort mask AT LEAST, if not a chemical respirator when dealing with any

bone or horn) with this little saw and the polishing work is reduced.


For needles, I think you should maximize your time by making blocks with

the needle profile shape, then sawing length-wise.  You will want some

precision files on hand for the eye, etc.  If you shave these off of the

block, you maight add a little bit of a curve to it.  At that point, it

will be a weak needle.


Good luck.



Donald Wagner                            Falcone al Rasool ibn Muhajir

Raleigh, NC                              Barony of Windmasters' Hill

Lead Technical Instructor - WorldNet     Kingdom of Atlantia

<dswagner at attmail.com>                   <polearmed at worldnet.att.net>



From: afn03234 at freenet3.afn.org (Ronald L. Charlotte)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: working with bone

Date: 15 Feb 1997 12:47:28 GMT


simplex at pipeline.com (Scott G. Hofer) wrote:

> I'm looking for information on working with bone. In specific, I have

> two racks of deer antlers that I'd like to make into buttons and

> needles. If anyone has any advice or can point me towards some good

> sources I'd be be very grateful.


_The_ book to get your hands on is _Bone, Antler, Ivory & Horn_ by

Arthur MacGregor (ISBN 0 389 20531 1).  It has more information on

historical (from the Roman era forward) skeletal material work than any

three other books.


Just as a point of fact, with no insult intended, antler is _not_ bone.  

It doesn't behave the same or work the same.  You can count on getting

your buttons from the antler, but as needles, antler will be short-lived

at best.


    al Thaalibi ---- An Crosaire, Trimaris

    Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL

    afn03234 at afn.org



From: afn03234 at freenet2.afn.org (Ronald L. Charlotte)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: working with bone

Date: 18 Feb 1997 11:50:12 GMT


"Charlotte A. Gilmour" <rgbailey at aiinc.com> wrote:


> I have a question...would antlers be okay for making combs?  If not what

> would be your suggestion?  BTW (not being the original poster) this has

> been very interesting!


Now _combs_, that was something antler was used for, a lot.  They are

one of the most common skeletal material artifacts around.  Red deer

antler was very common for combs.  A few were one-piece, but the

majority done in antler were "composite" combs built up out of smaller

pieces. There are a few rare examples with antler teeth and bone side



For combmaking, the only skeletal material that might be superior to

antler is horn, and that's a subject for debate.


    al Thaalibi ---- An Crosaire, Trimaris

    Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL

    afn03234 at afn.org



From: skwid at utdallas.edu (Evan P Langlinais)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: working with bone

Date: 25 Feb 1997 17:01:10 GMT

Organization: The University of Texas at Dallas


For some nifty diagrams of combs in various stages of construction, check

out JP Heather's "Goths in the 4th Century."  Nice little book he

co-authored with Matthews.


|   |   |\ | | | ) Theudegisklos "Skwid" Sweinbrothar of the order Teuthoidia

|/| |\  |/ | |X| ( SKWID, Vulture V4 pilot

| | | |  | | | ) Evan "Skwid" Langlinais



From: "Charlotte A. Gilmour" <rgbailey at aiinc.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: 10 Mar 97 18:56:09 GMT

Organization: Gilmour


covert <covert at Capital.Net> wrote:

> Seeking information on the drying, and preperation of small bones for

> theatrical costume bits.


Boil the meat from the bones (roasting burns/causes crumbling). Scrape the

bone with a knife until clean, you can use scewers or nutpicks to hollow

out the bone, then boil or soak (I think soaking is better) in bleach or

lemon juice, use a fine tooth saw to cut through the bone, use a drill for

holes etc. (be careful when you apply pressure though, you'll get the feel

of it).


Hope this helps :) and have fun!


Most Sincerely,

Tearlag Anna Ghille Mhuire



From: pts21 at aol.com (PTS21)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: 17 Mar 1997 06:59:38 GMT


I was doing some jewelry a few years ago , when a friend gave me a couple

of mouse skulls to make into earings.  He told me he got the (already

dead, frozen ) mouse from a pet store where they were sold as snake? food.

To remove the mice from around the skulls, he soaked them in bleach until

the mouse bits went away and only the bones remained.  I don't know if he

had to do any kind of scraping--I wasn't involved in it until the skulls

were already clean and dry.  I do remember him telling me that he had to

try several times before getting it right because if you soak it too long,

the bones go away too.  I imagine he also needed to rinse hem thoroughly

and let them dry.  You might have better luck with some of the reaaly

excellent plastic repros that are on the market now.good luck    



From: {Rmv-to-reply!}anaximander at geocities.com (Mike Huber)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 16:22:55 GMT


Friznitx rec.org.sca ak 9 Mar 1997 13:42:16 GMT farblik

covert at Capital.Net (covert)}


> Seeking information on the drying, and preperation of small bones for

> thaetrical costume bits.


I've read that placing them on an ant hill is a good way to get them



Anaximander of Xidon


mail: anaximander at geocities.com



From: neuro at nmia.com (Karen L Schumacher)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: 18 Mar 1997 17:22:55 GMT

Organization: New Mexico Internet Access


In my bio class in high school, we took the remains of the dearly departed

and placed them on anthills. Within a couple of weeks, we had full

skeletons, devoid of material. Then, to disinfect, we placed them in

bleach, which also changed the bone color from that weird yellow to white.

neuro at nmia.com



From: hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu (Heather Rose Jones)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: 19 Mar 1997 00:31:57 GMT

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


Karen L Schumacher (neuro at nmia.com) wrote:

: In my bio class in high school, we took the remains of the dearly departed

: and placed them on anthills. Within a couple of weeks, we had full

: skeletons, devoid of material. Then, to disinfect, we placed them in

: bleach, which also changed the bone color from that weird yellow to white.


I haven't seen the original message yet, so I don't know if there is more

to the question than the above. The technique will vary to some extent

depending on the nature of the bones (e.g. limb bones versus skulls) and

your available facilities. Professional skeletal-preparation facilities

generally use flesh-eating insects (there's a particular type of beetle

that works well) for the most efficient method. This is particularly

useful is the creature is fairly small and delicate, or for bones with

awkward crevices and cavities (e.g. skulls). However, few amateurs have

the continuous need sufficient to support a beetle colony. The anthill

method is likely to work nicely for a start, although I'd advise a slight

modification. If the flesh dries out too badly, the ants won't be able to

finish the work. I've had good luck with delicate pieces by putting them

in damp potting soil in a flower pot and _then_ placing them near the

ant-hill. Leave it undisturbed for 2-4 weeks before checking on the

progress. (Toss some garden soil into the mix and you'll get some good

bacterial action helping with the process, too.)


This sort of method works well when the animal is fairly small (e.g.

mouse, robin, etc.) or when you are able to partially de-flesh larger

items. If you are working with something significantly larger (e.g.,

squirrel, rabbit, etc.) -- especially if you simply want the larger bones

for decoration, rather than a full skeleton for a mount -- the method that

has worked best for me is to bury the animal in a fairly shallow pit lined

with aluminum foil (makes it easier to keep things in one place when

retrieving it) somewhere it won't get walked on (and _mark_ the spot

clearly) using good, biologically-active soil. Dig it up one to two months

later (depending on the size) and it should be reasonably well cleaned up,

although you'll still have some washing to do. Anything larger should be

de-fleshed as much as possible first.


Bleaching (in a weak bleach solution) is a good way to whiten and

de-grease the bones and eliminate any remaining odor -- but be very

careful not to over-bleach or the bones will crumble into a chalky powder.

(Guess how I found this out.) 24 hours in perhaps a 10% solution might be

a starting place for experimentation.


Did I mention that I had some peculiar hobbies _before_ I joined the SCA?


Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn

(no skeletons in _my_ closet -- they're all out on display)



From: hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu (Heather Rose Jones)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: 31 Mar 1997 18:21:07 GMT

Organization: University of California, Berkeley


Wilson Heydt (whheydt at slip.net) wrote:

: hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu (Heather Rose Jones) wrote:


: >Bleaching (in a weak bleach solution) is a good way to whiten and

: >de-grease the bones and eliminate any remaining odor -- but be very

: >careful not to over-bleach or the bones will crumble into a chalky powder.

: >(Guess how I found this out.) 24 hours in perhaps a 10% solution might be

: >a starting place for experimentation.


: Since standard household bleach is a 5.25% solution of sodium hypochlorite,

: should I presume that, by "10% solution", you mean cutting the bleach 10:1,

: making it an 0.525% solution?


Since I was talking to a non-technical audience, I assumed that "10%

solution of bleach" would be interpreted as "buy commercial bleach; cut it

1:10". If I had _meant_ "10% solution of sodium hypochlorite" I would have

used the chemical name.


Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn



From: Charles L Knutson <knutsonc at freenet.msp.mn.us>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 13:30:49 -0600


The quickest is just to boil 'em. But it's also not a recommended

indoor activity, I obtained some knucklebones from sheep and deer that

way for gaming purposes. I borrowed an old Coleman camp stove and did it

out in the garage. Then I bleached them lightly as the others have

suggested. Depending on how much disecting you do first, it can take

several hours to loosen all the tendons and ligments, but it can be

quicker than waiting for the bugs and other wee beasties to do their work,

and also insures none of the local dogs get to them first.



From: BlackCat <blackcat at blueneptune.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: More on bones!!

Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 21:58:50 -0800


Yes, the methods perscribed by Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvyrn were

good ans sound, yet I have a couple of tidbits to add: hydrogen peroxide

works to whiten bone nicely without breaking it down like bleach

(although I admit bleach is quicker and easier). It always seems that

bleached bones eventually fall apart (at least in my experience). Also,

a set of dental tools is handy for cleaning out cavities in the scull.


Happy Hunting!

Lady Kelly Wynne Morrison of Dun Eistein



From: mjbr at tdk.dk (Michael Bradford)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 11:24:33 GMT

Organization: Tele Denmark


hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu (Heather Rose Jones) wrote:




>Bleaching (in a weak bleach solution) is a good way to whiten and

>de-grease the bones and eliminate any remaining odor -- but be very

>careful not to over-bleach or the bones will crumble into a chalky powder.

>(Guess how I found this out.) 24 hours in perhaps a 10% solution might be

>a starting place for experimentation.




A good way of whitening/degreasing bone is boiling in soap solution.

Use a normal clothes washing powder.


Michael Bradford

Viking Group Wunjo


mjbr at tdk.dk



From: jhrisoulas at aol.com

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bones

Date: 21 Mar 1997 03:12:48 GMT


In article <5gr6ik$2s6 at gatekeeeper.teledanmark.dk>, mjbr at tdk.dk (Michael Bradford) writes:


>A good way of whitening/degreasing bone is boiling in soap solution.

>Use a normal clothes washing powder.


As someone who has processed over half a ton of "bovine ivory" (aka beef bones) for use as sword/knife grips...I suggest that you start out by placing the pieces on an ant hill....You will be amazed at how clean these little guys get a piece of bone..


Next boil the pieces in either chlorine bleach  (the easiest of the two) solution of 5% by volume for 1/2 hour followed by a fresh water rinse..OR you can use sodium hydroxide (lye) solution of 2.5% by volume...I use the lye as it does a better job of getting that nice "bone" colour... rionse in fresh water and let dry..


What you end up with is a nice bone coloured bone..


Usually I place the resulting bone under a vacuum either plain or in an annaline dye solution for various colours.. The black/blues are very attractive and this worked very well when stabilized under vacuum with a cyanoacrylate....(this is sorta like industrial "super glue"..but far more nastier.....)... This results in a sealed surface that is more or less impervious to heat, sun, water...whatever and will take a polish like glass...  I would go into further detail but I hold a patent on this process.


Actually the cleaning process is described in detail in my second book...The stabilization/colouration processes aren't..sorry....  I am not one to keep things secret, but in this case I am.......


Atar, Baron Bakhtar, OL


JP Hrisoulas,

Las Vegas, NV



Date: Sun, 06 Jul 1997 12:28:02 -0500

From: Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Antler Availability


The best way to get palmate antlers such as moose, red deer, fallow deek,

elk, etc.  is to contact your local exotic game ranches.  There are three

types: one is a zoo-like deal where tourists are allowed to drive through

and view the wildlife; the next is an animal sanctuary or preserve which

does not allow tourists, and the third is a commercial ranching venture.


We're fortunate in Texas to have a number of the commercial exotic game

ranches available.  Some of them offer hunters an opportunity to hunt game

animals, others ranch them just like cattle for meat and hides.  Both

varieties will usually sell you naturally shed antlers.


Also, don't neglect the taxidermy shops and game meat lockers in your

vicinity and in surrounding small towns.  It is quite common for folks to

drop off their kill and then later realize they don't have the money to

reclaim their trophy.  Often you can get quite a bargain on horn and

antler. Also, if the antlers are damaged, a hunter may choose not to keep

them, but if you are making stuff from them, broken antlers are great, and

these sometimes can be obtained for free.


The same principle, by the way, applies to sewing machines:  never buy a

new sewing machine.  Call around yoru local sewing machine repair shops and

ask if they have any repaired machines to sell...  again, many people will

drop their machines off for repairs, then find they can't afford to get

them back and so abandon them.


Gunnora Hallakarva



From: powers at woodstock.cis.ohio-state.edu (william thomas powers)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Bone sewing kit, who can help?

Date: 22 Aug 1997 10:54:11 -0400

Organization: The Ohio State University, Department of Computer and Information Science


>I recently decided I wanted my whole take-to-events-sewing-kit as period

>as I can get it. I decided I needed a box made out of bone to keep my

>needles in. I'm still looking for information on boneworking, both

>mundane and period, and I was wondering if anyone has come across what

>an actual period sewing kit consisted of? I'm thinking 12th century, but

>information about any time period is welcome.

>Gerbrich de Fries


Gracious Gerbrich; I would suggest reading through "Divers Arts" by

Theophilus for some suggestions on 12th century bone working.  Remembering

that, like period cookbooks, some things get left out. (an example:

the polishing with sifted wood ashes and a woolen cloth. You get

a nasty mess if the bone is oily and the ashes dry; but if you add

water--not mentioned by Theophilus-- and use the cloth to "shoe-shine"

the bone you can get a polish that will have people accusing you of having

buffed it with modern equipment.)


Working bone is quite easy it can be carved, sanded, buffed, filed, sawn

drilled, turned on a lathe.


Many wood and metalworking tools can be used. (sawing: coping saw

or hacksaw; drilling: regular twist drillbits; filing: regular files--not

in the finest cuts as they tend to clog; sanding: regular sand paper)


Many small carving tools can be easily and cheaply made from masonary

nails. Bones can be obtained at a butcher, slaughterhouse, roadside cheaply.

Cleaning them is easy too.


Some people use a dremel with various burrs to carve. (I don't like it).  

If you are grinding, sanding or turning: DANGER do *NOT* breath bone dust.  

Use a dust mask and a dust collection system---vacuume cleaner/outside

with a breeze.


If you get any good documentation; please post it--I'm always ready

to add another project to the massive backlog!


wilelm the smith



Date: Wed, 03 Sep 1997 23:44:32 -0500

From: "J. Drew Ragsdale" <jragsdal at sprynet.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Need source(s) for Antler


>I'm looking for sources of Red Deer, Elk or other large antlers.  I

>desire such for making reproductions of Viking implements, in

>particular, combs.  Any supplier information will be greatly



>Gawain Kilgore


You might also try "Dixie Gunworks". They are in Tenessee and cater primarily to the buckskinner crowd. Since antler was a heavily used item for the buckskinners, they used to carry it and may still. You can probably get their mail-order catalog (about $5) at most gun-type stores.


Salvadore DelRossa



Date: Thu, 4 Sep 1997 10:13:56 -0400 (EDT)

From: Griff41520 at aol.com

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re:Antler vs Horn    was: Need source(s) for Antler



This is fascinating!  No native deer in Lochac!  Do you do anything special

with the fluffy stuff on the  hard horn? (sorry, I have *no* idea of the

technical terms!) <<


    Fluffy stuff?  Quick note on Antlers vs Horns.  Antlers are an extension

of bones. Male deer (stags) and other antlered critters grow and shed antlers

on a regular basis.  They grow out of a special spot on the stags head and

are nourished by an thin coating that the stag eventually scratches off ( we

call it velvet)  The antlers are very sensitive in this stage.

     Antlers are not hollow like cattle/sheep horns are.  They are solid,

like bone.  Is a stags velvet what you were thinking of as fluffy stuff?





Date: Thu, 04 Sep 1997 11:20:09 -0500

From: Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Sources of Antler


I get my antler from exotic game ranches.  Texas has many of these and I

will guarantee that other Western states will as well.  Sometimes they will

let you have shed antlers, other times they make them available for sale.


Also check out the meat lockers and venison processing plants near you.

Hunters who bag deer with broken antlers often don't keep them, and for our

purposes the broken ones are fine.  Even the tiniest peices can become

sewing needles and Thor's Hammers. You can also get deer shinbones from the

meat processors as the lower leg is garbage... and that's what I use for

making bone needlecases.


The last place to check is with the local taxidermist.  Often they have

broken antlers, and simple racks that no one ever paid for, etc.  Sometimes

they have a barrel filled with antlers you can pick up for $5 a half-rack.


Gunnora Hallakarva




Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 07:20:43 -0500 (CDT)

From: Lorine S Horvath <lhorvath at plains.NoDak.edu>


Subject: Re: Bone "chips" [SCA]


Tarrach here. I seem to remember in the MacGregor book a mention of

cutting disks out of flat bones such as shoulder blades and jaws for this

use. These were cut out using a saw drills not unlike the modern ones

used to drill/saw holes >1" and which should be avalable at any hardware




Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 18:19:53 PDT

From: "Joseph Tolbert" <jlt6 at hotmail.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: bone disks


>use. These were cut out using a saw drills not unlike the modern ones

>used to drill/saw holes >1" and which should be avalable at any hardware



>Trouble is you're stuck with a hole in the middle then, I've read



If you use a drill press, you can take the drill out of the center

of the holw saw (its purpose is to guide the saw) - if you don't have

a drill press handy ,take a piece of board ,make a hole in it with

the hole saw (drill bit in place) clamp the board to the bone etc.

REMOVE THE DRILL BIT, cut out your disk (the hole in the board will

guide the saw) - - - just a thought if you boil the bone it will

soften MAYBE enough that you could use a piece of tubing or

electrical conduit with a sharpened end to cut out disk like a

cookie cutter (it does harden again as it dries)


Joseph L. Tolbert,Jr              jlt6 at hotmail.com



From: "Kevin Walmsley" <kd_walmsley at geocities.com>

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Sawing Bone? [SCA]

Date: Sat, 16 May 1998 19:15:18 -0500

Organization: Michigan State University


>Some questions:


>(1) How do I brace the bones to cut them?


>(2) What sort of equipment do I use? I don't have access to a "shop"

>of tools, but, I do have access to a Dremel-Moto tool if there is some

>sort of "saw" bit I could use.


>(3) What sort of safety considerations (besides bone flying into my

>eyes) do I have to be concerned about?


>(4) What can I use to clean the marrow out of the center of the

>roundels? The marrow space in lamb shanks is actually rather small,

>but, I don't want my roundels to smell!


>(5) What sort of knife or chisel do I need to make simple groove

>markings on the surface of the bone (again, a Dremel bit suggestion

>would be appreciated!)


A few ideas:


1. A mitre box with shims to support the irregular portions of the bone

(taper, warps, etc...).


2. A hack saw does fine, a band saw is much faster.  You could also invert

a saber saw and fasten it under a board with the blade sticking up through

the board.  Essentially making a stationary power tool out of a portable



3. Your significant other may not appreciate the smell of burnt bone caused

by dull tools.  Making him or her angry can be very hazardous to your

health. Bone from European animals may have unique health concerns that I

don't know about.


4. Dry marrow is easily reamed out with a drill bit or can be gouged out by



5. Any thing from a sharp pocket knife to professional engraver's tools.

One local scrimshaw artist uses a pattern maker's scratch awl.



From: ronch at gator.net (Ron Charlotte)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Sawing Bone? [SCA]

Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 02:04:58 GMT


On Sat, 16 May 1998 14:27:28 GMT, goldmoon at geocities.com (Gwen Morse)



>I'm interested in being able to cut up the long bones (leg bones) of

>lambs. I have a source for the bones, I'm just not sure how to saw or

>cut them.


>Will anyone out there who works bone be willing to provide some advice

>for me? I want to cut the shank bones into thin "roundels" (best

>described as coin-shaped).


>Some questions:


>(1) How do I brace the bones to cut them?

If you are just wishing to cut across the thickness of the bone, a

vise (woodworker's or ordinary bench vise with leather glued to the

jaws will do nicely.  For other cutting and handwork, a "vee" block is

a nice item to have (they are frequently described in most basic

jewelry craft books).


>(2) What sort of equipment do I use? I don't have access to a "shop"

>of tools, but, I do have access to a Dremel-Moto tool if there is some

>sort of "saw" bit I could use.


Any fairly fine toothed saw will do the trick for hand tools.  The

best for a beginner is an ordinary woodworkers coping saw.  The blades

are dirt cheap and come in a variety of tooth counts.  I frequently

use the saw blades sold for use in x-acto tool handles.  For more

intricate work, a real jeweler's saw is essential.  For rough cuts, a

hack saw will work nicely.  


Basically, think of bone as behaving like a hard, but brittle wood.

and choose tools appropriately.


>(3) What sort of safety considerations (besides bone flying into my

>eyes) do I have to be concerned about?

The fine dust from sanding and filing is not a good thing to breath,

especially if you want to make a habit of working the stuff.  A

disposable mask is better than nothing, a real filter mask is better.


>(4) What can I use to clean the marrow out of the center of the

>roundels? The marrow space in lamb shanks is actually rather small,

>but, I don't want my roundels to smell!


I use a (sort of) tame fire ant mound.  Otherwise, hairdresser grade

hydrogen peroxide will help get rid of the organic marrow, and whiten

the bone (sheep bone is kind of high in fat content, and ages yellow

unless some of the fat is removed from the surface layers.


>(5) What sort of knife or chisel do I need to make simple groove

>markings on the surface of the bone (again, a Dremel bit suggestion

>would be appreciated!)?


Any thing that will cut wood will work.  For rotary tools, the bits

that I use most often are the round burs, the cones, and a couple of

the rasp shapes.


>Recomendations of books that cover actual bone-working ("Bone, Antler,

>Ivory and Horn" by MacGregor didn't) would also be appreciated.


There is some info on the subject in there, but one has to be familiar

with the basics before any of it makes sense.  If you can find it,

_Working in Plastic, Bone, Amber, and Horn_ by Erland Borglund and

Jacob Flauensgaard is a _very_ good basic technique primer.  Late last

year, the magazine _Lapidary Journal_ had a couple of articles on

beginning to work in skeletal materials.


al Thaalibi ---- An Crosaire, Trimaris

Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL



Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 15:51:33 -0500

From: "I. Marc Carlson" <LIB_IMC at centum.utulsa.edu>

Subject: re: Sawing Bone [SCA]

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca


<goldmoon at geocities.com (Gwen Morse)>

>I'm interested in being able to cut up the long bones (leg bones)

>of lambs.

I see that you've gotten a number of responses, and so I would like

to point out that I'm not contradicting any of that (with one

exception - if you wind up breathing in some of the dust, don't

panic, it won't kill you.  Breathing in a LOT of the dust is very

bad for you, yes, just as breathing in large or regular amounts of

anything is bad for you.  Don't be surprised, however, if inhaling

the dust doesn't aggravate any sinus conditions have or, or cause

a sinus infection).  A simple face mask should take care of that).


>I have a source for the bones, I'm just not sure how to saw or

>cut them.




>(1) How do I brace the bones to cut them?


Either with your hand, or clamped to a table.  You might wrap the

area to be clamped in leather, to give it a better grip.

>(2) What sort of equipment do I use? I don't have access to a

>"shop" of tools, but, I do have access to a Dremel-Moto tool if

>there is some sort of "saw" bit I could use.


Oddly there is, but the really good saw isn't sold by Dremmel.  I

bought mine at a Gun and Knife show from an anonymous salesperson.

I don't have any idea how well the Dremel fiberglass cutting wheels

will work, but they ought to work.  A table saw might work best,

but since you don't have access to that, I would go back to the

suggestion of a coping saw.  A coping saw is what I use anyway.

If you are *really* eager, the MacGregor has a drawing of the ideal

tool in it, the saw with two blades, but you'd have to make one of

those from scratch.  The Exactoknife "raxor-saw" cuts bone BEST,

but it's a major pain (I think) to work with.

Note that working with bone has some aesthetic drawbacks.  The

first is that it stinks.  The smell is (logically) akin to that

found in a dentist's office when teeth are being drilled. The power

tools make it worse.  You WILL get used to the smell, but it can

take some time.  If you soak the bone in water for several days,

and then boil it (as discussed in MacGregor), it will soften the

bone to a point that it's just like cutting a hard wood.  The smell

however will change to something reminiscent of cutting up a

cadaver (without the formaldehyde to break up the stench).

>(3) What sort of safety considerations (besides bone flying into

>my eyes) do I have to be concerned about?

The dust is probably paramount (I don't have a lot of bone chips

flying around, personally).  Other than that, wear gloves, since

bone is hard enough that your saw can be all ov can be all over the


>(4) What can I use to clean the marrow out of the center of the

>roundels? The marrow space in lamb shanks is actually rather

>small, but, I don't want my roundels to smell!


The last time I did this (which my wife tells me is the LAST time

I will do this) I cut off the ends of the bone, and with a long

stick scraped out the marrow crap.  You know the description of the

nasty smells I've given so far?  This stuff CAN be worse depending

on how old the bone is.  Once that is done, wash it in hot water

(dish washer/bottle brush/whatever).  THEN cut your disks.


>(5) What sort of knife or chisel do I need to make simple groove

>markings on the surface of the bone (again, a Dremel bit

>suggestion would be appreciated!)?


The Dremel will work, but I really think you'll get a more

satisfactory result if you use a small metal rod, like a flat ended

awl, and just do it by hand.


Just don't fool yourself.  Working in bone takes hard work and

time. There are very few "easy" ways to get things done.  It can

be a great way to meditate, since if you rush it, you are far more

likely to screw it up.


>Recomendations of books that cover actual bone-working ("Bone,

>Antler, Ivory and Horn" by MacGregor didn't) would also be



Oh, he does.  He just doesn't present a "how to".


Ok, books.


Borglund, Erland, 1894- and Jacob Flauensgaard. Working in plastic,

    bone, amber, and horn. [Ed. Clara Fried Zwiebel] New      

    York: Reinhold Book Corp., [1968]

D'Amato, Janet. Who's a horn? What's an antler? : crafts of bone

    and horn. New York : J. Messner, c1982. OCLC: 8221773

Horn & bone craft. Brookings, S.D.?: Cooperative Extension

    Service, 19??. OCLC: 10417115

Myhre, Stephen. Bone carving : a skillbase of techniques and

    concepts. Auckland : Heinemann Reed, 1987 (1989 printing)

    OCLC: 22178375

Ritchie, Carson I. A. Bone and horn carving : a pictorial history.

    South Brunswick : A. S. Barnes, [1975] OCLC: 1119324


Several other "craft" encyclopedias discuss bone working under



Marc/Diarmaid O'Duinn

lib_imc at centum.utulsa.edu



From: goldmoon at geocities.com (Gwen Morse)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: Sawing Bone? [SCA]

Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 13:20:43 GMT


I wanted to thank everyone who responded to my post! You all were most

helpful. I just have to head to the hardware store to get the saw and

assorted odds and ends (mask, clamps, etc) I need.


One comment, to explain. "Bone, Antler, Ivory, and Horn" by A.

MacGregor does give ALOT of information about the various materials in

the titles, including lovely illustrations of a wide range of products

produced in period. However, there is no chapter on "How to work bone

in modern times", which is what I was hoping for. It is a GREAT

reference if you want to know what the finished products should look

like, though.




Eachna ingen Gan Aimn - 5th century Irish Celt

Probationary member of the New York Tuatha de Bhriain


Gwen Morse || mailto:goldmoon at geocities.com



Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 15:53:42 -0600

From: "Teri C. Kennedy" <aquarian at infomagic.com>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: looking for deer antlers [SCA]


Actually, since I was loading the truck anyway, .... I took out the box with

the deer antlers.  My source cuts the tips off for his purposes, but what I

have are still great for making buttons, handles for knives, forks, spoons, etc.


I sell them for $1.00 per ounce, and I currently have pieces that range from

1/2 to  5 ounces.  5 oz. doesn't sound like much, but it's a piece about 7

- 8 inches long.  I can get larger pieces.  My source is pretty reliable, so

I can fill orders at any time ('cept when I'm at events).  The info I need

from you is:  Approx. total number of ounces you want, *and* whether you

prefer longer pieces (for knife handles), or whether a combination including

short pieces is OK (for buttons).


I do have a few pieces *with* their pointed tips, and these cost $2.00 per oz.


Then, add the cost for a Box & Postage:

Up to 2 lb. (32 oz.) = $4.00

For each additional pound, add $1.00


Orders need to be pre-paid, and checks or M.O. made to:  Aquarian Arts Studio


Leg & rib bones are a little harder to come by.  Let me know if you

specifically want these & I'll see what I can find.  The elk skull I found

already had the horns chewed off by some hungry critter, but is available

for $95.00 including postage.


Now a word about safety:  You can use any hand or power tool to cut bone.

HOWEVER, dry bone *and* shell and horn, when cut, sanded, or drilled puts

out a fine dust WHICH YOU DO NOT WANT IN YOUR LUNGS!!!  Bone & shell dust

cuts lung tissue, so wear a dust mask, and preferably also work in a well

ventilated area (a room with an exhaust fan, or outdoors).


Lady Morgan the Celt


Lady Morgan the Celt de Artemis, MoAS, CFS, CMS (Teri Kennedy, B.F.A.)

Aquarian Arts Studio, 2998 W.Wilson Dr., Flagstaff, AZ  86001,

Voice: 520-779-1291, FAX:  520-779-3713,   e-mail:  aquarian at infomagic.com,

Web Site:  www.infomagic.com/~aquarian/



Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 09:25:46 -0400

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Flint Knapping


While it isn't European, I imagine that the techniques were very

similar. There is a particularly fine book on:


Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell   Artifacts of the Northwest Coast

by Hilary Stewart

ISBN ISBN 0-295-97536-9 in US., $29.95 US

ISBN 1-55054-475-6 in Canada, $35 Canadian.

Copyright 1973, 1981, 1996.

Published in the USA by University of Washington Press, PO Box 50096,

Seattle, Washington 98145-5096

Published in Canada by Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver/

Toronto. New revised editions.

140 pages.  Hardback.


(Companion works on Cedar and Indian Fishing.)


The styles and making of a very wide range of tools and decorative

ornaments are well illustrated. Hundreds of photographs and drawings.

Everything from arrowheads and azdes / axes to needles and awls to

fishing implements and specialized spears.


Illustrates very basic knapping techniques but goes on to illustrate

sawing with abrasive stones, polishing, drilling with stones, many

varieties of tools and how they were used. Cutting and working animal

and natural products, especially wood.


I have Cedar and Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell. The techniques and

illustrations in them overlap somewhat.


Cedar is 192 pages. ISBN 0-295-97448-6 in the U.S. $22.95

ISBN 1-55054-406-3 $22.95 in Canada. paperback. Very extensive on

woodworking techniques.





Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 21:54:33 EST

From: <Gingen3 at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Deer ribs [SCA]


a little clorox in water, soak, and voila' !! clean bones.

Lady Geva



Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 01:27:24 -0400

From: "Maggie Allen" <maggiea at empireone.net>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: Need a Bear tooth/bleach


>Actually, just boiling the tooth should be enough.  Chlorine bleach

>will make it very white, but will also weaken the tooth.  Same story

>with bones.

>Jack C. Thompson

>Thompson Conservation Laboratory


   I've gotta agree with this one. A fellow once traded me a bear skull

from a beast obtained by "fender-Remington". Rather than white-wash it, he

chose to use Clorox on it. Whiten it & sterilize it in one step, I guess. He

& I were both apalled when it disolved completely. Even the teeth went to

heck, almost before our eyes. Don't use bleach!


Yvan Wolvesbane of Norseland



Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2000 08:45:54 -0500

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

To: medieval-leather at egroups.com

Subject: Re: [medieval-leather] Cleaning bones?


Most of the Eastern Deer are too small to do much with their

antlers here. As to bones I've discovered fine, huge, cleaned or

flavored beef bones at the local PetSmart. They even drill a

3/8" hole in one end and must insert a powerwasher cause they're

clean inside as well. About $6 for a huge bone. I've got four

fine ones set back for some winchester spoon / viking spoon



Antler I've cut and carved by hand pretty much as it was.

Have a bit of moose antler I'm gonna try to make a tape loom out of

and maybe a comb or two. Got some buffalo shoulder blades for the

tape loom originally. All it takes is slots with hole between them

in the remaining bone to make a tape loom, then just up and down

backstrap style. Holes are in center of piece. Slots extend nearly

full height. Have to sand the edges carefully because of the

calcareous tissue.


Collis, John: Early Medieval Bone Spoons from Winchester;

      Antiq. Journal 59, 1979, pp.375-91.


Someone cited some New Zealand books last year I bought on bone

carving and polishing - Very good techniques but very modern.


Myhre,S.:  Bone Carving, A Skillbase of Techniques and Concepts;

      1987, Auckland, NZ, 116pp, 8vo, pb, illusts.

      new zealand bone carving


Timings,J.: Bone Carving, a New Zealand Guide to Tools,

      Techniques and Marketing; 1995, Christchurch, NZ, 64pp.,

        Card covers, illus., maori style.


Most of the medieval stuff is by MacGregor.

Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn is the bible if you can get it.


Also he did one in the York Series.

A. MacGregor, A.J. Mainman and N.S.H. Rogers: Craft, Industry

      and Everyday Life: Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn from

      Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York GBP22.50


And some of articles in journals on combs from various areas.


MacGregor, Arthur: Barred Combs of Frisian Type in England;

       in Med. Arch. 19, 1975, pp. 195-8 with multi-sided

      line drawings of six combs.


MacGregor, Arthur.: Bone Skates: A Review of the Evidence;

      in Arch. Journal 133,       1976. pp. 57-74 with illustrations

      and plate IV. Large bibliography.


Ambrosiani, Kristina. "Viking Age Combs, Combmaking, and

      Combmakers in the Light of Finds  from Birka and Ribe."

      Stockholm Studies in Archaeology 2. 1981.


Lauwerier, Roel C.G.M.: Objects of Bone, Antler and Horn from the


      Fortress of Oost-Souberg, the Netherlands (A.D. 90-975); Medieval

      Archaeology 39, 1995, pp. 71-90 and plates IV-VII, with additional

      illustrations. Combs with ornamentation, needles, spindle whorls,

      tridents, skates, bead and brooch, bibliography.


: Medeltidsstaden 30 - Broberg, Birgitta m.fl.,


      Fyndstudie. Illustr. Sth 1981. 166 pp.

      (Ceramics, Combs and Shoes from 7 Medieval Excavations.)


There are quite a few others I have but I haven't entered them in

my bibliographic files yet. About a foot or so. This'll have to

do for now.


Magnus Malleus, OL, Atlantia, Great Dark Horde.



To: Norsefolk at egroups.com

Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2000 15:12:15 -0700

From: "Bj¿rn Grimnirsson" <viking822 at in-tch.com>

Subject: Re: Bone needles


On this continent reindeer are called caribou.  You can occasionally

find caribou antlers offered by retailers.  A few places to try on the









Anita Gould wrote:

> I got my antler from Tom Scheib, leading reindeer breeder, lecturer,

> he looks like a

> young Santa, and Saami encampment reinactor.  His e-mail is

> tascheib at win.bright.net

> Hie reindeer Eli is the deer featured in many movies.

> Aurora


> JE Anderson wrote:

> > Where did you get reindeer antler and do they ship???? Thanks

> > Eirika



Date: Sun, 04 Feb 2001 16:13:04 -0500

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

To: - Regia - US <list-regia-us at netword.com>

Subject: A few addtional sources for Bone, Ivory, and Antler working.


I got in a few additional sources just recently:


Dalton, O.M.: The Clephane Horn, Archaeologia LXV, 1914, pp. 213-22 and

      plate XXIV which depicts all four sides of this highly carved

      oliphant (elephant tusk blowing horn). Suspected to be Byzantine

      ca. 10 C but predating 1204 (fourth Crusade by which it is

      suspected to have come to the west). Depicts many figures in

      various byzantine dress, Charioteers with four horse chariots,

      five riders in a variety of hunting scenes including one either

      doing horse acrobatics or taking a fall, many figures on foot with

      very short bare-legged tunics, looks like the tunics may come in

      around the body much like shorts. Various animals - lions,

      griffons, hares, deer, dogs, horses. All four sides are photographed

      and there is an expanded drawing of the whole design.


Galloway, Patricia, and Mark Newcomer: "The Craft of Combmaking: An

      Experimental Enquiry";  Inst. Arch. 18, 1981, Depicts the whole

      process to make a double sided composite comb with modern tools

      from antler, pp. 73-90 with photos and bibliography. Dot and

      circle motif is cut into the comb plates with a double point

      drill scribe.


Grainger, Guy, and Martin Henig: "A Bone Casket and a Relief Plaque

      from Mound 3 at Sutton Hoo", Medieval Arhaeology 27, 1983.

      pp. 136-141. Remains are very small, compared in the article

      with the Heilbronn Casket (From Goessler 1932) scale 1/2.

      The Relief Plaque is a cameo and is not depicted.


Greep. Stephen: "Antler Roundel Pendants from Britain and the Northwestern

      Roman Provinces"; Britannia 25, 1994, pp. 79-97 and plates III and

      IV, with additional drawings and photos in the text. Material

      concentrates on Britain, Gaul and the Germanies, many of these

      items have phallic representations.


Nesbitt, Alexander, Esq., F.S.A.: "On a Box of Carved Ivory of the Sixth

      Century"; Reprint from The Archaeologia Vol XLIV, 1876.

      London, J. B. Nichols and Sons. pp.1-10 with two plates

      depicting two base-reliefs from the casket.

      Apparently Early Christian Byzantine.


Magnus Malleus, OL

Windmasters' Hill, Atlantia

Brotherhood of the Great Dark Horde

R.M. Howe, Raleigh, NC 2001.


May be forewarded to closed sca or re-enactor email lists, but not to

open newsgroups, or the Rialto or SCA-Universitas list.



From: "Gerald T Ortman" <gto at iquest.net>

To: <stefan at texas.net>

Subject: Re: [Stellararts] A few notes on Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn Carving:

Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001 12:13:26 -0500


For your information and files:  a resource for antler.  I have not yet

contacted this fellow and therefore have no idea about costs or how he

deals, but he placed a for sale note on Woodweb:





I am an elk rancher and have an assortment of antler available. This is a

very versatile product and makes excellent carvings, scrimshaw, turnings

(especially pens), etc. You name it.


I also have Deer, Elk, Moose & Reindeer antler in stock


For more info please contact by email at :


bullandbugle at hotmail.com



John M Mullins

Bull & Bugle Ranch



From: redjack at mindspring.com (Richard Lewis)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Re: working with antler

Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 22:05:29 GMT


Unless it's a cup or a knife handle that will be dunked in water a

lot, you really don't need to seal it.  I always just use rouge

(polishing compound) when doing the finish polish and that little bit

of wax does the trick.  Of course, I've only ever used it for knife

handles and the occassional bead.




Hjordis Olvirsdottir <julesong at usa.net> wrote:

>I'm in the midst of making something out of moose antler, and I got as

>far as having the shape and it all sanded smooth and pretty... and then

>realized that before I do much more decoration on it I should find out

>about sealing it.


>Looking on Stefan's Florilegium at

>http://www.florilegium.org/files/CRAFTS/bone-msg.html was somewhat

>helpful - they did refer to needing to seal the antler at some point.

>However, I couldn't find any reference on how or what to seal it with.


>Any assistance would be appreciated!  Thanks!  :)





Subject: Re: Boneworking discussion

Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 18:05:02 -0400

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ku.edu,- Authenticity List <authenticity at yahoogroups.com>


John LaTorre wrote:

> Thanks for your long letter. It contained much to chew on as

> I begin to carve bone.


Some of my thickest, flattest pieces which I intend to do seals

or buckles with actually were dog bones with something similar

to tootsie roll in them which I pushed out and cleaned. Smelled

the same, just a bit more grainy. Sent it to Master Valdemar

for his dog along with the hip joint I cut the ball off of for

a future spindle whorl. If you like I'll save any future pushouts

for you but you pay postage. ;)


I'm working on enough to hopefully do a Compleat Anachronist.

(This will also depend on who is Editor at the time I think.)

So far I've done some spoons, dress pins and many needles.

Also carved / engraved antler, ivory, horn, wood, a variety

of metals, plastics, originally started out in linoleum blocks

34 years ago.

> > Actually I meant to say Pets Warehouse. PetSmart has bone

> > but it's not the whole bones, the ends are cut off. We have

> > both branches here near Raleigh/Cary (Raleigh's snooty suburb).


> I found some at Petco (another megastore). They, too, had

> the ends cut off, but the pieces were big enough for what I

> had in mind.


It really helps when you can see the end of the bone and

gauge the thicknesses at either end. I have a massively

thick piece for a buckle. Very flat too on one side.

The original was whalebone. That I can't have.


I shop for stuff at about 4 pet stores and a pet dealer at

a flea market, who's 2/3 the store price for the same stuff.

Mostly I buy cow metacarpals.  


> > Considering the Mad Cow Disease/Hoof and Mouth Disease thing

> > that is affecting anything with split hooves I went ahead

> > and bought $100 worth in several batches.


> My understanding is that the Mad Cow Disease is spread via

> bovine brain matter, not bone or flesh.


Yes, that was the final thought on the origin of it.

Feeding animals bits of their own body types mixed in their

feed. Spinal cords also.

However it is spread through truck tires, shoes, and

I understand wind. A range of 30 kilometers was one of

the last articles I read in an English e-paper. It's also

spread to a number of other animals as well in a number

of countries. I watched a British program that had a list

at the end of it. Must have been thirty animal types long.

It also happened in the 40's-60's with some Pacific cannibals,

mostly the women and young, getting the left overs.


> > At some time I will be publishing an updated bibliography

> > of bone work sources. I have some that I never originally

> > listed, and I have some I've gotten since that time, and

> > I'm looking for several more I've been told about and got

> > from bibliographies.


> Do you recommend any books for beginners or neophytes to

> bone and ivory carving?


RITCHIE, Carson I. A.: Bone and Horn Carving. A pictorial history

A S Barnes / Thomas Yoseloff 1975- 4to 28x21 166pp with index.

illustrated b&w. Cloth.


I have the above and like it very much.


MacGregor's books on Bone, Antler, Ivory, and Horn are both good.

The Bible of bonework was published about 1985, and fairly hard

to get since. The other is in the York Series and still available.

I have both of those and most of his other writings.


MacGregor, Arthur: Barred Combs of Frisian Type in England;

in Med. Arch. 19, 1975, pp. 195-8 with multi-sided line drawings

of six combs.


MacGregor, Arthur: Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn - The Technology

of Skeletal Materials Since the Roman Period; Croom Helm, London

and Sydney, Barnes and Noble, Totowa, New Jersey, ISBN (OOP)

0709932421, 1985  TT288.M#   LoC 84-18535, 245pp with illus.,

Contents: Raw Materials, Bone and Antler as Materials,

Availability, Handicraft as Industry, Working Methods and Tools,

Artefacts of Skeletal Materials - a typological review, Bibliography,



MacGregor, A, A.J. Mainman, and N.S.H. Rogers:

Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn from Anglo-Scandinavian York;

The Archaeology of York, the Small Finds, 17/12 Craft, Industry

and Everyday Life; Published by the British Council for Archaeology,

Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York, Y01 9WA, England,

ISBN 1872414990, 936.2'843, Published for the York Archaeological

Trust, 1999, 213 pp. with Illustrations.


MacGregor, Arthur.: Bone Skates: A Review of the Evidence;

in Arch. Journal 133,       1976. pp. 57-74 with illustrations

and plate IV. Large bibliography.

St. Clair, Archer and Elizabeth Parker McLachlan:

The Carver's Art - Medieval Sculpture in Ivory, Bone and Horn;

September 10-November 21, 1989; The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art

Museum, Rutgers, The State University     of New Jersey, New

Brunswick, New Jersey, 1989,  LoC# 89-84265, 146pp.,

      Illustrated Exhibition Catalog.

I also have this one which is not too bad.


I've actually got about twenty books on bone and Ivory work

and a number of articles. Most of which I've listed previously.


Roesdahl, Else: The Vikings in England and in Their Danish

Homeland, Exhibition Catalog, (with James Graham-Campbell,

Patricia, Connor and Kenneth Pearson) Publ. by Anglo-Danish

Viking Project, London 1981, 192 pp. Pb, Color and b&w photos

of metalwork, weapons, jewelry, daily items, beads, coinage,

houses, ships, costume, combs, maps, bone and antler items,

whetstones, dies, Bamberg Casket - Kunigunde's Jewel Box,

spoons, frying pan, horn mounts, and sculpture - architectural

and memorial, and amber.


Gibson, Margaret The Liverpool Ivories: Late Antique and

Medieval Ivory and Bone Carving in Liverpool Museum and the

Walker Art Gallery, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1994

Cloth, 4to, 121 pp., over 50 color and b&w plates


This one I've currently got ordered. I'm looking forward to

seeing it. There were several listed on the http://www.Bookfinder.com/

I went through 1300 citations on ABE this week looking for bone



Timings, Jim Bone Carving A New Zealand Guide to tools,

techniques and Marketing; Shoal Bay Press, 1999 Soft Cover.

8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. 63p A useful little guide, with

illustrations in drawings.


This one is one I heard of perhaps from this list, currently

listed as being for sale in the U.S. for $14 plus

shipping when I looked this week. I tracked this and Myhres

book down from New Zealand last year for $50.


Myhre,S.:  Bone Carving, A Skillbase of Techniques & Concepts;

1987, Auckland, NZ, 116pp, 8vo, pb,  illusts., New Zealand

bone carving, Soft Cover. ISBN 790000393  


Wainwright, G.J.: Gussage All Saints - An Iron Age Settlement

in Dorset; Department of the Environment, Archaeological Report

Number 10., London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1979.

ISBN 0 11 670831 X, 202 pages, index plus 87 plates; First Edition,

US$ 50.00  This one does not have much bone in it. It does have

a set of four bone wax modelling tools the metalcasters there used.

(I hate giving away my sources before I've done the originals though.)


Ward Perkins, J B.: London Museum Medieval Catalogue 1940.

Anglia Publishing, 1993. Catalogue of the wide-ranging collection:

weapons, tools, horse furniture, pendants, keys, purses, weights,

lighting, household utensils, plate, pottery, tiles, pilgrim

souvenirs, buckles, chapes, figures, wood, bone, ivory, glass,

pipeclay, whetstones, seals. 322pp, illustrated boards, profusely

illustrated with photos and drawings. New. Book # 16 £24.50

(approx. 38.89 American Dollars) Anglia Publishing , Unit T,

Dodnash Priory Farm Hazel Shrub, Bentley, Ipswich, United Kingdom,

IP9 2DF  Phone 01473 311138 / Fax 01473 312288,

anglia at anglianet.co.uk  ('99)

Ward Perkins, J.B.: A Medieval Spoon in the Guildhall Museum,

London; The Antiquaries Journal reprint, July 1939, (Vol XIX,

No. 3), pp.313-6. and plates LXI-V and includes illustrations

of wooden, metal and bone spoons from other time periods.


Waterman, Dudley M.: Late Saxon, Viking, and Early Medieval Finds

from York; in Archaeologia 97, 1959, pp. 59-105. Includes bronze

bowl, knives, axes, spears, swords, sword chape, arrowhead, horse

furniture (bits, spurs, stirrups), strapends, hooks, brooches,

pendants, pins, bone pins and bodkins, wooden and bone spoons,

bone combs and cases, oak casket with bone mounts, ornamental

bonework including flutes, worked antler, spindle whorls,

jet objects (gamepiece, pendant, whorl), glass beads, linen

smoothers, amber, stone whetstones and line sinker, pottery

vessels and lamps, shears.    


> > I highly suggest initial cutting with a bandsaw (if you have one)

> > OUTSIDE and that your back be to the wind with a mask on.


> I found THAT out by myself! Next time, I'll locate a vacuum

> cleaner nozzle right next to the bandsaw blade.


Told you. ;) I have the wheels to put on (and cups for them

to sit in when I want it still), still using the newer vacuum.

I'm finding it is not enough, but it certainly helps a lot.

The big one might do it but it's way too loud to be around, even

with a muffler. I use an extra fine filter on the vacuum.


Be sure to wear a respirator. I tend to do messy things like

this prior to a well deserved shower. If you have a small

belt/disc Sander like Delta's 1" x 42" belt/5" disc sander

you will also need to do that outside. The belts load quickly

so having a crepe rubber bar or old crepe rubber shoe sole

will clear them quickly.


> > I still recommend using gravers/burins/knives to carve with

> > unless you have a good dust system.


> Can you recommend a source for these? I'm finding that the

> woodcarving blades I have aren't well suited to bone

> carving. It's really more scraping and engraving than

> carving, and I'd like to know what to look for in tools, and

> where to look for them


Right. Well. Bone does not carve as quickly as wood, it's much

more dense, and you have to take your time. It comes off in small

bits, or even dust. The ADVANTAGE to this is that you are constantly

turning and examining your object as it gradually wears away and

you can modify it and improve it in small amounts.


Round areas I often file the outside of and scrape with concave

dental tools I've reshaped myself to final shape. Pin shafts,

spoon handles, animal bits for example. I do have a small C

shaped sanding frame which modelmakers use with pins on either

end for taking small belts. I use this for final finishing of

prototypes for casting. The little belts can be slit in strips

or cut to a single width for getting in small pierced areas or

simply polishing the outside.


When you file, try to file diagonally as you go around a shaft,

or up and down a surface. This tends to leave less marks from

the work and erases others.


You could do carving with flexible shaft machines or dremels with

toothed dental burs or carving burs, I just prefer to work by

hand, even though I have five of the above and a large collection

of accessories for them. I fully expect to when I start carving

gemstones. But this is medieval hand work. Taking your time allows

you to do better details. Details are the things that add quality

or realism to carvings.


Crummy, Nina: Boneworking at Colchester; Britannia 12, 1981,

pp. 277-85 with illus.. 8pp, 3figs.

Crummy, Nina: A Chronology of Romano-British Bone Pins; Britannia

10, 1979, pp.157-63. Depicts a typology of bone pins ca. 70AD to

early Fifth Century. Seven types are depicted and described,

usually fairly simple work. 1) Plain conical head. 2) Transverse

grooves beneath a conical head. 3) Pins with a    spheroid or oval

head. 4) Pins with a cuboid head faceted at each corner to give

five lozenge shaped and eight triangular facets. 5) Pins with

one to five reels beneath a conical or an ovoid head. 6) Pins

with a reel, or bead-and-reel shaped head. 7) Pins with

individually styled heads (not described in text - one depicted.).


Crummy is of the opinion that Roman bone workers used to leave

a large chunk of bone over the head of the pins, enabling them

to get a good grip and cut much quicker. I don't do this myself.

I suppose I should try it but it runs a bit counter to my work

experiences. I did modelmaking and plastics work to very tight

requirements and I'm not a whittler, which is what she's prescribing

for the pins, cutting away from yourself (not a bad idea, just

lacking the control I'm used to). The heads were likely filework

or turning. Not all that admirable in shape. The work I do with

pins is very decorative - style 7 which she does not illustrate



(I would also caution you about putting a whole lotta side pressure

on Xacto blades. I caught a broken one directly in the left hard

contact and split it into six pieces. The contact saved my eye,

but I nearly went blind in both from a subsequent viral eye

infection from the scratches. The infection lasted 8 months and

is why I can't wear contacts now. It left my eyes too dry. I was

using the side of it to press on a heated plastic weld air bubble

on a plating tank I was making when it broke. Your occular cords

connect at the base of the brain like a Y, which is why I nearly

lost both eyes. Hurt one and get an infection and it can spread

to both. I now wear polycarbonate lenses all the time and I can

tell you that in succeeding years they saved my eyes several times

in various shops. Flying wood knots from saws, a bolt thrown from a

grinder used by someone else, a bar clamp end on a cabinet case

someone suddenly flipped, molten metal spray, etc. I was a

professional, and trained in teaching industrial arts, yet I

could also be a poster boy candidate for eye protection.


I bought my shaper machine from a man who lost his left eye

entirely setting an angle on a table saw - holding the wood piece

between the blade and the fence while eyeballing it at table

level. He reached down to adjust the blade angle and touched

the switch. He lost his home and furnishings and most of his

shop. He was a Design School Graduate. An excellent reason to

unplug the saw at times. So it can happen to anyone.)


Generally, Viking books and articles contain a lot of strapends,

pins, textile tools, bodkins, a few bone spoons, a few buckles

like those from York, illustrated by R. Hall in the Viking Dig

and Viking York. I've got over a hundred Viking books and have

never done a complete search. The York Archaeology books are

full of them. Anglo Saxon books contain a few. One is a bone seal.


After initial blocking out I switch to hand tools and sandpaper

strictly. There is still a whole lot of work to be done. I don't

feel too out of period using modern tools to do the rough work.

My muscles harden very quickly with the FMS. Hammering is something

I don't do anymore for example. Where I once made great big

things I'm pretty limited to small things for limited periods now.

In between I spend long periods listening to the tv and writing

things like this. It helps to stay occupied while I recover a bit.


I have a very large assortment of hand tools I'm working with.

You don't need more than a dozen or so really to start.

I suggest starting with a few chisel end gravers, I have a

number with widths varying between .5 mm to about 3 mm. (a bit

more than an eighth of an inch. I also have some round ended ones.

I'm not as fond of the knife edge, lozenge, or v cutting ones.

I only use the v-cuts for engraving my name and date on items.

http://www.Brownells.com Search under chisels.

http://www.eloxite.com/  Search under gravers or burins

http://www.RioGrande.com/  "     "       "     "   "

Most jewelery catalogs cary them. Even automated carving tools.



I usually do my cut downs around areas I want upstanding with

the chisel ended gravers. In woodcarving this would be like

a V tool, but since bone isn't as grainy a good sharp chisel

end graver will do. I have a variety of angles. They usually

come around 50-60 degrees bevel, a couple of mine are more

like 30 degrees. I sharpen mine without the fancy holder.

I simply set them sideways on a raised surface, hold a diamond

EZELap fine file (about $7.50) vertically between my thumb

and first finger, diamonds down and away from the hand, and

back it with my other three fingers. You can file very accurately

and easily this way. I used to file industrial models.


For inletting around coves (round bottomed depressions) I use

the round gravers or scrape with a variety of round bottomed

dental tools - I bought ten double ended ones and ground them

to a variety of coves, beads, flat, and toothed designs.

They were all originally 1/4" curved scrapers on each end.

I got them at a gunshow. I'm not much on guns. I go for tools.


I have a number of dental chisels. One I like a lot is double

ended. One end is a square chisel about 1 mm wide and the other

is a small curve. Similarly I have others with v shaped ends.

Depends a lot on what you are trying to get into. I tend to

carve/scrape the finest details with this one. Eyes, teeth,

ears insides for example.

I buy most of these new or used at flea markets and gun shows.


You can order some from places like Micromark.com or hobby stores,

but they are generally more expensive than finding them by looking

around. $2 is a good general price.


If you're desperate you could grind some, cooling in water frequently

from masonry nails, just like if you were going to make coin punches,

and handle them with dowel bits or shaker pegs. I tend to put

a lot of my tools - files particularly - in shaker wall pegs -

then I put copper ferrules on them cut from copper tubing and

crimp them. The handle ends I mark with a Sharpie magic marker with

the shapes, just as I do my engraving burins and woodcarving

tools with burin handles. Once in a while I might use a woodcarving

tool, these tend to slip a lot more.


The dental tools I frequently tape heavily to get a more padded

grip. Ordinary masking tape works fine for this.


I also use a variety of files - full size, both size needle

files in regular steel and diamond (diamond you can use wet

which is safer for breathing) and some miniature files, rasps,

and rifflers (odd shaped files).


One of my favorite tools is a skewed Green Leatherworker's knife

obtainable from http://www.ZackWhite.com/

Pulling as you cut works better than just pushing the blade.

By this I mean draw cutting. Think of the edge as a tiny saw blade.

Microscopically it really is.

I choke up on the blade with a couple pieces of flexible

plastic tubing I slit and superglued together on the back of

the blade. The reason I don't get cut is that the blade skews

away from my thumb and the unsharpened part is what touches

the callous on my oppositely curved thumb end.


When using gravers (without resting them on a small platform

I use for pattern work) I hold the work with my left hand,

touch thumb tips, and push/curl the graver by bringing my

tool grasping fingers slowly toward the work while I cut.

This is a whole lot different than whittling. It's a lot more



When I engrave/carve metal sheet I frequently simply

superglue it to a wood block and pry it loose later by slipping

the edge of a knife blade under it. Somewhat similar to the

technique of gluing a piece of paper between a turning to

separate later.


For transferring patterns I often have at least two copies.

One is to work from. One I cut out with scissors and rubber

cement to the material. I cut through this with a # 11 xacto

knife blade, even in metal, and it leaves me lines to work

from when I pull off the paper and rub off the cement. Rubbing

it a bit will usually deposit enough grime to see the lines,

if not use a marker and wipe it off rapidly by hand.


For bone work though, which I do fully in the round, this does

not work as well, and I do the patterns by eye with a fine

mechanical pencil lead. *Ink can get into the minor capillaries

in bone and be a real pain to get out later.* I establish a

center line with a six inch ruler and measure out to points

I connect later. Perpendicular lines help a bit.


If you want your carvings to look more real try not to use

straight lines. Most things, alive ones particularly, have

curves in several dimensions. Meaning that if you have a

good chunk of bone on the end of that pin, make something to

fill it. You can curve or even loop your animal's tail that

forms the end. Study some illuminations or celtic art for

inspiration. Someone on the Regia list recently made the

observation that frequently people all try to recreate the

same object. A dozen goobs all showing up at the same event

with the same object stand out. Exact copies of medieval items

are nice, but use them for inspiration and create your own

individual variation. I frequently combine elements of two

or more items.


For doing the shallow depressions in medieval spoons I generally

scrape the inside with a curved knife or a scorper. I picked up

an exacto handle and a variety of curved blades (both ways) to

fit it. I also use sandpaper bits.


A variety of sandpaper from rough to very fine wet-dry helps



Once you slab off the spoon from the flat side of the metacarpal

you will see one end is actually much thinner than the other.

This is the end your spoon bowl will come from. It may be

advantageous to place your bowl either upside down or rightside

up in the surface. (Every bone is different when you cut it

open. I try to be very choosy, but even I select a few duds.

If you can't get a spoon slab out some pins, a buckle, a

pendant, needle, etc. You can still use a good part of it.)

This is the larger end of the bone and it contains a lot of

calcareous tissue (spongy) which is a pain to remove anyway

you do it without using a bandsaw blade.


Expect the thickness of a bone spoon bowl to range from 1.5 mm

to 3 mm - roughly a sixteen to an eighth of an inch. This is

about all you can get out of an average beef bone if you have

any depression in the bowl at all. Medieval bowls of this type

in bone were very shallow. You're caught between the calcareous

(spongy bone) tissue and the uneven surface. I look for bone

with a dip in it near the hole in the surface. The thin ends

of the bone are away from the knuckles and a vein enters

the bone in a hole on front and back near the end. Your spoon

bowl would start above this hole. Beware the way it slants

going into the bone. Slab off a good half inch to start with,

examine it and then draw your profile to cut the spoon/pin from

it. You can get a bone and a couple pins from the single slab.


I suggest cutting partway through a little wood board and using

this to support the side of your spoon bowl on and keep it from

dropping into the bandsaw throatplate. You can cut very

precisely by resting part of what you are cutting on the side

back of the blade (I use a 3/8" (9.5 mm) 5-6 alternate tooth

woodworking blade in mine usually). This way the back

part of the blade supports the piece while you nibble away

at the material you don't want with the teeth on one side

of the blade. Doing this a lot will gradually wear away the

set of the teeth on that side, so you might want to alternate.

(It will cause the blade to cut in the direction of the more

set between the two sides of the blade.)


You may find that laying out the handle of the spoon obliquely

down the length of the bone slab gives you more thickness to

work with. 3/8" (9.5mm) or slightly more is not uncommon.

I cut my pieces orthographically first - meaning I cut the shape

from both the top shape, and then the side shape. If I'm aiming for

a round handle (and I have a bandsaw) I also tip the piece later

to 45% and make the handle more octagonal. This is a long way

towards round. I tend to put a point on the end of the spoon

handle (often an animal tail) for a toothpick. It's convenient.

You can also use it as an offensive dining weapon. ;)

After you carve a spoon you will fully understand why they

went to the trouble of carving a wooden or leather case to protect

them. One spoon box and cover are shown in Vikings, The North

Atlantic Saga (which is also the only example of a period horn

spoon anyone I know of has found).


If you don't have a bandsaw you can still accomplish this with

a hacksaw for slabbing out with a metal cutting blade, and a

coping saw with a fine woodworking blade or metal cutting blade.

My experience is that jeweller's saws are a bit delicate for

this. Save your blades for other things.

Frequently I will use the handsaw blades or a file to set

shoulders and square up the material when I carve it. This is

helpful to make a stop when carving up to the shoulder.

> > An artificial callous or a reinforced one can be obtained by

> > treatments of covering a cyanoacrylate glue bottle mouth with

> > the desired area and tipping it, then letting it dry a few times.

> Haven't tried that. I'm just using a piece of pigskin now as

> a hand/finger shield.


Yep. I've done the same. Quilter's thumb covers - about $2 at

fabric stores, I wore through my skin eventually. Still at it

though since it's healed. When I don't need it (not sore) I

don't use it. Having advanced FMS I can only do the work

occaisionally. It takes a few days for my muscles to unharden.

So if I can do it you can. It only takes patience and planning.


By hand after initial cut out an animalistic spoon takes me about

2 - 2 1/2 days on and off. The simpler Viking spoons would take

me a day less. A tapered, engraved Viking-style pin

about 4-5 hours. A really ornamented animal pin takes me several

days minimum. I've done complete dragon and wyvern bodies on a

spoon and pins. The piece I spent the most time on was a Jellinge

style animal headed pin. The tendrils from the top of the head

and mouth took quite a while to carve in carefully and polish by



A lot of dress pins have holes or holes in them for rings.

Clearly they were attached to the garments somehow. They

didn't want to lose them.

> John LaTorre (Johann von Drachenfels)

> "Always do right. It will gratify some people & astonish the

> rest." - Mark Twain


Magnus Malleus, OL, GDH, Atlantia / © 2001 R.M. Howe, Raleigh, N.C.

*** Please do not repost my writings to ANY newsgroup, especially

the Rialto/rec.org.sca, or the SCA-Universitas list. I view this

as a violation of copyright permissions.*** You -may- use them in

your local reenactor or SCA closed subscriber-based email lists

or not-for-profit newsletters. I would appreciate notification of

same if for print. Use in the www.Florilegium.org is also permitted.



From: "Eldon and Kathy Austin" <austin at netrover.com>

To: <stefan at florilegium.org>

Subject: Bleaching bones

Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2001 19:46:31 -0400


I have found that using ' Oxi Clean ' high energy stain remover in a pot with hot water works very well for cleaning the grease out of the bone and bleaching them. For some of the things that I make with the bone I like to leave some of the grease from the marrow to give it a mottled look then sand it to a polished finish with 1500 grit sand paper.  PLEASE !!! DO NOT FORGET TO SOME KIND OF FILTERED MASK WHEN WORKING BONE OR ANTLERS. If you don't you will end up with white lung disease and it doesn't take much, I know from experience.  


Eldon Austin


<the end>

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