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A Stinky Passtime

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  • Sunday, March 11 2007 @ 05:42 PM UTC
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I decided to try my hand at carving some bone to make a pin fastener for my new leather belt pouch and a lucette to replace the wooden cotton reel and nail version Iíve been using. I thought the process might be of interest to others, so hereís how it went.

You will need:

  • Large bone Ė I got a beef leg bone, sold for dogs by the local butcher, cut lengthways, which made getting the marrow out simpler than having to cut it myself
  • Large cooking pot, big enough to take the bone
  • Sharp knife
  • Domestic bleach & a bucket
  • Safety glasses (to keep bone dust out of your eyes)
  • A small handsaw to make the basic cuts
  • Face mask (to prevent inhaling bone dust)
  • A Dremel or sandpaper, small files and a lot more patience than I have if you want to carve and sand by hand

First, prepare the bone
You could bury the bone and allow ants and soil microbes to do the cleaning for you, but my patience didnít allow for that, so I used a more direct approach.

Place bone bits in water and boil until any meat and gristly bits are dropping off. Remove bone from the water and cool until it can be handled, scrape the meat & gristle bits off with a knife and scrape out as much marrow as possible. If there are still gristly bits attached, repeat this process until the bone is clean. I boiled and scraped three times before I was satisfied no more could be removed this way Ė This resulted in a mildly unpleasant smell, so I recommend that you boil with windows open & mechanical ventilation (an extractor fan) wouldnít hurt.

A large pot

Boiled bits ready to scrape

Marrow and porous centre removed

The porous centre of the bone around the marrow needs to be removed. I did this with a knife and much more scraping. Then soak the cleaned bones overnight in a bucket of diluted bleach (a generous squirt of domestic bleach in a bucket of water).

Remove bones from the bleach, rinse & scrub with a scourer in soapy water then allow to dry.

Carve the bone
Decide on the shapes you intend to cut. I picked an angular section of the cleaned bone for the pin and gauged the approximate size that would suit my belt pouch. Since that used so little of the bone, I also cut a lucette and another long section of bone to use as a hook for the lucette. You can mark the shape directly onto the bone with a pencil, as any mark you make will be sanded or rubbed off.

Bleached and ready to cut

Dremel with the attachments I used

Cut sections and unused bone

I used a small hand saw to cut the basic shapes, and a grinding wheel on the Dremel to do the finer shaping. I then used rounded grinding tips to smooth edges, and a sharp craft knife to create some markings on the pin. Both the cutting and the grinding produced a VILE smell and lots of fine bone dust, so the face mask was very useful.

Even with a face mask, I managed to inhale some bone dust. I strongly recommend you do the cutting and grinding in a well ventilated area, or even outside. The smell (rather like burning hair combined with overheated cooking oil) permeated the house, and lingers. Fortunately, the completed items did not retain the smell, but I rubbed them with a little natural lemon essence just to be sure (it certainly helped clear the aroma from my skin!).

Once I was happy with the smoothed pin, I got my husband to drill a hole through the pin to take the leather thong to attach it to the belt pouch Ė I didnít feel like wrestling with a vice and drill press, as my hands were still vibrating from using the Dremel!

Lots of cleaned bone left. My husband wants some toggles for a new pair of shoes, and Iíd like some bone needles, but I think Iíve done enough bone carving. Cutting and smoothing with the Dremel is a VERY smelly process, so I think Iíll leave it to him Ö at least until I forget what it smells like.

Pin, lucette and hook

Pin attached to belt pouch

Lucette in perfect working order

Links I found useful:

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