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A Stinky Passtime

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People and Culture
  • 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 I’ve been using. I thought the process might be of interest to others, so here’s how it went.

You will need:

  • Large bone – 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 didn’t 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 – This resulted in a mildly unpleasant smell, so I recommend that you boil with windows open & mechanical ventilation (an extractor fan) wouldn’t 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 – I didn’t 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 I’d like some bone needles, but I think I’ve done enough bone carving. Cutting and smoothing with the Dremel is a VERY smelly process, so I think I’ll leave it to him … 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:

Old English Insults (for use at Hastings)

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People and Culture
  • Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 10:42 PM UTC
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Before we start, let me say that I do not speak Old English. I speak a little German, and a reasonable amount of French, a smattering of Ancient Greek, and I can say “hullo” and “How much?” in probably half a dozen languages. That’s it, I’m afraid. I’ve combined my knowledge of modern English and German grammar, pronunciation and structure with what I’ve managed to glean painfully from going through a crappy “Teach Yourself Old English” book. So be aware that the grammar may well be wrong, the declensions faulty and the pronunciation suspect at best. Are we all happy to go on?

Peasant Architecture in Anatolia

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People and Culture
  • Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 11:19 AM UTC
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This article is based on my observations during a holiday in Turkey in 1993. The article starts with the rather shaky assumption that peasant architecture in Anatolia is substantially the same as it was in Byzantine times. To support this contention I offer the following arguments.

Anglo-Saxon beards and Harold Godwinson’s Amazing Handlebar Moustache

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People and Culture
  • Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 11:15 AM UTC
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At the time of the Conquest, the Normans were clean shaven and cut their hair REALLY short, apparently going so far as to shave the hair clean off right up the back of the head. This was possibly an unconscious attempt (over 900 years early) to imitate the fashions of the 1990’s.

It has been an article of faith that within a generation of conquering England, the Normans had become so acclimatised that they adopted the English fashion of long hair and beards. In fact there is a contemporary account of William the Bastard despairing of keeping his sons in line, as they took on the facial fashions of the subject race. This was obviously a Good Thing, as it was the first step in bringing Civilisation to these barbaric and boorish individuals.

Byzantium - the English Connection

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People and Culture
  • Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 08:53 AM UTC
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In 330 AD, when Britain was still a Roman possession and the ancestors of the English race had not yet appeared on the scene, Emperor Constantine the Great built a new capital for the Roman Empire.

The great new city was built on the site of the old Greek port of Byzantion. With typical lack of modesty, the Emperor re-named it Constantinople, after himself. For over 11 centuries it was the capital of the Empire we now call Byzantium – the richest, most powerful in Christendom. It was the largest and most beautiful city in the Christian world. Its magnificent churches glowed with gold and mosaics, with facings of porphyry, the purple marble exclusively reserved for the Emperor’s use. Beside Constantinople, London and Paris were mere clusters of hovels.


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