Howdy folks… all three of you…
This post will be an informative little spread of pictures and explanations for those of you that are interested in venturing into the art of bone carving. While I hope to make a tutorial video for my YouTube channel sometime in the future, I think this will at least hold everyone over while I procrastinate…
This particular tutorial will be about how you can carve your very own bone hook necklace…
For starters, you will need a cow bone. NOW… contrary to popular belief, carving with bone is not evil and non-environmental and all those other things that I have heard about and have been criticized for. Animals are born, and animals die. My cow bone comes from a family farm where the cows lived long and full lives before they died of old age or natural causes. I can think of no way that using bone from sources like these is harmful to the environment or currently living creatures. Make something just as beautiful in death as it was in life… at least that is my thought on the matter.
SO…basically, find a farm near you (there are likely quite a few), and see if the owner is kind enough to let you sort through his “bone yard”. Trust me, every farmer has one. There is a certain bone from the legs that I always look for. It is not impressive in regard to size, but it has a thickness that I find quite useful. I’m sorry I cannot identify the name of the bone… I’m not a biologist after all. Oh… and make sure you bring boots and gloves. Sometimes those piles can be… well… squishy.
As far as processing your bone and whitening it…well… that is a whole other post for some other time. In the mean time, there is a lot of information about this subject on the majestic google machine.
After you find your piece of bone, you will need to use a band saw to cut it up so that you have flat sides, or slabs. I didn’t show this process because I figure if you’re not sure what a band saw is, perhaps you should consider not using power tools… no really… fingers are important…lol.
To be safe, I would say it is probably best to use a piece with a thickness of at least 6 to 7mm. Yes… that is a metric measurement. The good ole USA needs to get with the program.
Once you have your chosen slab, go ahead and make a box on the chosen area that will contain your sketch. I advertise this particular bone pendent as being 1″ wide by 2″ tall. This is so I don’t get fifty million questions about measurement conversions… Once my box is made, I draw my sketch and use the band saw to cut away as much extra material around the sketch as possible. Yes… I started carving and forgot that I forgot to take a photo of this step… wait… forgot that I.. forgot… meh, whatever… You get the point.
Once I cut away everything extra that I could without cutting off my fingers, I took this piece to the sander to cut the curves. This is also something I did before taking the shot I forgot to take… oops…
Once you take off all the extra you possibly can with the big guns… and trust me, your hands will thank you… you can move on to the detail work.
For roughing out a pendent I like to use a cone shaped carbide bit. I generally refer to this bit as “THE TERMINATOR”.
No seriously… it’s mean.
Gross you out? To bad. Seriously… it’s not fluffy bunny time with Mrs. Fluffykins. I don’t always cut open my finger, but if I do, I make sure and do it right…lol
Once you have gnawed away at the outside of the pendant for a while and need a change of pace, you can change bits and cut out the slits under the little outside points with a sanding wheel.
After you have successfully cut slits under those without removing part of your nail, you can switch over to a round carbide bit and drill a series of holes to begin carving out the inside. For you fancier folks that have access to a scroll saw, awesome. Using one of those would render this step moot… and… I’m jealous.
Once you have your holes drilled, you can now use your fancy little diamond bit that you just got and want to use for everything, but later find out it sucks when you are trying to achieve a smooth surface. I just use them for connect the dots and maybe defining small spaces.
Drill through all the holes you drilled to make a line through the center of the space that will be carved out.
Wow… my thumb looks really hairy… gross…
Anyway… once your line has been drilled, you can continue the carving process with your terminator bit.
Another great thing about a cone bit, is the ability to add smooth angles and details with crisp lines. As you can see, I added an angle to make the hook appear sharp.
After you smooth the surface and shape to your desired look, you can switch to a stone bit to smooth out any final lines or scrapes in the surface. I like to use a stone bit with a rounded end… that way I do not accidentally cut into the material with the sharp end of the bit. It just saves time. You shouldn’t have to go back and finish your finish work.
After the surface is as smooth as possible, it is time to change over to sand paper… *plays ominous music*
As you can see, I will need to make a sand paper run soon… I normally sand with 8 steps, but will have to settle with 6 today. I sand starting at 120 grit and move all the way up to 2500 grit. Most of the finer sand paper is hard to find at regular hardware stores like Lowes or Home Depot. I get it online or at an auto parts store. Make sure and get wet/dry sand paper.
Also, when you make smaller things like me, you will find it beneficial to cut the sand paper into small strips so that you can get to those hard to reach places.
To start the sanding process, it may be helpful for you to use a vise. Being that the sanding process can take just as long, if not longer than the carving process, anything that saves you time is welcome. Place some layers of tape inside the jaws of your vise so you can secure the pendant without cracking or damaging it. You can also use a cloth or paper towel. I just find that tape gives a better grip.
Start with your 120 grit and sand the entire pendant while dry to finish removing scratches, lines, or bumps.
Once you are done with the 120 grit sand paper, you will then need to sand the pendant using all the rest of your sand paper steps. This is also where you will begin wet sanding… Water will suffice.
Sand the entire pendant with each grit count, one at a time.
Once you complete all your sanding, you can use a polishing compound to bring out that beautiful glossy shine you see on all my carvings. No chemicals… no sealants… just elbow grease, polishing compound, and time.
My grandpa always used to tell me – “If you were in that big of a hurry, you should have started sooner”.
As far as my polishing compound is concerned, I use the same stuff that is used on acrylic nails in the nail salon. Yes… it is probably the only thing I own that is pink. It also smells good…bonus! Notice that I also use my old nail dremel with a buffing wheel for this process. At lease it gets some use.
Make sure and run the buffer over the entire surface for a smooth even shine.
All that is left to do is to drill a hole with your round carbide bit and presto… done.
But wait! We can’t forget about our bone beads for the necklace slides! Yes… we must be able to fit it around our head… and clasps are over-rated.
Just find some left over bone, use your round carbide bit to drill a hole… preferably using your vise. It is not recommended to drill through your finger…
Then… use your terminator bit to shape the beads. I only recommend carving something this small with the cone bit if you are 100% comfortable carving with your tool. It is super easy to slip up and nick your finger… use your vise or a lathe if you need an alternative.
Once you are done with your beads, you can now go in the house and braid your necklace using black waxed cotton string while you watch Napoleon Dynamite for the 50th time. Make sure and cut your string pieces to about 40″… yes the dreaded standard measurements again… and no… I’m not UN-american… I just like to embrace needed change.
Thread your necklace through, add your beads, and poof… you are done. You just spent 3 hours making something beautiful. Thank you cows.
Oh… and for anyone that is curious… I use a Foredom Carving motor and flex shaft. You are welcome to comment or message me for any further questions. In the ideal world of art, there exists a community… not a butcher block of stiff competition.