How To: Carving Bone

Written by woodrow savage
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How To: Carving Bone
Bone art is often intricate. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Bone carving dates back to the early Stone Age, and many people still use bones to create tools, statues, jewellery and other items. Camel and cow bones are commonly used for carving, but you can carve a bone from just about any animal. First, prepare the bone for carving by cleaning it and creating a design. Then carve the bone, which includes using a knife, chisels, sandpaper and a drill to shape the bone into the finished product.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Coping saw
  • Table knife
  • Plastic container
  • 1 cup bleach
  • 1 cup washing powder
  • 2 quarts water
  • Leather mat
  • Cutting board
  • Etching knife
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Engraving chisels
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Small hand drill
  • 600-grit drill bit
  • Safety goggles

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  1. 1

    Sketch a design you want to make out of animal bone, and visualise how the design will look in 3-D.

  2. 2

    Obtain an animal bone, and cut it to the appropriate size for your project with a coping saw.

  3. 3

    Scrape and clean the bone with a table knife. Remove all excess tissue and marrow from the bone.

  4. 4

    Soak the bone for 24 hours in a plastic container containing 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of bleach and 1 cup of washing powder.

  5. 5

    Rinse the bone and let it air dry.

  6. 6

    Place a leather mat on a large, flat surface. This will serve as your workspace.

  7. 7

    Outline the design on a cutting board or a piece of paper.

    Carving the bone

  1. 1

    Create the bone into the shape you want by using an etching knife to cut off pieces you don't need and 100-grit sandpaper to smooth rough edges so the bone resembles the shape of the outline you drew.

  2. 2

    Carve the bone with engraving chisels while referring to your sketched design. Use smaller chisels if you are working with a small bone or are carving an intricate design, and use larger chisels if you are working with a large bone or are carving a simple design.

  3. 3

    Sand the bone to smooth the surface and remove the scratch marks left by the chisels. Start with 100-grit sand paper, switch to 150-grit sandpaper and finish with 220-grit sandpaper.

  4. 4

    Polish the carving with a small hand drill with a 600-grit drill bit.

Tips and warnings

  • Bones for carving are often available at pet stores and butcher shops.
  • Leg bones are generally thick and ideal for large projects.
  • Always wear safety goggles when carving bone.
  • Be very careful when using sharp tools.

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