Jump to content
Matthew McKenzie

Dealing With Bone

Recommended Posts

Let's say that on a hunting trip, I manage to bring down a deer. No usable antlers, but it's got a full skeletal system. I'd like to make two knives here. The first should be a frontier-style Bowie, possibly with the upper part of the femur. I doubt that this requires any sort of stabilization or any work beyond cleaning and allowing it some time to dry (but please correct me if I'm wrong).

 

The second knife I want to make is more of a show piece. Let's say it's a gentleman's fighter. I want to use a nice tube-shaped piece of bone as the handle with a crosspiece up front and a pommel on the back to cover up the inner tube area. I want this to be shiny and polished. Do I need to stabilize the bone, as wood would need to be stabilized?

 

In short, my questions are this:

 

1: Can you use bone as-is?

2: How do you deal with bone you're planning on using as-is (how long to dry, rub with sandpaper, etc)?

3: Can bone be stabilized?

4: Is there a difference in the process of stabilization between bone and wood?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm just going off what I've seen and read, but

1. Yes it can be used as is.

2. No idea =P

3. Yes it can be stabilized as giraffe bone is both dyed and stabilized, so it's doable.

4. Dunno, but I'd think it'd be about the same.

 

Maybe others can answer more indepth =]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What really helps is just to leave it outside for some time. Nature is pretty good at cleaning bones (also taking them away, so make sure it's out of reach for dogs etc. ;)). Sunlight will also help bleach the bones. When you do this, keep in mind to create access to the marrow, or you'll end up with a really smelly goo when you cut up the bones. At any rate, avoid boiling the bones for long times or using bleach, as that will weaken the bone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I can use bone as a handle material with little effort, so long at it's clean (and I assume so long as it's not old and brittle)? What is recommended to seal a bone handle without discoloring it too much?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fresh bone is gonna be loaded with grease that will prevent epoxy from sticking or stain from working. You absolutely have to let it age out before you can use it. Some people boil them in water with a little chlorine bleach, some folks soak them in solvents like acetone or even gasoline (!), others just throw 'em up on the roof and leave them for a year or so. The anthill idea isn't bad, either. Zooarchaeologists (archaeologists who specialize in animal remains) keep a heated closet full of dermestid beetles to clean fresh bone. The larvae will take off every scrap of meat, marrow, and other stuff. The bone will still be a bit greasy, so you will still need to leave it in the sun for a few months, or boil it. As Jeroen said, though, don't boil it too long! Just until the grease is out.

 

Once it's dry it will need to be polished. A buffer is handy for that. As for sealing, boiled linseed oil or tung oil works pretty well. The linseed will darken over time to a nice mellow antique ivory yellow, the tung oil won't. If you go with a drying oil like that, cut it with turpentine or something to increase penetration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if you want a high polish on the bone, you need to make sure its totally dry to start with

but i also found that sealing it or stabilising it left a better shiny surface if you are looking to buff the work.

 

when i buffed some dried bone as a tester, there were little tiny cracks on the surface of the bone that picked up little bits of the buffing compound

 

whereas the stablised version is easier to get a nice high polish on.

 

not to say that i dont think that untouched bone is without its charm ..

it just depends on what kinda thing you are wanting and what you want to play about with i guess.

 

the main thing is to make sure its totally dry .. id hate for a handle to start to rot when its on the blade .. ewww

but also, make sure that you keep an eye on it as it dries .. you dont want it cracking from over exposure to the sun and elements.

 

hmm .. i also wonder if there are any differences between what kind of bone you are using ..

i know that it was really hard to get some kangaroo bone that wasnt split and cracked all over ..

whereas it was much easier to get uncracked bones from other critters.

mind you, i only scavenge .. so that might be part of it.

</waffle>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I keep a wire cage in the woods for the purpose of letting nature take care of the donated deer legs and turkey wings.

 

The cage keeps the large fur-bearers from getting at them... possums, coons, blue heelers.

 

If you can take time to bob one end off the bone before you turn it over to the critters, it will sure help with the grease removal later on.

The ants and such will help themselves to the marrow, and that seems to be the source of much of the grease.

 

And depending on how clean you have them in the first place, you might want to put them waaayyy out in the woods, particularly in the warm months.

 

Don

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And depending on how clean you have them in the first place, you might want to put them waaayyy out in the woods, particularly in the warm months.

 

I live in Florida; we don't have any months that aren't warm. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone know if... maybe... the white gas could be filtered to get the grease out of it? Would freezing before filtering make a difference?

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

you can get commercial degreasers from cleaning supply companies...I know most tanneries/taxidermy wholesale type places have vats they immerse bones like bear and pig skulls in to remove grease for thirty days or so after the beetles..when the beetles clean it up it looks like its discolored instead of that nice pretty yellow color of most skulls etc.

Edited by Ray Hammond

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ray,

 

That's a good idea for places to look for alternatives to white gas, thanks for putting it up.

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do historical re-enactting, and consider myself a Buck Skinner , pre 1840 hobby, more over grown as a life style. I clean bone with a variety of brushes and hydrogenperoxide, which will whiten the bone quickly.

 

The others are correct in that you would want to degrease the bone, and dry it for a time, but cleaning fresh kill bone is faster than letting it dry still covered in bits of sinew, and meat.

 

These days I only use bone for smaller grips, as I had a bad experience with a moose leg bone grip on a large Rio Grand Camp Knife, made from a horse shoe rasp. This bone was pinned to the tang, and the bone exploded when the user struck a upright and hidden truck leaf spring, while cutting down sumac behind his shed. My friends hand was cut to slithers from this accident.

 

There was no other damage to the blade however.

Bone will probably be always more brittle than wood, as a grip, and can be dangerous. Just something to consider.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...