Jump to content

Ivory netsuke

Ko Baas

Recommended Posts

Here are my two latest carvings. I mostly carve boxwood but now I used ivory.

I find it very difficult to get the coulour right. I want a deep yellow colour like old netsuke have. But everything I use wears off very fast. I used Dylon, tea, ink, and for the pigs a brown coulour used for furniture. I prepared the ivory with vinager and Potassium dichromate. But still the coulour doesn't penetrate very deep.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hallo Ko


I like your work, you know it. The eyes of the horse are really good . The boargroup is a nice classic theme

and not easy to carve.


I have some trouble with my laptop, so please send me an email, your adress is gone with a lot of others.

I love writing on paper.


The coloring of ivory is a difficult thing, and I don´t know a perfect way for it.


Till later, Hako

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ko,


Thanks for posting the photos of the new work in ivory. Yellow colors may also come from yasha-bushi, (from alder cones), or perhaps from a bit of time in smoke (sorry I am not thinking of the term right now for this method).


Some of the deep yellow may only come with the centuries passing.


Is this ivory mammoth or elephant?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for your responses,


The horse is 8 cm long and the boargroup 6 cm. They are made of old ugly elefant ivory carving.


I have used potassiumpermanganate on boxwood but it rubs off very fast. It's actually a deposit of brown powder on the surface.


I have also used yasha-bushi, but I get the same results with tea. And I have tried smoking with encense. The coulour gets uneven and is washed away completely with alcohol, which is nessesary because the piece gets very sticky.


I think you are right about the centuries passing Janel!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Sergio,


Use the SEARCH function and read through the responses for these keywords:





You will find some topics that will begin to open up the mystery. Use more keywords and search more as you find other clues about the dye, and perhaps even more topics will open up for you.


Sorry to not do it for you, or to make the explanation here, but I have several assignments that all require me to get each one done first! This was supposed to be a USA holiday weekend!


Ko, I have had yasha turn yellow with a weak solution from local cones, which made a weak solution whether I tried to concentrate it or not. Maybe a fresh batch would be more yellow? Is it the season for alder cones to be dry in your area?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Ko,


Very nice work.

As wrote Hoko, colouring ivory is a difficult thing and I had seen many nice pieces (tengu for example) on your website, Ko.

Natacha Popova used walnut ink for her "lion-fish" to obtain a sort of dark yellow.

I don't have many experience with ivory.


For a joke, experiment one thing : take a very old ivory carving and wash it with simple soap and water or wash it with yours clothes in the washing machine*. It will become very clear. All the colours will disappear. Conclusion : I think that colour can't penetrate so deep in ivory.

The time solution : If you want to make the colour penetrate very deep, I propose you to expose the netsuke to the sun for several years and to bring them in your pocket all the time.

I don't know any better solution.


* I know a netsuke collector who did it !


Yann Christophe Lemaire


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Janel, I tried alder cones picked of the ground and also taken from the tree, dried out. But after boiling the solution is not very strong and more brownish than yellow. But I give it another try sometimes. I don't know what the right season is to get the cones but I still have some.


Hi Yann Christophe, I fear you are right about the aging. It is probably the only way. I'm not so sure about the sun. Sunlight might just bleach the ivory.



Other experiences I had with ivory are that every piece reacts different. Even from the same tusk. Also the core is different in taking colour than the outher layer.


There still is a lot to learn and discover.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

The best cones I found were collected during the winter in California. I was visiting a friend who had a large (for California) shade tree that was dropping its alder shaped cones on the ground and staining the sidewalk, in the rain. I gathered a bag full, and the owner picked another bag full later that month as the cones were completed with their drying. It may have been January in southern California. Perhaps the cones need to be freshly brown, before much rain occurs to leach the colors out. I wonder too if the cones need to be leached of their color by water in a kettle or jar, and then new cones put in that colored water so that more color is added. My apologies for not knowing more about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...


In Russia there is a custom - for Easter paint eggs.

The oldest way is to take a dry cover (a peel) from onions and to cook in it.

I tried to paint a bone in a microwave - 1-2-3 minutes - colour changes from time - yellow-red-brown.

Simply to supervise intensity.

Paints over deeply enough.

Perhaps, it will help?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ko and everybody else on tcp!

First I would like to say sorry for not showing my ace for a long time here!!!!!!

Still carving netsukes and will place some here soon, I promise!!!

Anyway Ko very nice job I have to say, are you happy about the dark inkt bits on your works?

Because I tried it as well and I'm not so happy about it, it just doesn't look right.

Also tried to smoke my work out and it does get sticky but I didn't clean it afterwords.

So the sticky stuff came of but the colour staid on! Unfortunatly you are right that it does not colour perfectly even....


I can remember reading somewhere that you can also hang your work above salpeterzuur (translation lost in tha brain!!!)

and than you can try smoke it out or put it in a dye. Mabey that will work, I never tright it out and are afraid it will distroy the ivory....


Anyway always nice to see you here Ko and I still love your work!

Hope you do good in Emmen and good luck with your next project


Cheers Bart

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Bone is much more porous than ivory. The dye can penetrate bone very deep. Colouring bone is a very different matter than coluoring ivory. But I will try the onion shells sometime.



Good to see you here again.

The dark ink bits are good. But the white parts are too white. (At least to my taste)

What you read about Nitric Acid (Salpeterzuur) works only with boxwood. Not with ivory! It might indeed destroy the ivory.



Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...