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Hello, And Help?


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Hi all,


I'm from Adelaide, South Australia and I have had absolutely no carving experience what so ever. Most of my craftiness comes in the form of fabric crafts or drawing (kinda).

I was playing a game of THUD (similar to chess, and for those who don't know of it, ask and I will tell you the whole story of the game) and I suddenly got it into my head that surely I can make my own set! I scouted around, and as I love history, the old bone game pieces naturally drew my attention. Plus I love the warmth and polish that bone and ivory can develop (as seen in netsuke). So while searching for information I found this forum.


Now, as I said, I have no carving experience at all (unless you count sharpening paddlepop sticks on concrete when I was in primary school) so I wouldn't know where to start! I have ruled out the standard long bones however, as they're hollow and don't seem suitable for solid chess pieces.


So! Is there any advice people can give me as to what bone/material would be suitable and from where (on the animals) and how would I even remotely get started? Please?

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Hi Beck. In Australia, I would imagine your only options are deer antler or mammoth ivory. They would give you the desired mass and shape that the game pieces would require. Although the antler is poros in the middle, so could cause you some problems. Mammoth ivory would be perfect but is rather expensive for good quality. Other materials that are suitable would simply be illegal to get into Australia. You could source some hippo tusk with the right paperwork, but is a bit harder and may take some carving. Any whale teeth come ashore down your way?


But material is only the start of things. It takes many years of practice to become a good carver. I can only suggest you try and get some cheap materials, and some tools to get you started. Use the forum for advice and perhaps a book to help you on your way.


Good luck, Billy.

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I have made a (so far about half)-set of the Lewis Island chess set, using antler. The trick is you use not the tines, but the buttons.

For those unfamiliar with this, here's it in quick form. There are farms breeding deer for velvet, this to be sold to the Far East. (I won't go into details here). The process involves cutting off the actual antlers when they are in velvet. What interests us is what is left. What is left is the stump of the antler, which over time grows over, and becomes solid. It varies quite a bit, depending on a lot of factors, but the result is that when the time comes for the antler to be shed naturally, what is shed is the button. (or crown) This looks indeed like a button, hence the name. It tends to be flattish on both sides, and will be bone-like solid on the skull side (that is, the side that was attached to the skull), and a bit more porous, but still solid, on the other side. From my one experience with moose antler, I'd say the consistency is fairly much the same. Depending on the deer species the button can be from about the size of a large-ish coin (in diameter) to the size of a dichdigger's palm. (also in diameter. They tend to be oval shaped, by the way.)

Most farmers tend to leave tem lying, but some make a point of picking them up. I had the good fortune of being given about five bucketfuls of the stuff, of various sizes some years ago. They are mostly gone. But I got some really large ones recently from a breeder. Found him via our favourite resorce, the net, under elk breeders, contacted him, asked if he's got any really big ones, and bought them when it turned out he did.

The Lewis set is actually unbeatable for a model for the Thud pieces, The castle figures (not castles in the set, but berserkers) are perfect for the dwarf side. The trolls are a bit more complicated to imagine, but then it's really up to you. (Yes, I do know where the game comes from. I suspect there are more Terry Pratchett closet fans here than will admit it.)

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