Jump to content
Marcus C.

Tools for detailing bone

Recommended Posts

So I have been making some bone pendants, as my start into carving. And looking at all the images around

there are quite a few where patterns have been carved into bone. These patterns are mainly just straight lines and curved lines

to add decoration to the piece. Now I started carving as I had a dremel for DIY around the house and wanted to use it more.

So it might not be the right tool, or I simple might not have the right bits or that I am simply not good enough.

I have practiced on bone with no results or technique that I would use on an actual piece. I have also found a guy in NZ

who makes gravers for bone carving ($100) but I am not sure if they are the right tool for what I want. Although I think if I 

did get them I would use them so they wouldn`t be wasted.  


So If anyone can give me any hints on what bits to use, or the how or if gravers would do it I would be grateful.



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I so far have not tried bone ,, mostly because of the dust. As far as Dremel type rotary tools , I would try sanding drums with a variable speed motor ,,, that is what I did at first with many different type of exotic hardwoods, the Corse grit has less burn marking. Fine grits to finish with light touching.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I may use the power tool at first for gross removal of waste material, then switch to files for shaping.  Then the hand tools take over with all of the real carving work.

This page shows the tools that are often used during any carving in wood, bone, tusk, amber, etc.: http://janeljacobson.com/toolsstudio/tools2012.html

The top seven images are styled after the tools made by Stephen Myhre, a New Zealand bone carver.  I was a fortunate recipient of two of his tools a long time ago and found that they were remarkably well suited to what I wanted them to do.

The three-edged nature of these tools provides three different cutting, slicing, shaving edges, depending on the degree of angle and curve. 


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your replies.

Love that apple blossom.


This is an image of the kind of thing I want to do. Now making the pendants so far is going very well

and am happy with the level I have achieved. But as for adding decoration like the fern fonds on this piece??

this is what I`ve been trying to do with my dremel. But my bits either dig in or jump around and make a mess.

for that type of thing hand tools? would gravers do that? Or if anyone knows what bits for a dremel.

Flame, bud, tungsten?


I also love this guys work that he posted on here . I would like to strive for his fine work. but for now something like in the image is what I am aiming for.




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Marcus,

Your experience with power tools jumping about is why I choose hand tools for detail work.  I do not know what Billy's choice is for his detail work, sorry.  You really have to keep trying to see how the different sorts of tools work, and at some point it will make sense and you will be reaching for the right tool to do the next step almost before you consciously make a choice.  Meanwhile keep trying. 

Does your power tool have a stiff flex shaft?  That in itself can be hard to control for fine detail movements.  My power tool, an NSK microgrinder has a power unit in the handpiece, and a flexible, coiled electric cord from the base unit.  Virtually no swing or sway, less hand/wrist strain, and better control.  I still won't do final detail with it though.  It is too much fun doing it with hand tools.

I get lost when someone calls a carving tool a graver.  I always think of engraving on metals, and those tools have a unique shape and knob handle, and I could never figure out how to make such a tool work for me.  My tools may do some of what the gravers do, but are held very differently than engraving tools.

This is a very old video that demonstrates holding the piece being carved and how the hands work together as a unit while applying the tool for material removal: 


The thumb is a fulcrum, and the tool of choice is moved with the grain (bone has less of that than wood).  There are so many things that can be done with hand tools, and at a pace that your brain can keep up with the process.  Power tools catch and jump and, well, you know.

Flat and angled chisels can cut and make flat edges, rounded cutting edges can scrape concavities, or can act as gouges.  Long edges, sharp, can be used instead of sand paper by shaving surfaces to near perfection before switching to polishing steps, avoiding having to sand away the earlier grits scratches. 

This video also shows the poster tacky stuff.

I don't know how to advise you on what bits to use, that will be your own journey.  You may find bits in jewelers catalogs, but they are more likely aimed at metals, and might clog with organic materials when used.  But, that said, sometimes the tool might do just the thing you want it for a specific detail and not major removals.

It is good to read that you are happy with what you are learning so far, and also that you are keen to keep moving forward!



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Janel thanks for sharing your video , I watched it a few years back and enjoyed it then and now. You show a easy way for new carvers and It applies to larger carving with larger tools , I made a tool after seeing your video from a 3/16 drill bit just to carve the inside of a small flower that I did. Again Thanks for sharing and inspiring me and many others.





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