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Guest ford hallam

Staining Ivory

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Guest ford hallam

Greetings all,

 

I seem to remember reading a thread about staining ivory recently and Clive commented that Guy Shaw had told him that he used to use dye to help develop his "aged" patina on ivory. As chance would have it I just stumbled accross some notes I made in '96 while spending time with Guy in his studio not far from where I used to live in England.

 

I've not used this procedure myself but am pretty certain that Guy was accurate in his description of his process. I'm also pretty certain that he would approve of me sharing his technique with you now that he is no longer with us. Those of you who knew Guy will no doubt remember that he was always generous with his time and knowledge.

 

So here is Guy's approach;

 

First clean the ivory piece with alcohol. Then etch in a 33% acetic acid solution for 15 seconds. Rinse in clean water and take care to keep the item grease free, so handle with rubber gloves etc. Now make up a solution of Dylon dye of your chosen colour and add the specified amount of salt as a mordant. Dip the piece into the boiling solution for 15 seconds at a time. Once the desired depth of colour is reached rinse in warm water so as to avoid too much of a thermal shock to the piece. The colouration can at this stage be lightened or relieved by selective polishing. Finally soak the piece in baby oil ( or almond oil ) for 15 min. Wipe off the excess oil and buff to a high sheen with a clean cloth.

 

I hope this is reasonably clear and should anyone use the process as described it would be great to see the result.

 

regards, Ford

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Me too. Thanks Ford for the information. One question, what is Dylon dye... a fabric dye, or wood stain dye? We on this side of the pond could use a similar counterpart.

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It's a brand name over there in the UK- not describing a class of dyes. I've used it for paper and fabric. I think the equivalent here in the US would be whatever you find at the fabric store.

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I knew Guy Shaw for short time by e-mail. We must were be met in Kiev on netsuke exhibition, but I couldn't to have visit in Kiev at last moment. Two week after returning from Kiev Guy Shaw go away. :rolleyes: Years after I have a book "Contemporary Netsuke" by M. Kinsey that was propertys Guy Shaw. I have got this book from my friend from UK. Sometimes Life have a very strange ways for us...

 

Ford, thanks for interesting info! I was hear about this technique but not so fully.

 

S

 

I knew Guy Shaw for short time by e-mail. We must were be met in Kiev on netsuke exhibition, but I couldn't to have visit in Kiev at last moment. Two week after returning from Kiev Guy Shaw go away. :unsure: Years after I have a book "Contemporary Netsuke" by M. Kinsey that was propertys Guy Shaw. I have got this book from my friend from UK. Sometimes Life have a very strange ways for us...

 

Ford, thanks for interesting info! I was hear about this technique but not so fully.

 

S

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Hi Guys,

Would the method Ford described work with carved antler? I have had a piece sitting around for a while but have been unsure how to colour it. I have inlaid it with stones and amber eyes so would not be too keen to dip it into a boiling solution, would brushing it on work?

What is the purpose of the acetic acid? Would this cause problems with the stones and amber also?

So many questions!

 

Cheers

Rex

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Rex,

 

as far as I remember Guy did use this process on antler too. Antler is somewhat less dense than ivory so a much quicker dip in the echant may be all that needed to open up the pores, so to speak.. The acetic acid will lightly etch the surface making it more porus, this allows the dye to penetrate. It's a very fine surface change and buffing by hand once colouring is completed will restore the lustre. Stones inlayed in your piece should cope with hot ( as opposed to boiling ) but amber is very heat sensitive and will quite likely be affected by the etch also, so perhaps as you suggest, brushing the dye on may be the wiser approach. The stones may be fine in acetic acid and in a hot solution but it really does depend on what you've used, for instance opal, turquoise or malachite will probably be adversly effected. Let me know what you've used and I'll check them out for you.

I reckon a bit of experimenting may be in order. Good luck.

regards, Ford

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I use dyes on ivory and antler a lot. Procion fiber reactive dye works well for me. I etch the surface of both ivory and antler with vinegar first, just painting it on. I let the vinegar dry before dyeing, occasionally gently using a little compressed air to speed things up. The vinegar really only needs to sit on the ivory or antler a couple of minutes to dissolve whatever it is dissolving, giving the surface a little "tooth." You only want to paint it on, not soak the ivory or antler. Soaking for long periods (ie weeks) will turn bone and antler into "rubber" so that's not good - assuming you didn't want rubber, of course. Oh yes, it will do the same to an egg shell.

 

The vinegar will destroy any surface polish you have on either ivory or antler. A polished ivory surface will go instantly dull, and antler will go dull to partially dissoved, depending on the area the vinegar is on. The hardest outer surface of the antler will act a lot like the ivory, but the more porous the inner surface becomes, the more the vinegar seems to affect it. It often looks to me like the porous portion has a pronounced "raised grain" similar to soaking wood in water - not just getting it wet, but a prolonged soaking. Once the surfaces are dyed, polishing will remove some of the color, so a practice piece is advisable. Also, the porous areas of antler will soak up a lot more dye than the mor dense parts. This can work to your advantage, or not...

 

Clive Hallam uses potassium permanganate as a dye for many of his antler pieces - perhaps he'll grace us with a little insight...

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Thanks Ford and Tom for your prompt and imformative replies.

 

Ford the stones I used were turquoise and red coral.

Tom, what type of vinegar do you recommend; malt, white wine or something more exotic?

 

Cheers

 

Rex

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Guest ford hallam

Hello again Rex,

 

Coral, being mainly calcium carbonate, is very sensitive to heat, acids and hot solutions so will have to be treated with kid gloves. Turquoise is a copper compound containing basic aluminium phosphate and is thus also similarly sensitive. Interestingly, as it is a relatively porus stone it's colour can be improved using analine dye and copper salts. It would follow that you may inadvertently end up dying the turquoise if you got the dye on it.

 

Tom,

 

I think Clive uses analine dyes on occasion too, I'm not sure he'll be able to contribute at this point as he may not have internet access as a break-in has left him pc-less.

 

regards, Ford

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Hi Rex,

 

I just use the white vinegar available at the grocery store. I think it is marginally stronger than the others, but have never tested them, although they would all probably work just fine.

 

Ford, sorry to hear about Clive's burglary. Say hello to him for me next time you talk or write him.

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Hi again Rex,

 

I was carving a raven skull (of moose antler) for a basket lid today, and thought this was a good opportunity to take a few dye process photos.

 

post-11-1155591162.jpg

The image on the left is of the carved and smoothed moose antler, with just a hint of gloss on the beak. The right hand image is after the application of vinegar. I used a cotton swab since the area to be stained is large. Use a tiny brush for detailed areas. You may be able to see that the right hand beak is looking much rougher.

 

post-11-1155591341.jpg

The left image is after a light application of Procion fabric dye (after the vinegar dried). The right image is after several applications. You can see the top areas of the beak are darker (the more porous areas of the antler), and the sides are lighter (the more solid areas). I kind of like this look, so I'm not going to add any more dye.

 

post-11-1155591559.jpg

These are images of the finished beak. I burnished the surface rather than polishing because polishing tends to remove some of the color, especially in the harder areas. The color doesn't penetrate very deeply unless the piece is soaked in the dye for long periods, and that leads to problems if you don't want the entire piece stained.

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I really like that Tom. Thank you for showing us this process.

 

What do you do next, to keep the water soluable dye on the antler or hard material, to keep the dye from being rubbed off by handling, or in the case of netsuke from rubbing onto clothing?

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What do you do next, to keep the water soluable dye on the antler or hard material, to keep the dye from being rubbed off by handling, or in the case of netsuke from rubbing onto clothing?

 

Hi Janel,

 

I haven't found that the Procion brand of dye rubs off. On the hard spots, or ivory, it will wear off as the material wears away, but doesn't stain clothing. My wife (who is a basketmaker) says that the common brand of fabric dye you can find in most grocery stores does rub off, at least when basket reed is dyed with it, so basketmakers tend to use Procion. Since Procion has done everything I've asked of it, I haven't tried other brands.

 

For a final finish I'll either apply a thinned coat of nitrocellulose lacquer over the dyed areas (I like the Deft semigloss brand), or lately I've been using Don Fogg's description of "poor man's stabilization." I completely submerge the carving in a linseed oil finish (I like Watco), place the oil/carving in a vacuum chamber, use a brake line vacuum pump (hand powered) and remove the air, let it sit for 6 to 8 hours in the vacuum, then remove the vacuum (carving still submerged) and let it sit in the oil overnight. By then the oil has really penetrated most of the surface to a fair extent. Remove the carving from the oil, dry it off, then wait for it to dry - long time. Don't try to glue anything until the oil is completely dry, however. This is for patient carvers - don't do this the night before your big show. You get interesting translucent-sort of looks to antler using this method.

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Thanks for the answers guys, a few more questions ...

Tom the ravens scull looks great, when you say you burnished it rather than polishing, how is that done?

We have Dylon dye down here in NZ but I haven't seen procion dye, how much different are these?

 

Cheers

Rex

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Hi Rex,

 

when you say you burnished it rather than polishing, how is that done?

 

I used a smooth, polished antler tip to rub the surface of the dyed beak. A polished steel rod would do even better on antler. Maybe grind a blunt point on the end of a drill bit and smooth and polish it really well. For really large areas the back of a spoon bowl is a quick expedient.

 

Polishing removes a layer of material and color. Burnishing simply presses the "raised grain" back down, so unless you are overzealous the color remains. Fine sanding and polishing can be useful if you want variations in the colored antler surface. Burnishing works well for wood and the raised grain sections of antler, but does nothing on ivory.

 

We have Dylon dye down here in NZ but I haven't seen procion dye, how much different are these?

 

Have no idea, never heard of it here in the US. Try the Dylon dye, if it is bad about rubbing off, just seal the surface with thinned lacquer. The idea is for the thinned lacquer to penetrate into the dyed areas, not just sit on the surface.

 

I use four colors only; blue, yellow, red and brown. Any other colors I need I just mix from these.

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