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Bone Dyeing

The Green Man is an ancient, pre-Christian representation of the
vital, creative force of wild nature, the “spirit of the forest” in
a sense. Since many early Christian churches in the British Isles
were located on older sacred sites and often incorporated
pre-Christian symbolism as a means of encouraging conversion, it’s
not unusual to see carved foliate faces called "Green Men"
decorating such structures. With the increased interest in
pre-Christian faiths, gardening and the role of the spiritual within
nature, such images are once again enjoying widespread popularity.

Susannah Ravenswing
Jewels of the Spirit
Winston-Salem, NC

Hi, all –

“Transfast” made by Homestead Finishing Products, Cleveland, Ohio,
is a fairly good line of alcohol and water based dyes made for wood.
(My husband says that they are a little hard to work with.)
Another product line to try is Moser’s Aniline Dyes (available in
water, alcohol, and oil soluble versions). These come in a wide
range of colors and can be purchased from Woodworker’s Supply [ ]. I’ve never used these on bone, but
they should work given its porosity.

A word of warning on Fiebing’s leather dye…we have had problems
with green made by mixing the yellow and blue. Specifically, the
green was not stable and developed yellowish brown mottling after a
few months. However, that experience was on leather, not bone. My
husband suggests that you use a leather deglazer on the piece first
to aid in penetration of the leather dye.

Water based dyes tend to be more “forgiving” than alcohol based
dyes. They are much easier to remove if the color is too intense on
the piece.

Naptha works well to remove wax coatings. “Vulpex” soap is an
excellent de-greaser and cleaner, but it can be hard to find.

If you need to remove stains or color from the piece, you can use
40% hydrogen peroxide (available at beauty supply shops) mixed with
a few drops of clear amonia. While at the beauty supply shop pick
up a box of “cotton bands” (thin, flat cotton strips). Dunk a
length of cotton in the peroxide with amonia and remove the excess
so it’s wet but not dripping. Wrap the cotton around your piece and
pat it down. Wrap well in household plastic wrap to slow
evaporation and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours. Be sure to use latex
or vinyl gloves and protect your clothes while you’re working with
the bleach. This will give you very white bone. Do not use this if
you want to keep any of the bone’s natural toning.

Hope this info helps you.

Dale Molloy
Molloy Studios
Fall River, MA