Buffing ivory and bone?

What do you recommend for buffing ivory and bone? I refinish antique
knives and straight razors. Some of the knives I take in have
handles of ivory, mother of pearl, horn and smooth bone. Because of
their age the handles have become roughed up to varying degrees. I
have limited experience with ivory and MOP so I am looking for
advice on what to use.

Greg Bayes

Hi all I have used Hyperfin on MOP and jew fish jewels and shell
with good results.

All the best

I never buff ivory, I polish is using 3M sanding papers. An
inexpensive way to get a nice supply is to purchase a headlight
restoration kit called: 3M 39008 Heavy Duty Kit Headlight Lens Restoration System + 39173 Quick Headlight Clear Coat.
Carried by Amazon for under $15. Iuse the discs wet and work by hand
with a hard foam backing pad. I re-handle knives and make gun grips
and occasionally re-use old ivory…

Steve Wandt

Hi Greg, Is it generally considered acceptable to Polish and
otherwise shine up antique knives. Isn’t this considered to be
restoration? Don Meixner

Hello Steve,

Do have any info on stabilizing antler material after carving? I
carved some very old elk antler and when it comes in contact with
moisture from skin it becomes a bit sticky…any help on this would
be most appreciated as I have a lot of this beautifull material but
stopped using it because of this issue.

Chris H.

Hi Chris, Sorry, I cant help with that…I have never used antler

You say you have lots of this bony material.

So you need to runs some trials.

  1. cut some and boil it in water.

Bone is used to make glue and it could be this thats coming out when
moist. Dry it well and see if thats any better.

  1. Put some on a tin plate and put into your domestic oven at a
    moderate heat. see if any thing melts out of the bone.

Let us know the results.

Am familiar with hide glue Ted. Have used it in piano restorations
for 30 years. Just thought with your experience in restoration you
would have a recipe for stabilizing antler, bone, ivory, etc other
than boiling or baking. Thanks for the info though. Will keep
looking around.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for your reply. Your problem is one ive never had to resolve.
So my thoughts were where would I start? One reason I suggested
boiling was im currently making braun, from half a pigs head to 2.5
pints (UK) water, to get the right level of gelatin from this for the

Now the Austrians make buttons from antler bone, the ones Ive
handled seem quite smooth and non sticky. There cut on a band saw
then barrelled with a grinding media to round the corners.

Moving on, Yes restoration is one of my pleasures, done it all my
life, 1st from necessity ie made up my 1st push bike to cars then
everything else! Piano’s? ive one here that is awaiting my time? when
I get round to it. Its a Broadwood box identified by Broadwood circa
1798. Solid mahogany outer and legs and pine innards. Bought it some
45 yrs ago cos I liked it. Will need restringing but the rest (the
action not the chassis!) I can do here.

Time is whats in short supply. If im lucky to have perhaps? another
5 working years, what do I do with this time? DOB 29.01. 1934.

It has to be with my minting work. Im 3/4trs of the way to
comissioning 2 sets of 3 sizes of dies of designs by the Danish
sculptor Thorwaldsen. He did them in Rome around 1830.I know they
will sell v/well at the events planned for 2016.

After that? ill take every day the good lord gives me.


Bone, antler, ivory, horn and other skeletal materials are somewhat
porous, and can dry out, so they want to stick to things like skin.
The trick I was taught to use on these materials is to soak them in a
solution of glycerine and water(use the food grade stuff from the
drug store, and a tablespoon to a quart is plenty), for a couple of
hours, then remove it from the solution and let the material sit and
absorb overnight; then give the a final polish with a good hard wax
based compound. I typically use ZAM for the final polish. Just watch
you polishing speed and heat buildup and don’t scorch the material.

These things will always want to stick to moist skin, simply
because they are porous, even well sealed and polished. It’s just the
nature of the material; but putting moisture back into it makes it
less of an annoyance.

Ron Charlotte
Gainesville, FL

Thanks for the info Ted…sounds like we both have long term
restoration projects. Last piano I did was a 113 year old concert
grand Steinway. With my 2 students it took 2 years. As you know you
have to wear a lot of hats with these kinds of things. They just do
not make the parts anymore. Haha!! The actions are the hardest and
the heart of the piano. Take care and stay away from pianos if you
want to work on anything else.


Thanks Ron… I found boars tusk to be the material with the least
amount of problems as far as moisture. It polishes like ivory. Will
try the glycerine technique that you mentioned on the elk antlers.
One person mentioned that if the material is well cured that coating
it with super glue after carving will help. This info came from a
knife maker. Have not tried it yet.


Hallo Ted,

Regarding the buffing of ivory - I have occasion to restore ivory
grips on the over 100 mameluke hilted swords in my care. The most
satisfactory finish comes from going through the emery papers up to
say 800 grit, and then polishing the surface by hand with Brasso
carried on a fine cloth. This avoids the build up of heat, and
allows one to carry into otherwise inaccessible recesses a corner of
the cloth plus Brasso (or cotton pattie if you are a surgeon) held in
an artery forceps or on the point of a toothpick. Finish off with a
dry duster cloth, and maybe brush out (with a wetted soft toothbrush)
the residue in crevices before it dries too hard.

There are of course many variants to this, as there are to skinning a
cat, but this works.


Hi Martin.

Amongst other things I do!! is polishing old table knives. these
have non stainless steel blades with bone or sometimes ivory handles.

The steel is no problem, neither is the handle as I use a 6in
stitched cotton mop with a lustre compo ex Canning B’mham, this cuts
through all the accumulated dirt and yrs of use. then A highfin
white compound on another mop same as before. Slow so theres no heat.
Works fine.


Martin- What a fascinating project. Photos of the ivory grips and
swords you worked on? I’ve found that Twinkle or Wright’s Silver Polish
and a soft piece of cotton flannel polishes up ivory and bone nicely.
Wet Q-tips with silver polish in a flex shaft will also work nicely
for recesses but one has to be careful of heat and keep things wet.
Makes a mess.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.