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Cutting Ivory


#1

Hello!!

I’m doing more work for my chiropractor - (the one that in an
earlier post had me drilling mystery steel for earrings that was hard
as all get out) This time I need to set and Elks tooth in a ring - he
is a hunter. Elk’s teeth are made of ivory and so before I begin I
need to cut the root of the tooth off and just set the top of the
tooth. I have no experience with ivory, so does anyone have any idea
how to cut ivory or polish it. The tooth is only an inch in total, so
I have very little room for error. His projects always challenge me
and this should be fun.

Thanks in advance!!
Holly Gage


#2

Well, it’s dentine (all dentine isn’t ivory, but all ivory is
dentine). Basically, treat the tooth material like a dense and hard,
but brittle wood.

For skeletal materials like this, I favor going down to 600-1000 grit
sanding, and polishing out with Zam. If you use a power tool to
polish, go light and pay attention to heat; it can and will scorch.
When it gets uncomfortably warm to hold, put it down and let it cool.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL


#3
Elk's teeth are made of ivory and so before I begin I need to cut
the root of the tooth off and just set the top of the tooth. I have
no experience with ivory, so does anyone have any idea how to cut
ivory or polish it. 

I had the opportunity 15 years ago to work with pre-embargo ivory
from the Roy Rogers estate on a project for the RR Museum. I thought
the ivory seemed quite like coral. Cut with a jeweler’s saw using a
dry blade; no wax, though I don’t know that it would hurt. Sanded
normally like a very hard wood. Polished with ZAM. Remember that I
was
using aged elephant ivory so your experience may vary!

Does your customer ever sell extra teeth from Elk?

Dan


#4

Cutting and shaping elk teeth for jewelry.

Holly, you should talk to Kathy Palochak, who is also on Orchid.
We’re from WY where elk teeth are often made into jewelry and Kathy
had done a lot of that (I haven’t) so she could give you good advice
on that. I’ll send you her email address off-list.

Donna in VA


#5

I learn jewelry Making native style so teeth, claws and a few other
body parts I could name I used a lot of, still even have bear claws
and gator teeth. But I never cut the root unless its damaged you can
cut it with anything I prefer a dermal saw and you can drill just as
easy but do it fast or very slow other wise it will burn or at least
smell like it is and even leave a dark mark on the cut. Wax your
tools or use a coping saw lot like a jewelers saw only cheaper.

Best of luck
Jen


#6

Holly

Just a quick note. When working with your elk ivory, be sure to
bleach and clean the tooth ( particularly the root ). It is a very
outside chance, but tissues attached to the root could possibly
contain mycobacterium bovis, which is a bacterium related to
tuberculosis. Just a precautionary measure. I have cut lots, and it
is very easy to work with. I use cratex wheels, fine emery, and
polishing compounds to shape and polish.

Dave


#7

Holly,

Having cut Elk teeth before, and having several on hand now, I would
advise using a fairly fine blade on a jewelers saw. Cushion the tooth
with something like polymer clay, Jett Sett or the tacky stuff you
can get for hanging posters to keep it from rolling around on your
bench pin. Go slow and don’t force it. Let the blade do the cutting
or you will crack it about halfway thru.

Polish with something like Zam on a small buff (Slower speed. You
don’t want to heat it up. It’s NOT solid all the way thru.)

Hope this helps.
LJ


#8

The tooth may have a hard layer on the outside. A jewelry saw should
be able to get through the tooth. Just don’t overheat the tooth, and
be careful about what you use to polish it. If you polish it with
something that is colored (rouge for example) you will probably have
a hard time getting the color off afterwards. Ask for a spare tooth
to experiment on!

Walter


#9

Is there any concern regarding the dust created and odd medical
issues…repertory or otherwise?

tkx
simone


#10
Having cut Elk teeth before, and having several on hand now...

OK, all you who cut elk’s teeth-- what do you cut/carve them into?

Noel


#11
Is there any concern regarding the dust created and odd medical
issues...repertory or otherwise? 

yes, don’t breath the dust, but then don’t breath any shop dust,
dave


#12

I do a lot of antique restoration work that sometimes requires me to
replace missing ivory sections in pieces. To cut the ivory I use a
standard piercing saw, using size 0-1 or 2 size saw blades. For
smoothing and polishing the ivory I use standard files and polishing
papers, but when finish polishing I use a slow running mop with
whiting po wder as an abrasive. Whiting powder is similar to plaster
of paris powder. I use a slower running mop to make sure that the
ivory doesn’t get hot while polishing, as heat will open the grain
in the ivory and open grain in ivory collects dirt. Whiting powder
also works well when polishing deep relief silverwork.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG.


#13

A decent respirator should be sufficient.

LJ


#14

Noel,

OK, all you who cut elk's teeth-- what do you cut/carve them into? 

Sorry, I’m giggling as I type. I haven’t made a darned thing out of
them yet. I just cut and polished one to see if I could after I got
some as a byproduct of getting the rest of the skull for the bone to
carve.

Making a ring is an interesting idea though…
LJ


#15

Everyone who wrote me on and off the board have been extremely
helpful. My task does not look too hard, however those words have
bitten me on the rear in the past by stating them too early in the
process, LOL Big thanks!!

Holly


#16

Noel. When you cut the top off an Elk ivory (which is really a
vestigial tusk ), they are usually fashion into a quasi-bean shaped
cabochon. The ivories often have streaks of coloring through them
that is often related to age and diet, and the elevation the elks
lived at. They make a beautiful stone that lasts very well.


#17
all you who cut elk's teeth-- what do you cut/carve them into? 

One very talented bench jeweler I know took a whole tooth, with the
root, and carved a miniature diorama. A beautiful lady, sitting by a
pool, tree fronds surrounding her and the pool, reaching out to a
lotus flower, which had a tiny little diamond in the center. The far
background was removed, so the lady and tree fronds stood out very
well. Otherwise he set teeny diamonds for someone’s initials in the
cap.

If you want to try your hand at carving, get some beef bone treats
for dogs. Already sliced and bleached. Polishes up to a high shine.
Wear a good mask and ventilate. The stuff floats around forever.


#18
finish polishing I use a slow running mop with whiting po wder as
an abrasive. Whiting powder is similar to plaster of paris powder. 

At least in the pottery world, whiting is calcium carbonate, AKA
chalk.

Noel


#19

When my email was down recently, I began reading these posts on the
Orchid Forum web site. The extra benefits are the Google Ads that pop
up with each message. Each ad is somehow related to one or more of
the key words in the email. For this message, the key words were
Ivory and Elk’s Teeth. Amazingly, one of the Google Ads was for
ElkJewelry.net. I would otherwise never have known such a company
existed :wink:

Jamie King


#20

Hi All,

I don’t think anyone has mentioned this lately, but—

About 60 years ago I was asked to mount some elk teeth as watch fobs
for Elks Club members. I did them in gold caps after soaking the
teeth in tobacco juice over night. The stain seemed very stable and
brought out the layers on the worn surface of the tooth very nicely.
Even tobacco may have a legitimate use!

Dr. Mac