Cutting woolly mammoth ivory

I know that there are members of Orchid that use elephant ivory for
such things as knife handles, but I really need some advice
concerning woolly mammoth ivory. I have begun to use it in inlay
(small pieces) and it is that which comes out of Siberia and I use a
jewelers saw for cutting it which works great. I now want to use
larger pieces for bolo ties and buckles. My question is, for cutting
would I be better off using my small 9 inch band saw with an eighth
inch blade, 15 teeth per inch (it’s the finest I can find) or use my
lapidary diamond blade. I am reluctant to use the lapidary blade
because of the water which the ivory will soak up to a degree and I
don’t want cracking as it dries. These are fairly large pieces that
I am cutting from. BTW if anyone knows of a source for a finer blade
than 15 tpi please let me know. It is a 59.5 inch blade, eighth of
an inch wide… Any advice is much appreciated.

John Barton

...but I really need some advice concerning woolly mammoth ivory. 

The best advice I was ever given about skeletal materials is to
treat them as if they are hard, but brittle wood. The mammoth that I
have handled leads me to add that since this stuff is partially
mineralized, your blades will get dulled a bit faster, but overall,
think hard, brittle wood. Diamond blades are wasted on this stuff.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL

Use the band saw I usemine all the time for mammoth ivory, and

What kind of band saw, brand? What kind of guides? Was it designed
for wood working, or lapidary? A suggestion, for real: Hegner (again,
no connection nor gain).)Find someone in your area that has one
(school or university?), one-of cabinet maker or a dealer that would
let you try one, it is the equivalent, in scroll saws, to the Fretz
jewelers saw (again-painfully!, no gain) in regards to potential and
performance in the right hands. You fail to mention the finished size
of the pieces that you want to cut. I have a friend and the family
business is the restoration of player pianos. My friend gave me a
baggie of broken ivory (real) that I both treasure and revere. And,
hell, you’ve all read this far, one more non-profiting endorsement.
Someone mentioned Waxlit in a post. Look at it this way: it is used
to “lubricate” both sliding (mitre gauge for ex.) and table surfaces
on wood working tools. Swiss made Inca tools even included it with
their wood working machines. From experience it works. When used on a
jointer or planer bed, the wood “eases” through the cutter head, with
less effort, cutting friction. The sweet thing about the product is
it doesn’t impede the ability of the wood to accept a finish. Ok, the
wood is sanded to a degree… but you get the point… in most
instances, it is a wonderful lubricant, and surface protector
(metal)… rolling mills, rust, friction… anyone? peace

A lapidary blade is unsuited for ivory. What’s wrong with using your
band saw?


Do not forget your lungs…or the dust spreading.
Respirate and ventilate


Hi John,

I used to do a lot of scrimshaw and cutting elephant and to some
degree mammoth. You probably already know to use good dust
collection. The dust is veryunhealthy, acts like asbestos in the
lungs. Probably better to use the band saw, but I’d want a finer
blade for sure. There are places where you can get blades made up
for you in any length, and probably finer cut from stock. Have you
tried Rocklear or some other online resource? You might also try one
of those fancy powered jewelry saws. Or maybe a scroll saw. Plenty of
fine blades available. I used a large band saw with a 1/16th inch
blade and 32 teeth per inch. Good luck and happy cutting!

Mike Grace

Hi John

Use the bandsaw; it will work fine as long as the pieces are flat on
the bottom when you’re cutting them. If the piece is irregular on
the bottom, it can be dangerous, though, since it can flip around
unpredictably. You don’t need an especially fine blade; the
relatively coarse one you mention should be good as long as the
material is thick enough to engage two or more teeth at a time. If
you do need a finer blade, any full-service saw shop should be able
to make it up for you.

Diamond lapidary blades are great for hard material like stone, but
they’re pretty slow for ivory and bone, and they just cut straight
lines - with the scroll blade in your bandsaw you can cut fairly
tight curves. I haven’t noticed much water absorbing into mammoth
ivory when I’ve wet-sanded it, nor the subsequent cracking you fear
(although it will crack and discolor from heat), but I have seen it
absorb oil, so avoid that.

Andrew Werby

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for aBenchtop Bandsaw tool for your jewelry projects? We recommend:

I suggest you don’t breathe the dust! At least wear a little paper



BTW if anyone knows of a source for a finer blade than 15 tpi
please let me know. It is a 59.5 inch blade, eighth of an inch
wide.. Any advice is much appreciated 

I spend time with woodworkers. Many of them like Timber Wolf blades.
If I wanted a bandsaw blade to cut something unusual, I would call
PS Wood Machines (who make Timber Wolf blades). I’d describe what I
wanted to cut and ask them what they recommend. While tpi is
important, there are other factors like set and rake that are
important in picking a blade.

The usual disclaimers: I have nothing to do with the company, your
mileage may vary, etc.


Mike, thank you for your reply and the is greatly
appreciated. I notice that you are also with where do
you live? I live in Fort Worth.


FYI: My husband who uses band saw for hard woods buys blades from
Johnson Industrial in Fresno ca. And from A Cut Above in Northridge