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Cuttlefish bone casting

Cuttlefish bone casting: Has anyone done it, and do you have
any tips?

Stephen Bargsten


Get it at a pet supply, I think I paid 25 cents a piece. Take
your time, you can get more detail than you might think.

Hold your breath, when you pour the metal. Unless you like the
smell of something that resembles burning hair. T Goodwin

Yes, as a teacher, I have done a lot of cuttlefish casting. Be
sure to grind the bone flat. And do not have any space between
your bone and the flat piece of asbestos substitute. Also put a
sprue on the asbestos sub. Bind it with binding wire. Making
small vents going up the bone from your design is very important.
It allows your gasses to escape thereby making the cast more
crisp. I always try to put my sprue at the bottom of the "steps"
so that the molten metal runs up over them. This also helps to
make a crisp cast. But some people may differ in their
techniques. This works for me!! Good luck. Marcy

Cuttlefish bone casting can be a lot of fun. If you can stand
the smell that is. Cut a cuttlefish bone in half, rub the soft
sides against one another so that you get 2 pieces that are
matching. Press your design into one of the soft halfs and then
press the other on top of it, so that the model is embedded in
either half and the sides are together tightly. Now file some
alignment marks on the two halves so that you can put it together
after you remove the model and line it up again. Carve a sprue
and a funnel into the soft cuttlefish and extend it to the model.
Now close the bone, line it up with your alignment marks, and
wrap it tightly with some binding wire. I like to use that wire
to also attach a small square of charcoal to the top where the
funnel is, as I use it for my crucible. Now melt the metal you
are casting in an indentation carved out of the charcoal on the
top , and when it is liquid and rolling, just stand the whole
thing up.The metal will gravity flow into the cuttlefish bone,
creating a cast with an interesting pattern caused by the bone.
Oh… and it will smell up your shop. It is a quick way to make a
crude casting. Hope that helps Jurgen J. Maerz

I ordered mine from Cuttlebone Plus+ at

Some of their prices are below. I asked for an assortment of
large and jumbo. Beware, most of the jumbo are just that! All
of the jumbo Pieces(about 10 in the 5lb mixture) were more than
15"long and 5" wide!! The remaining were all in the 8" X 3"
range. There were about 70 -80 pieces in all in the 5lb mix. You
may be able to get them cheaper if you ask for a lower grade. I
didn’t because I have birds and the trimmings will go to them.
Before casting of course :wink:

Cuttlebone (all sizes are the same price)
sizes available: small less than 6", medium 6"-8", large 8"-10", jumbo
over 10"
5 lb. $19.50
10 lb. $30.00
25 lb. $68.75

Jeffrey Hayward

One of my students was trying it with bronze and it would not
work successfully - just would not flow down into cavity. silver
works fine. Mary Hu

When you press your model into the cuttlefish why not push in a
few pieces of matchstick in to act as locating lugs. I find this
more accurate than location marks.


There are excellent discriptions of cuttlefish casting in basic
books such as “The Complete Metalsmith.” It is a fun process
that gives really interesting results.The casting will have a
strong surface texture that is very handsome. Hand pick,if you
can,the cuttlebone so that you will have the largest and most
complete pieces.Look for cuttlebone in bins in big pet stores.

Marilyn Smith

Although it’s been about 25 years since I last did cuttlefish
bone casting, I seem to remember some of the process. I think I
got better results when I covered the 2 (prepared) inner surfaces
with boric acid (alcohol) solution and “burned it in”. the
cuttlefish didn’t seem to burn away so badly. I remember the
castings as having quite a bit of flashing and otherwise being
very rough, and the boric acid seemed to help. I also seem to
remember preferring sand for quick castings, and that I got
tremendously better results with the sand.

       Jeffrey Everett, jewelry craftsman

Handmade 18K, 22K, and platinum gemstone jewelry.
Diamond setting, rubber/metal molds, casting, lapidary
Die and mold engraving, plastic patterns for casting.
Jewelry design, cad/cam, milling, scroll, filigree, & more.
P O Box 2057 Fairfield IA 52556 515-469-6250

<Cuttlefish bone casting: Has anyone done it, and do you have
<any tips?

Hi Stephen, Have done a lot of cuttlefish bone casting, so here
are some tips that worked for me. Use a large bone, saw the
length in two halfs (the outer shell is very hard and will ruin
some sawblades), cut off the ends and flatten the inner, soft
sides with a large file before rubbing them against each other
to get a tight fit. Press your model into one half about 1.5"
from the lower end (the one at which the bone was sawn apart)
halfway. Insert some metal pieces for alignment and press the
other half of your bone onto the first. Best way to do this is
by standing the whole thing upright on the bench, so the bottoms
of both halves are aligned, and your form will not rock or tip
during casting. Take it apart, remove the model and file a sprue
with a halfround file. This need not be very thick, as pressure
results from the length of the sprue alone (therefore the large
bone), I make mine rather flat and widening to the top. I then
"burnish" the sprue with a steel burnisher to get it smooth. For
the vents, just scratch them in with the point of a needle file
or something, they should first lead downwards, then turn and
end in the top next to the sprue opening. Make as much as you
think are necessary, or one more. Blow off any dust, put the
halves together again and bind them with some binding wire. As I
am working with a gas torch, I put the bone on a shelf under the
table until I have melted the metal, and only then stand it onto
a brick to cast. Metal should be relatively cool for casting
into cuttlebone, and you should be quick and sure-handed to get
the metal in in one continuous flow. The metal will stay fluid
some time, and I knock onto the table to get it down and to
force out some air that might got trapped (perhaps - may be some
superstition). Wait until the dome of metal you see in the sprue
isn’t glowing any more, then quench the whole thing for some
seconds, best under a tap. Collect your alignment pieces, clean
your workpiece. Casting with this method will result in a lot of
pores, and for rings, I have the shank double the thickness so I
can do some heavy forging on a mandrel. I have made bad
experience casting 8carat gold and can’t recommend it. That’s my
procedure and I hope it will be of some help, Markus

I was under the impression that silica bronze melts at a
lower temperature. Yes, I am catching the excess in sand,
and it is being recovered. The problem using silver is two

1)  These are beginning students that have no scrap yet. 
Therefore I am using casting grain. 

2)  It is easier for me to purchase all their supplies for
the course up front. 

a) I can markup the difference to pay for my running around 

b) The students have everything they need to start 

c) They like having their own packet and with supplies left
over, and usually  sign up for a second class 

The problem runs into the price of the casting grain and
reclamation of spills.  If they make a spill, then it is
their responsibility to dig out the sand or pumice and give
me back the remainder.  I would have no problem using my own
scrap, but with 45 students, it begins to add up. 

Another thing that irks me (I'm revving up on the soapbox
now) is the price of cuttlebone.  Gesswein sells 6 nice size
pieces for about $8. Grobet (who most companies are using
now) sell the same box for $13.   I don't get it.  Why the
difference in price? 

I don't want to stop doing the cuttlebone casting because my
students love watching the silver melt.  After seeing that
little silver pool, they confess to all being pyros at heart.
(Aren't we all?) 

Karen Christians
416 Main St.
Woburn, MA 01801


Current Artwork:

Karen, Have you tried buying cuttlefish bone at the local BIRD pet
supply house. I have on occasion and gotten some very large
pieces for very little money. Good hunting. Bill in Vista

When I took a casting class, we bought our own casting grain.
If any was spilled, believe me, we made sure that we got the
spill up. After a while, of course, we all ended up with quite a
bit of scrap–either from sprues or pieces we didn’t like. As
far as cuddlebone goes–try your local pet superstore or tropical
bird shop. I go to Petco which is a large pet chain and buy
absolutely huge cuddlebones for 99 cents each. They sell several
different sizes in bulk. The ones I buy are 10 - 12 inches long
and I can usually cut them in half and get 2 castings from each.


Have you checked out the prices of cuttlebone at your local pet
supply. We have a pet store in our area that have small and
large cuttlebone. (I also taught a class and used cuttlebone to
demonstrate simple casting) They also gave me a discount for
large orders and the cost was significantly less then a jewelry
supply house. The cuttlebone worked just fine. Just another
idea…for whatever it’s worth…

Linda Crawford
Linda Crawford Designs, Willits, CA, USA

   Another thing that irks me (I'm revving up on the soapbox
   now) is the price of cuttlebone.  Gesswein sells 6 nice size
   pieces for about $8. Grobet (who most companies are using
   now) sell the same box for $13.   I don't get it.  Why the
   difference in price?

Karen - I missed the beginning of this thread, but remember
doing this type of casting when I took my casting class ( I hated
the smell - UGH ). We always bought our cuttlebone at pet shops
that carried bird supplies - especially the big, warehouse type
ones - the prices were much better & they worked just fine.

Towson, Md @LWiesler

Why not buy Cuttlefish bone at the pet store? They sell it for
25 cents. It’s the same bone, and you can pick over them for the
larger sizes. (Parrots and such gnaw at it.)

Chicago, Illinois, US

Karen–regarding the relatively high cost of cuttlebone …you
would probably do better contacting a dealer in pet supplies, or
a wholesaler who sells to bird dealers. When I was doing
cuttlebone casting I got some really large Japanese cuttlebone
(6-7 inches long and nice and wide) from a local pet shop which
ordered them for owners of parrots. It was MUCH cheaper that
way. If anyone out there knows of a wholesaler who sells the
stuff by the gross, you could probably save a bundle by
ordering that way…Donna

1-I’ve seen the pet store cuttlefish bones and wondered if
they’re the same, thanks.

2- As to the price differences specialty supply to retail. If an
item is labeled for “arts” or “craft” the mark-up is always
doubled or more. Moral: Find some non arts/crafts uses and thus
supplies and purchase there. It’s a tough world to make a living
in, so get creatively sneaky and laugh a lot!

Thanks for all the help, beating the system with handy shortcuts
is very rewarding. Indebted in SOUTHERN Illinois, USA, NA, WH,
Earth, Sol, Milky Way Galaxy …efw

Karen: you should check with your large pet supply place if you
have one near (cuttlebones are used for birds…). Cuttlebones
sell here for about 75 cents each I think. Of course I wait until
they get a new shipment in and pick out the biggest and best ones
first. For cuttlebone casting I don’t use ONE bone I use two. I
sand down the soft side flat and do the same to another one then
rub them together until they flatten together. That way you can
use two fairly small ones and still cast a ring…Dave

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