Sounds like it’s time for you to see your dentist.
I asked my dentist for used dental tools for years. And he gave me
lots of them. What he gave me were almost always the hand-held
picks,scrapers, etc but one day he asked if I wanted some of the
bits and burrs that he uses in his high-speed drill. “Sure,” I
said. So he gave me dozens and dozens of them. It turns out they
would otherwise be discarded after very few uses, sometimes after
one use only! They are a wonder!
I have only begun to find the potential in these little darlings,
barely scratched the surface (pun intended). But I have already used
them to carve bone, copper, silver, brass and a few other things I
have forgotten about. I didn’t get a how-to-do-it course with these
gifts, so I have been flying blind and feeling my way - but these
are better than any of the purpose-made “jewelers’” tools I have
ever used in my flex-shaft machine. Way way WAY better! In
general they cut faster and smoother and are very much less likely
to catch in the material and run wild. I have some old scars where
flexshaft tools have gotten a bit too much traction and run off the
road to hit the nearest object, usually one of my fingers.
Maybe tool designers pay lots more attention to dental tools than to
craftspersons’ tools because, let’s face it, a dentist whose tools
go wild inside a patient’s mouth is in much deeper doo-doo than a
jeweller who has scratched a customer’s wedding band. A question of
I don’t know much about the dental burrs yet, not even their proper
names. Some are carbide cutters and some are diamond-encrusted.
They come in various shapes; balls, end-cutters, conical,
cylindrical etc. They tend to be quite small and their shafts are
likewise small and some adaptations to your chucks or collets might
be needed. I have heard from a dental equipment salesman that some
are designed to cut best at very high speeds - up to 400,000 rpm -
yes, count those zeros - and others are designed to cut in the
20,000 to 30,000 rpm range. I can’t tell one from the other yet but
I believe a very small amount of education would help me - probably
by looking at the shaft of the tool an informed person can tell
which speed handpiece it was intended to work in.
No matter how hard the elk’s teeth, I’m sure one of these tools
would do the trick for you. There are long, slender tapered bits
used to drill down for root canal work that could probably go
through an elk tooth easily.
Your biggest worry might be heat - but you could probably do the
work while holding the tooth underwater in a small bowl since you
probably don’t have one of those fancy water spray gizmos that are
built into dental drills. That’d keep down the dust too. I keep
hearing that dust from bones, shells, and, teeth is particularly
I’ve been meaning to write a post about these tools for a while,
ever since I first tried them. I felt like I’d be giving away a big
secret, but I’m sure many others out there have tried them. I’d
love to hear of your experiences and comments about them.
Also - someone once told me that elks’ teeth had some particularly
powerful folkloric attributes - but I have forgotten exactly what
the supposed qualities are, also from which ethnic tradition the
belief stems. Any enlightenment would be appreciated. The person
who told me about this - 25 years ago at least - wore an elk’s tooth
hanging from a string around his neck. That tooth had a hole
drilled in it for the string to pass through
Marty in Victoria where July feels like October this week.