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Working with Antler, Horn & Bone

Working with Antler, Horn & Bone.

I have been designing some antler and silver jewelry, primarily

I have an abundance of thin gauge silver sheet which I intend to use
for making Antler and silver jewelry. The antler will be primarily
from local sources with anything else custom I would like some input
from the group as to means of working antler and bone. My intentions
are to use limited machining techniques including lathes and
production jigs. The largely machine work with some hand finishing to
keep labor cost down. The rings will not be resizable so I intend to
offer rings in 1 size steps and 1/2 sizes on order.with a mail in
ring = exchange

Another question is what is the largest general accepted ring shank
thickness for women and for men. This is an important target to
meet. I have heard references to " White Lung" which is the health
hazard due to the inhalation of bone and antler particles. I am going
to epoxy together silver and antler to make rings. I expect to have
to avoid any heat so cold working and epoxy are all that are left me.
My tree hugging, green friends support this use. But my intended
market is largely Bubbas and Bubbets. I can see already a number of
directions this basic design can go. I want to keep design
flexibility in from the getgo.

I want to create a local organic market using locally obtained
components. I have been keeping a small work/sketch book which I
carry with me. Goal - use available resources, buy local and sell

Thank You for any consideration,

In working any natural substance use normal precautions yes I use a
dust mask, but cutting with water will reduce a great amount of air
dust. Horn and bone are easy to work with just experiment and know
that you need to be aware it will crack if dried too fast and shrink
as it loses moisture may affect the silver work.

And as always with nature be careful as there are imperfections that
will shatter hours of work at times and you just have to go oh well
nice practice and start again.

A cameo carver grins

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

Robb, I like your idea. Here’s one tip: I made some sliced Whitetail
Deer antler buttons, and dyed them in black tea to get a richer
brown color. Very nice. They buffed nicely with tripoli. Good luck
with your concept!


The antler will be primarily from local sources with anything else
custom I would like some input from the group as to means of
working antler and bone. 

When working with skeletal materials (a generic term for antler,
ivory, bone and horn), think in terms of dense, somewhat brittle,
hardwood. You can soften it a bit by soaking, especially in a mildly
acidic solution.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL

what is the largest general accepted ring shank thickness for women
and for men. But my intended market is largely Bubbas and Bubbets. 

hi Robb, I have been told ( and tell my customers) that 2mm
thickness is the standard maximum for comfort- and 1mm is the
minimum, but i am sure that all individuals differ and you may get
lots of different answers on this :wink:

As for your target market, I have never heard of " bubbas and
bubbets" but whoever they are they sound big so maybe you could go a
little thicker -lol, I love these different cultural terms, Christine
in sth Australia


I have worked both ivory (petrified), bone and antler (from an old
collection of a relative). They all work just like horn or anything
made of protein. They can be sawed with a saw, filed with a file,
carved with a knife, smoothed with sandpaper and polished with ZAM on
a cotton muslin wheel. Treat it just like you would a piece of fine

Be very careful of the dust. It is primarily protein but there may
be some nonos mixed in because they are organic and pesticides have
been everywhere for many years now. Be aware, the stink from working
all these items will make you want to wear a respirator anyway.

Be sure when you join metal and antler with the epoxy that you rough
each surface and clean with denatured alcohol before adding the
adhesive. Then clamp together to expell all O2 and allow to cure in a
warm place for 10-12 hours. As many Orchadians know, I work quite a
bit with black coral (also a protein material). I have the same
problems you will have with putting things together. I have developed
many ways to keep pieces together, rivits and small nuts/bolts/screws
that I make do the best when combined with epoxy to keep them stable.

Bubba and Bubbets tend to be rough on jewelry, usually from wearing
a number of large pieces at the same time. Do not be chinsy with your
metal…always start out with more than you need as it will get thin
quickly as you work with it thru final polish! I use mostly 18ga for
pendants and large rings except where the design will not permit it
due to bends and curves. Bracelets sometimes will start with 16ga
even. On the other hand, when you are simply garnishing the antler,
you can use thinner metal…say 22 ga.

Don’t know if that helps any but good luck in your endeavor.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

We have a couple of projects running in bone just now. Preparing
tutorials for Fourth Axis clients, my team is showing how to fix
bandsaw-cut bone slices to easily-grippable softwood sacrificial
bases using PVA woodwork glue, for both XYZ and rotary milling. XYZ
work includes pendants (mostly flat backed but some 2-sided flip
work). Rotary work includes small statuettes (hollow center to avoid
the marrow space of the bone) and tubular work.

Bone slices bonded to softwood with PVA woodwork glue for gripping
them outside the bone volume, can be released by later soaking in
water overnight.

Bone behaves amazingly like Delrin plastic during milling and the
parameters you would set for Delrin work fine with bone. It is very
important to take dust-collecting measures, because of the risk of
bone-carried organisms entering the respiratory system. We are using
full-time HEPA-filtered vacuums and properly enclosed machines. High
spindle speed (up to 20,000 rpm) with modest feedrates can produce a
polished finish straight off the mill. We are using fine ball-nose
endmills in Roland MDX-15 and MDX-20, high-speed third-party
spindles (Proxxon 28485) and Fourth Axis Model 15 or Model 20 rotary

One of our clients, who has traditionally used Delrin to make
ivoryesque statues by CAD/CAM/CNC, is amazed at the quality he can
obtain from bones sourced as pet-food! Large bones (cow hips etc) can
be band-sawed into thin slices of quite large area, while the longer
bones such as femurs provide a source of tubular stock for cylinder

In our gallery you can see a
sample of the work of Fourth Axis client Arnand Loupier. Arnand is
currently rotary milling a Chinese chicken/chrysanthemum work of art,
obtained from an antique wood-carved temple door panel, in cow-bone.
Arnand previously provided us with 3D scanned XYZ files which we
FLOWed in Rhino for him, creating cylinder geometry for toolpath from
Modela Player 4. The waxes (at several scales) are scheduled to be
cast from inoxidable bronze.

Bone is a wonderful resource. It can be antiqued, sealed, left
natural. There is a well-managed supply at the butcher shop.



I have developed many ways to keep pieces together, rivits and
small nuts/bolts/screws that I make do the best when combined with
epoxy to keep them stable. 

Thank you for all sharing your knowledge vis antler, horn
and bone.

Where does one find small nuts/bolts/screws? Are they available in
base metals or precious metals or both?

Thank you for your contributions to the list.


A now deceased friend of ours used to carve bone and inlay stones in
it. He used lots of kinds of bone and boiled it to remove the meat.
Then when he bleached it he used lemon juice, not bleach. It left a
lovely whiteness with a “little” bit of luminosity in appearance. He
said the lemon juice left it whiter for a lot longer.

Good luck carving the combs and wear a mask!

Barbara in Norfolk

Can’t give any help on the noble metals, but here is the place for
small fasteners and such.

Here they also should have some links

You can always make your own with tapes and dies.



You can find a good selection of small screws, nuts and bolts in the
MicroMark catalogue. There’s also a company called Small Parts – I
believe they also carry tiny screws, etc.

If you have a good hobby shop near you (one that caters to model
builders who build “from scratch”, especially model ralroaders) they
might have an assortment, or know where to send you.