Making bone plugs is easy, but it is time-consuming and takes a lot of trail and error. The end result is fantastic--hand-made jewelry crafted out of a natural material, and they make a really cool gift.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Cleaned bone that is slightly wider that you want your final plugs to be
NOTE ABOUT CLEANING BONES: My favorite ways to clean bones are to bury the bones in the ground and dig them up after awhile, or to place the bones on an ant hill and let those creepy crawlies go to town.
Cleaning bones in bleach or setting them in the sun tends to make them brittle. Do not boil or heat the bones to clean them; this will make the bones absorb fats and oils, making the bones turn yellow and weirdly translucent.
Step 2: Bone Selection
Use a pencil to mark off two half-inch sections of your bone.
Step 3: Cut and Clean the Bone
Once you have a good amount of the bone hollowed out, make your next cut, set aside the separated piece, and scrape out more marrow. Make your last cut and marvel at your cool, rough bone tunnels.
Once you have your two plug sections cut, wash the plugs with soapy water and use a pipe cleaner to scrub out the inside of the plug.
Step 4: Shaping the Bone
Larger bones will have a nice, big tunnel in the middle like the bone I used here, but thinner bones tend to have a smaller tunnel that is oddly shaped and off to one side. Both types make interesting plugs--the important thing is to work with the natural shape of the bone, taking advantage of the uniqueness of each piece. In the end, it is these variations that really make these plugs stand out from mass-manufactured bone plugs.
My bone pieces had lovely large tunnels and an interesting point at the top, which I wanted to preserve in the final product. I find it easiest to work on both plugs simultaneously so that they are as similar as possible in the end--I didn't do that when I was taking pictures for this instructable, but it makes things a lot easier.
Using a Dremel tool and a grinding bit, begin shaving away the outer-most layer of bone to reveal the natural color underneath. Slowly work from the outside-middle of the plug outward, creating a deep trench in a ring around the middle of the plug. Once you have a fairly deep ring around the middle, smooth out the sides so that the plug flares out from the middle to the edges seamlessly.
Use your Dremel to make nice, rounded edges on the ends of each plug. Work the tool around inside the tunnel if you have room--if not, roll up a little piece of sandpaper and rotate that around inside the tunnel of your plug to make sure everything is uniform in color.
If you are making the plugs for yourself, you can test out the sizing as you go to see if they fit your ears. If not, I've attached a printable gauge chart I found online. You can print it out and work your tunnels down to the gauge you need.
Step 5: Polish, Clean, and Enjoy
The bones also take well to dying with India Ink, so you can always make your new plugs jet black if you want. Just fill a bowl with the ink and let the bones soak overnight, and rinse the plugs in the morning.
Wear your plugs with pride, but be aware that your friends with gauged ears might be begging you to make them a pair too!