Introduction: Carved Bone Fish From Bone Scraps

Picture of Carved Bone Fish From Bone Scraps

Here's a simple project that puts to use some of the scraps a butcher generates. You can also use the real beef bone dog bones that PetsMart sells.
I recommend getting the bone from someone who owns dogs that chew on them (finding them in their yard) or talking to a local butcher. Personally, I get an infinite bone supply from my neighbor's woods. Her dogs consume an enormous amount of treats, and I find the leftover bones buried amongst the conifer needles.

These little bone carvings make great necklaces, charms, and trinkets. If you tea-dye yours like I did here, they will have an natural aged quality that is irresistible to surfers, beach bums, and tourists :D

I have a blog, here!

Step 1: Cutting Down the Bone

Picture of Cutting Down the Bone

 You want to cut down the big bone (on the far left) into a little bone blank (on the far right). Plan all your cuts and you will get the maximum use of the material.

I used a band saw. The blade is 3/8" wide (6 teeth/inch), and I recommend the same for you. 


Step 2: Plan the Design

Picture of Plan the Design

 Draw out your design on the bone blank. If you get real good at carving, you won't need to do this. I don't plan out my designs. Most of the time, I just wing it.

Step 3: Cut Out the Design

Picture of Cut Out the Design

 Use a band saw to cut out your design. You know your careful! I use gator grips to hold the piece if there is ANY chance the blade could grab.

The picture is a bit blurry because my band saw is not on level rattles :P

Step 4: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

 Use a drum sander to clean up the surface. Make sure you round all the edges or it will look blocky and manufactured!

If you plan to do this a lot, you'll need to get a respirator. Bone dust has some serious long term respiratory effects if you are exposed to it a lot.

Step 5: Drilling the Eye

Picture of Drilling the Eye

 I don't know the size of the drill bit I used, so just use whatever size you think looks right.
Go slowly and in spurts or you'll overheat.

Step 6: Dyeing

Picture of Dyeing

 Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1/4 cup dry powdered instant tea. Mix it up gently and put your bone bead in it for about 5-24 hours.

The vinegar dissolves the top layer of calcium and impregnated those cells with tea. After the bones have soaked in the dye, fish them out and GENTLY rinse them. The dye won't be very stable until the bone is completely dry.


Alpha Negra made it! (author)2016-07-15

It's a bit slow without power tools !
How do your fish age, does the dye stay ?

KiranP2 (author)2015-07-07

Great idea! Just remember that all bones should be thoroughly cleaned of flesh, grease, and bacteria before using them in projects. I'd recommend soaking the bones in an open container of water outside for a few days. This allows bacteria to strip any flesh left on the bone. Check and change water as necessary. Once that's done, soak the bones in hydrogen peroxide to kill off any germs.

Also, while vinegar does allow dye to adhere better, it also get stuck inside the microscopic holes in the bone, causing it to deteriorate faster. Try using salt or alum as a dye fixative instead.

doomsdayltd (author)2011-07-12

dyeing makes the bone...well tacky and fake, how the bone becomes yellowed is part of the fun and learning process of wearing them!

Asmodeous (author)2010-03-27

Nice work, but the stench of burning bone when sawing or cutting is horrid. It reminds me of burning human flesh. I just stoped the project because of it. You have to have an iron will to work with the smell of burning bone. I almost vomited.

nepheron (author)Asmodeous2010-03-27

 If the bone smells really bad, then it's burning... your saw blade may be really REALLY dull. It smelled bad until i got a new blade.

Bone, like any material, has a smell. It's not exactly roses, but it shouldn't smell like rotting flesh...

nepheron (author)2010-03-20

 Google knows everything! It's just a matter of gathering ideas and putting them together in one place.
 Here is another cool bone carving 'ible.

xboxfox (author)2010-03-19

 CRYS! i broke the tail off mine when i was cutting! lucky i cut a few pieces 
im so close to finishing and it looks good! +1000000000000000000 for this

nepheron (author)xboxfox2010-03-20
 Thanks! Do you have any Photos of your work? Check out these carvings, they are another on of my simple designs.
annoyinglylogical (author)2010-03-18

If you cut the fish ribs into more prongs, you could have a decent comb!

 LOL That's something I'll have to try!

BeanGolem (author)2010-03-18

 Do you have pictures of any experiments with other "species" of fish? 

nepheron (author)BeanGolem2010-03-18

 hmm...I have fish carved from coconut shell.

lemonie (author)2010-03-18

Like sailor-craft?
Really super.


nepheron (author)lemonie2010-03-18

Sailor-craft? What's that?

lemonie (author)nepheron2010-03-18

Old sailors, scrimshaw, whale bones / walrus tusks and that.


nepheron (author)lemonie2010-03-18

 Oh, ok! Thanks!

munik (author)2010-03-18

Could you use any bone? Like from pork roasts and such?

If so, do you have to dry or cure them, or could you use them right away?

nepheron (author)munik2010-03-18

 Any bone will do!
If your using fresh bones with grease or meat in them, you'll need to clean and dry them.

Tool Using Animal (author)2010-03-18

Very nice, but please emphasize the wisdom of wearing a respirator while sanding bone.

nickodemus (author)2010-03-18

Very nice, these would make some interesting necklaces. Somebody needs to feature this 'ible! Great job!

nickodemus (author)nickodemus2010-03-18

Okay, now I see that it is featured. I didn't see it before.

nepheron (author)nickodemus2010-03-18

I love being featured! :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Travelling since 2013. I'm currently in Australia for some reason. --- I’m Calvin Drews, and I love to learn, experiment, invent, create, repair, and ... More »
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