Introduction: How to Carve Bone Into Jewlery

Picture of How to Carve Bone Into Jewlery

In this instructable I will be teaching you how to carve bone into tribal pendants, or anything really.
Carving bone is a cheap fun hobby that takes up a lot of time. After just a few days you may be able to make something impressive. But as I understand it takes many years to master.

Step 1: Tools and Materials You Will Need

Picture of Tools and Materials You Will Need

You will absolutely need these items
And a dremel with a diamond bit, a drill bit, and sanding bits with sand paper .

To make better designs you will also need:
Sand paper 300, (600, 1000 are optional. I don't have any and will explain what to do if you don't have any either)
A jewelers saw with the coarsest blade you can find
1 needle files (The one is the coarseness of the file)
a tooth brush
Baking soda
and a Linen towel

Step 2: Find Insperation

Picture of Find Insperation

To find ideas for designs I look at, tribal tattoo's  and other peoples work.

Then I enter GIMP and draw my design and print it out. (If like 15 people request it I will make a GIMP tutorial on how to make templates.)

Then I get ready to carve

I recommend that beginners start off making harpoon tips to get used to the material and tools they are using.

Step 3: Trace Your Template on Your Bone.

Picture of Trace Your Template on Your Bone.

Trace your template on your bone!

Step 4: Start Making Your "Blank"

Picture of Start Making Your "Blank"

1. Sand down the edges of the bone until it is flat.

2. Cut out your pater roughly using the jewelery saw leaving about 3/4 a centimeter around your pattern.

3. Round off the edges of the blank carefully with the dremel and sandpaper bit 

Step 5: Add the Rest of Your Patern

Picture of Add the Rest of Your Patern

I drew  a little wave inside the pendant by removing negative space.

Step 6: Drill Holes Into the Area That Needs to Be Removed

Picture of Drill Holes Into the Area That Needs to Be Removed

Drill a hole into the area that needs to be removed and then insert the saw blade in the hole.

Step 7: Cut Out the Space.

Cut out the space.

Step 8: Sand Baby, Sand!

Picture of Sand Baby, Sand!

Sand all the edges with 300 grit sandpaper.
If you have needle files clean up the edges and round them out, you can also use the diamond dremel bit to do this but it often looks very sloppy.

Step 9: Now Make It Bling.

Picture of Now Make It Bling.

Sand the pendent with the 600 and 1000 grit sandpaper.

If you don't have the sand paper you can use this method.
Mix baking soda with water and then shake it up. 

Pour the mixture out on the linen towel and put your pendant in the middle.

fold the mixture over the pendant and rub it between your hands for about a half hour.

Step 10: Put It on a Necklace or Key Fob... Whatever You Want.

Picture of Put It on a Necklace or Key Fob... Whatever You Want.

By now you should have a pendant :)

Tips and Tricks 
Step Three: Add more space depending on how sharp you want your edges to be.

Step Five: Draw your pattern smaller than you want it to be to avoid messing it up.

Step Six: Work slowly cutting out this pattern took me an hour and a half... and thats because i was rushing which caused me to break five saw blades.

Step Nine: This one is for cheaters only, after your pendant is flawless coat it with a a few layers of clear nail paint and then carefully sand that down to make your pendant extremely shiny. 



Toa676 (author)2011-10-16

For all of you that are starting up, all these tools to start up if you are in the US you can get the majority of the hand tools from Harbor Freight. Needle files, large regular hand files, to substitute the Jewelers saw you can get a coping saw. Almost exactly the the same except the Jewelers blades are much thinner and for finer cuts. Practicing with the coping saw before buying the other one, would be the best way. The Dremels are the best to get, kind of expensive Harbor Freight has a cheaper version more economical if you're starting out. And the burr kits at harbor freight are way cheaper with the same or more of variety of burrs that can help you speed up the process of carving bones. The burrs are the technical term for the little tips you put into the Dremel or what ever kind you're using to help carve the bones. As for where to get your bones the local butcher at your grocery store if you ask will give them to you, or a meat processor these are the places that pre- process the meat before coming to the grocery store. The local one here said I could have as much as I wanted. We're talking like full femur's with knuckles, only problem they still have tendons, meat ,hair etc. to be cleaned by you. There's sites that give you the ways to clean those. If, you need design ideas put bone carving in as a search you'll be amazed at what you see. I'm Polynesian most of the designs you'll see are Maori ( Natives of New Zealand ) designs. Many of them have special and specific meanings, my family is from another Island and my designs are focusing to the natives from our Island ( Tonga ). Hopefully this will help those of you that are starting out, I wished I had as much information as I have provided for you, I have more info just ask ? See ya

LyndaF8 (author)2017-06-25

Hi there, you don't seem to explain where to get the bone. Are there ready made 'blanks' you can buy or do you go to the butchers and ask for bones which then have to be cleaned? I'm in New Zealand and would like to know if 'blanks' can be bought here. Thanks.


kate.oboyle1 (author)2014-12-01

Hello everyone,

I'm having a tough time trying to just find the uncarved bone pieces. I've tried everywhere including fire mountain gems since they usually have everything...does anyone know a supplier that sells the bone uncarved so that I can make my own designs? Thanks for any support : D

artgalaxy1 (author)kate.oboyle12016-03-29

go to a pet store and look for dog bones, often they will have exactly what you need

FlorinJ (author)kate.oboyle12016-03-20

Maybe late, but for people who will read this in the future:

You can make your own, provided you can get beef shin pieces from your butcher.

Quick thing is to clean as much meat and tendons and cartilage and marrow away manually as you can. Then you can either simmer them for a few hours, until what's left on them starts to easily come off, or leave them out in the grass for a few days or weeks, and let ants and bacteria do the work.

Either way, you then need to remove any remaining grease. Either you simmer them some more, while changing water frequently, or you leave them in a bath of lukewarm water and dish soap, completely covered, and change water frequently. You should continue with either process until no more grease accumulates at the top of the water. Once de-greased, you should have some nice, white, dense, non-spongy pieces of bone to carve.

The older the cow/ox/bull, the larger and harder the bone.

I'm specifically mentioning shin pieces because the bone there is dense and uniform, allowing you to produce some nicely sized plates, some 1 x 2 x 1/4 inches in size, or even larger.

It is important to simmer the bones on low heat, not boil them. Boiling will fixate grease and other organic residue in the bone, instead of flushing it out. It will also make the bone a lot more fragile.

After all that boiling, the bone might become somewhat rigid and fragile, prone to splitting and breaking, so you need to be gentle and careful when carving. (Then again, any process removing organic matter from the bone will have the same effect.)

Mind you, the broth resulting from the first boil, if you go with simmering from the get go, also constitutes a great starting point for a nice soup, or any cooking endeavor requiring meat broth.

Alternatively, you could buy Tagua nuts off Amazon. They're also called vegetal ivory. You wouldn't have such large pieces to carve, but still large enough for earrings or pendants. Someone (I think here on ibles) also published a tutorial of making a bracelet from Tagua nuts.

ArticAkita (author)kate.oboyle12015-01-13

If you are just having a time finding clean bone in general, just go to a good petstore, they have bone chunks not busted up pieces. Also Petco miiiight have what you arel looking for save clean out the cheese filler first. :) I have made my own bone blanks the hard way collect the discarded fresh often meaty & messy (not to gross out the more sensitive of you all out there!) one thing nobody mentions in these kind of instructables is with wet bone will crack up letting it just air dry! If I had a good working camra I'd maske my own instructable about cleaning bones for projects like this!

annieennui (author)2016-03-09

This might be a stupid question, but are elk antlers the same as elk "bone"?

xanxor (author)annieennui2016-03-10

They are not, however the antler material is excellent for carving.

Photohawk (author)2015-08-31

In regard to bone dust, check out, paloemanjim on youtube. He uses a fan to gently blow the dust away from his work area. He discusses it in part 1 of his flint knapping beginners video. My son and i just started a creative journey of knapping and carving. Learning all i can on line. Nice instructable, Thanks!!!!!

laurie.mumm (author)2015-03-16

One source of clean bones when starting out is Petco which has sterilized cow bone intended for dog chews. I've also seen them on Amazon as well under dog bones.

ArticAkita (author)2015-01-13

Dr.Foster & Smith pet catalog usually carries sawed off cleaned bones you can use! To obtain bones ready to carve on, treeline carving catalog sells reagdy to carve on bone blanks reletively cheap also all the carving & sanding goodies you could want with wishing you had them NOW! also hobby shops might have the coping saws & blades too.

scrapy magoo (author)2011-10-11

are the files seperate to the dremmel or do they attach? does it make a difference how fresh the bone is?
i got some good bits and some burnt bits still waiting for the fleshybones to settle...

xanxor (author)scrapy magoo2011-10-11

separate. they are jewlers file, if you can get diamond ones at 0 or 00 coarseness. they are kinda expensive tough. what you'll need most are a ound file a half round and a flat file.

I used a cow bone from pet-co. I think that you might want to use sun bleached bones if possible. or boiled and bleached ones

(please wear a respirator)

Aunt Jane (author)xanxor2014-11-06

I went to the local Meat market and told them I wanted large leg bones. They cut them on their saw to manageable lengths. Then you have to clean and degrease!

kate.oboyle1 (author)Aunt Jane2014-12-01

So Jane in order to get bone I should go to my local butcher? Hahah I'm an artist and I've done probably every single art type possible, except this one and I love the necklaces so I wanted to get into it. I've been making them out of wood but I can't find bone samples anywhere..any tips?

-Katie Bizz

Aunt Jane (author)kate.oboyle12014-12-01

In some places finding a real butcher that actually cuts up beef carcases may be difficult. I've been told that moose bones are good but haven't managed to get one yet! Cleaning the bone and soaking it in detergent/degreaser is what I've been doing and then if it isn't white enough I've used chlorine bleach but most experts say not to. One website suggested soaking in an ammonia/water solution. I don't think you are supposed to boil. Just experiment! The bones I used to buy my dog at Petco have flavor added so I don't think they are a great idea.

I use my Dremel tool on it BTW

You might also try Targua nuts (vegetable ivory). Smaller pieces and very hard but pretty! this is one source - have fun! - or - -

kate.oboyle1 (author)2014-12-01

Hello everyone,

I'm having a tough time trying to just find the uncarved bone pieces. I've tried everywhere including fire mountain gems since they usually have everything...does anyone know a supplier that sells the bone uncarved so that I can make my own designs? Thanks for any support : D

bonealert (author)2014-03-26

Would you use the dremel to cut through the bone from one side to the other? I'd like to go through a bone lengthwise.


bstragier made it! (author)2014-01-29

I made a moon pendant! awesome instructible!
One thing i did different was using dremmel grinding piece to get the rounded edges faster then went back and cleaned it up with sandpaper.

hnrmcfadden (author)2012-01-17

Where/how do you get your bones? What advice would you offer in picking a bone.

xanxor (author)hnrmcfadden2012-01-18

Petco, petsmart ect. the bone I used was a cow femur

they very greatly try and find own the the maximum amount of thick reasonably fat pieces
(please wear a respirator)

cwix09 (author)2011-04-16

Are jewelry saws different then normal saws?

xanxor (author)cwix092011-10-11

yes, they are a lot smaller and are made to cut corners

Skwaab (author)2011-02-06

I noticed whilst dremeling it, the smell isnt too bad.

Smells like cheesy dorito's. And for the dust, its not too much of a problem, thats what mucus is for.

xanxor (author)Skwaab2011-02-07

Not really bone dust is horrible on your lungs up there with asbestos and that crap. It's your choice to wear a mask or something, but I'd recommend it.

ParadoxBoy33 (author)2010-12-23

get a rotisserie motor and some alligator clips and get some of the long drying 2-ton epoxy. its better than nail polish and will seal the bone, making it non porous and ensuring it will stay white. putting it on the rotisserie motor while the stuff dries will ensure an even coat. 2 ton epoxy is extremely tough. i use it on fishing lures.

jtobako (author)2010-04-11

Did the file get dull or just filled with bone dust?  If all the grooves are full of white stuff that won't come out, use the edge of a penny or a brass brush (or even a steel one, but it will wear the file out more quickly) to push the bone dust out of the groves.  Let the 'teeth' of the file bite into the penny, and push the length of the tooth rather than the length of the file to clean them out.

ParadoxBoy33 (author)jtobako2010-12-23

could use one of the rubber file cleaning blocks. those work pretty righteously..

xanxor (author)jtobako2010-04-11

no all the ridges are nill i use a tooth brush to clean my files.

jtobako (author)xanxor2010-04-12

I don't think a toothbrush is going to be aggressive enough to dig out the compacted bone dust.

xanxor (author)jtobako2010-04-12

It is. i can see my file like i said the ridges are flat, it has the grinding capacity of a normal piece of steel.

Bodygard1117 (author)2010-11-28

i like this setp. no pictures. four words say it all =)

xanxor (author)Bodygard11172010-11-29

It's kind of hard to take a picture of yourself holding a 1bit jewelers saw without breaking something. XD

flyingwaya (author)2010-04-17

don't make soup with it or it will lock in some of the fat. It's best if you slowly decrease it with a fish heater and soapy (Dawn ) water. I use a 100wt under water fish heater. Thats the best way to get a nice white bone, I know cause I'm trained to do taxidermy. I hope this will help you clean you nexted bone you get to work on.

xanxor (author)flyingwaya2010-04-19

i only need the knuckle to make soup. a about an inch of femur.

flyingwaya (author)2010-04-15

Where can someone buy the bone to make in jewelry.

xanxor (author)flyingwaya2010-04-15

Um you can get some nice pearly white sterilized bone at most pet stores that have dog toys. make sure to look for a femur with lots of thick flat spots as these are the best to carve. I'm currently in the market for a nice big leg to try and sterilize myself... (after i make soup with it)

About This Instructable




More by xanxor:How to Carve Bone Into Jewlery
Add instructable to: