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Etching and installing parts in shells? Answered

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So I'm trying to make a music box. I bought a 15 note hand crank mechanism I want to install into an 8 inch nautilus shell. I also want to etch the outside of the shell like in the photo. I've never worked with shells like this before and I obviously don't want to shatter it. What tools would I need to do this? What should I be careful of? Anyone with experience working with shells advice would be appreciated. :)

3 Replies

iceng (author)2017-03-20

I used this in my rock carving class, its variable speed and available through Harbor Freight item 43533 for $38.. They also sell these bits.

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iceng (author)iceng2017-03-20

BTW you could practice on an ostrich egg fragment...

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Josehf Murchison (author)2017-03-20

I have carved Sea shells to make jewelry for a lot of years.

Hand tools only like this.


If you don't want to make your own hand drill Bangood has a nice one.


Fine files like needle files.


Take your time; and if you can, do it outside, sea shells smell like burnt bone as you work them.

I assume you are going to try to cut into the side of the nautilus and place the music box mechanism inside of the shell.

Even the finest hack saw blade is too course to cut sea shells without chipping, with needle file sets there are a couple files you can use like a saw, and don't try to cut the shell like a wood board. Work your way into the shell as if you were cutting a board from the side, not the edge.

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