How To: Carving Bone

By Woodrow Savage ; Updated April 12, 2017
Bone art is often intricate.

Bone carving dates back to the early Stone Age, and many people still use bones to create tools, statues, jewelry and other items. Camel and cow bones are commonly used for carving, but you can carve a bone from just about any animal. First, prepare the bone for carving by cleaning it and creating a design. Then carve the bone, which includes using a knife, chisels, sandpaper and a drill to shape the bone into the finished product.

Preparation

Sketch a design you want to make out of animal bone, and visualize how the design will look in 3-D.

Obtain an animal bone, and cut it to the appropriate size for your project with a coping saw.

Scrape and clean the bone with a table knife. Remove all excess tissue and marrow from the bone.

Soak the bone for 24 hours in a plastic container containing 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of bleach and 1 cup of laundry detergent.

Rinse the bone and let it air dry.

Place a leather mat on a large, flat surface. This will serve as your workspace.

Outline the design on a cutting board or a piece of paper.

Carving the bone

Create the bone into the shape you want by using an etching knife to cut off pieces you don't need and 100-grit sandpaper to smooth rough edges so the bone resembles the shape of the outline you drew.

Carve the bone with engraving chisels while referring to your sketched design. Use smaller chisels if you are working with a small bone or are carving an intricate design, and use larger chisels if you are working with a large bone or are carving a simple design.

Sand the bone to smooth the surface and remove the scratch marks left by the chisels. Start with 100-grit sand paper, switch to 150-grit sandpaper and finish with 220-grit sandpaper.

Polish the carving with a small hand drill with a 600-grit drill bit.

Things Needed

  • Coping saw
  • Table knife
  • Plastic container
  • 1 cup bleach
  • 1 cup laundry detergent
  • 2 quarts water
  • Leather mat
  • Cutting board
  • Etching knife
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Engraving chisels
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Small hand drill
  • 600-grit drill bit
  • Safety goggles

Tip

Bones for carving are often available at pet stores and butcher shops. Leg bones are generally thick and ideal for large projects.

Warning

Always wear safety goggles when carving bone. Be very careful when using sharp tools.

About the Author

Woodrow Savage has been contributing to daily and weekly newspapers since 2008. He has served as a reporter, copy editor and photographer for publications such as the "Montana Kaimin." Savage is completing his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Montana.