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What creative things do you do with bones?  RSS feed

 
gardener
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I have a confession to make - I love dead things.

Okay, more like death byproducts, but I'm coming to realize that this isn't a morbid thing. Macabre though it may sound, I am just fascinated by what you can get from an animal besides meat. The past few years I've been slowly teaching myself the old way to tan hides, and as I begin to figure out what I'm doing more and more, I'm hoping to actually have some brain-tanned hides that aren't stiff as a board to use around the house soon.

It's just amazing what people throw out. I live in a very hunting-centric community, and we have an unofficial 'carcass dump' up the road, where there's a nice little ditch/ravine that hunters will cast off remainders of animals. It's a steep drop into it, and I'm not sure that I could get safely down and out, but I'm kind of dying to get into the death ditch and go bone hunting.

In the past, I've gotten some cast off hides to experiment with, but my sites lately have turned to bone - bone is beautiful. When I go out to forage or cut wood, I inevitably stumble upon the sun bleached remains of some poor creature that has since been consumed back into the earth, and I just find what's left behind so stunning.


How cool am I in these safety goggles? In my early days, I got sick of stripping membrane from an elk hide and took a grinding wheel to it. I would not recommend it.

I went out to cut fence posts last week, and came back with a massive and gorgeously intact bull skull from my grandparent's ranch that had been left in a field after one of their cow's had succumbed to some sort of injury. It's currently hanging on an old outbuilding, looking beautiful.

The year before we had our son, a nearby hunter literally gave me a whole frozen raccoon in a grocery bag - he'd trapped it to train his hunting dogs, and wound up never needing it. So I thawed it out, strung it up, gutted and skinned it, and brain tanned the hide, which I promptly turned into the world's stiffest coon skin hat (because I am one seriously lazy hide breaker). My husband still cringes when I wear that thing - let me tell you, raccoons are smelly critters to skin, and even though it's odorless now, I think he's still haunted by the memories of my skinning that thing in the wood room



My husband thinks I'm a total weirdo, and just laughs and shakes his head every time I bring home the unspeakable. I came home with a tiny Jeep packed with fenceposts, a sheepdog, and a toddler, with a bull skull lashed to the roof, and he wasn't remotely surprised.

Yesterday I was out gathering more materials though, and I stumbled across more beautiful sun bleached bones - at least two animals, small deer. The jaw bones in particular were very clear, and I had to resist every urge to gather them up and take them home, because here's the thing - what can I do with them?

I have a toddler around - dead animal parts need to be quickly cleaned, processed, and serve a purpose. I would love to create some badass jewelry, or a comb, or something, but I have no clue how to process them safely, what the old methods were -

Does anyone have any experience with processing bones into things that are sanitary, beautiful, and functional?
 
pollinator
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I once made my own woggle as a boy scout out of fur and lamb bones . And I know folks who use bones in making musical instruments
But more seriously you take care near that bone dump , it sounds like a place where Mr Bear amongst others might hang out you never know .

David
 
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Many years ago when I was weaving full time and making garments, I made bone buttons for the jackets. I used fresh cow leg bone (back when you could still get that at the butcher shop) and cut with a hacksaw to shape...drilled the holes and used a small file to smooth while set in a padded vice. Later, after drying a bit, I used a rock tumbler to really soften the edges. I loved them and don't have any of my own except maybe a small toggle on a vest somewhere.

Downside....the smell is almost nauseating when cutting and filing.

I don't know how older bone would work, maybe if not too weathered so it is weakened, it would be fine.
The fresh bone buttons would stay glossy and smooth as they aged.

EDIT to add pictures...found the vest and they are not toggles like I thought I remembered, but an example of leg bone buttons.....
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pollinator
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I sometimes use bones in decorative crafts.

More of my stuff: http://imagination-heart.deviantart.com/gallery/33561114/mixed-media
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Destiny Hagest
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Judith Browning wrote:Downside....the smell is almost nauseating when cutting and filing.



YES. One day I got curious and tried to make plug earrings out of a big molar, and man, that was quite a smell.

I dunno though, still not as bad as skinning a raccoon I think working in a vet's office for a few years has toughened me to disgusting smells though
 
Destiny Hagest
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I sometimes use bones in decorative crafts.

More of my stuff: http://imagination-heart.deviantart.com/gallery/33561114/mixed-media



That is so freaking cool!

We made a snow witch doctor one winter with a busted up cow skull I found - stuck him in the corner of our yard facing the road I don't think our neighbors were very amused.



I'm not nearly creative enough to create art though, how cool!
 
garden master
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I have a toddler around - dead animal parts need to be quickly cleaned, processed, and serve a purpose.



Find a ant hill that is out of the way, where your toddler will not roam, put your bones on the ant hill and let the ants clean it for you. It may not be as quick as you want but they will do the job.
 
pollinator
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I don't know that one can apply the term "creative" to this, but I recently started using the shoulder blade from some smallish critter (lamb? veal calf? pig? Our dog [and kids] finds and brings up all sorts of bone goodies to leave scattered around the yard) as a feed scoop for filling poultry feed troughs. Works especially well with soaked grain mash. I'd post a pic, but, really, it's just a shoulder blade.
 
pollinator
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I suppose the question is about crafting with bones, but my first thought was soil fertility.

Bone meal, bone char, water-soluble Calcium Phosphate, biodynamics, etc.

My next thought was nutrition, bone broth, and so on.

I'd need a serious excess of bones before my mind got around to handcrafts.
 
gardener
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I've saved some cow bones so I can try to make flutes like these:



I attempted one from a goat bone two weeks but couldn't get it to whistle.

I also am going to use portions of them for guitar nuts and saddles. I know I can make guitars.

When I was a teenager, I used a big leg bone from a dog to make the handle of a knife. The blade was made from a ground-down file, then I carved the handle to fit and epoxied it together. It looked decent, though it wasn't a work of fine art.
 
steward
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chandelier?
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Sedlec
 
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Hmm... "creative". I don't have a creative bone in my body and rush to the more utilitarian. Road kills are something I feed to my chickens, but then, there are these bones ... and they stink! We do have ants, lots of them, and they will clean these bones lickety split. [well, weeks, actually]
I'd like to find a good way to grind bones to use on my garden beds as organic fertilizer, or make some of the grindings available to my chickens as feed: With all the eggs they are laying, they need all the calcium they can use. I have a meat grinder, a good one [one Hp.] but I don't want to bust a $500 grinder either. There is always a maul, I suppose.
Suggestions welcome.
 
pollinator
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I love this thread. Successes and fails on my part.  Along with ideas i havent pursued yet. Always tinkering and thinking.

Years and years ago a squirell got  electrocuted in a transformer. I heard the boom and went to check it out. I proceeded to skin it and boil it to get the bones. Then the wife came home and the project was... ummm.... abandoned. The plan was to get the bones, then glue them back together in a form  equivalent to a man showing off his arm muscles. It "was" gonna go in an aquarium. She has made progress since then. Lol. I think i wore her down.

I made a blackpowder holder from a cow horn. Whittled a wood cap that was tacked on, then bone as a bottom plug.

Blackpowder bag with bone clasp. Someone made the bag, i finished it out with dyes and bone.

Invertebrates are interesting. At some point i want to use them as slides on a beard. Picture a couple of them ponytailing a beard in viking style. Would be cool as is or shape them.


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gardener
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I wish i had a picture of the chimes I made out of a deer's ribs.  They clicked together in the breeze outside my old cabin.  The weight in the center was a bunch of vertebrae strung on a cord.
 
pollinator
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Destiny, grab Dem bones and string them up in the trees.
The bugs,squirls and birds will find them,but it's a cool creepy place to stash them.
The easiest way to use bones is making bone char.
You don't lose any mineral content and it crushes easily.
A mealworm colony would be great at cleaning up the bones for crafts.
If you want to score some cash, think gaming conventions, and make weapons and armor.
They can be entirely non-funtional, as long as they are cool looking.
Take any knife give it a new bone handle,maybe resculpt the blade with a side grinder or Dremel, blacken it with fire and display them a few a a time.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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When I was in my early 20's, in the 90's, I was a bicycle courier in Vancouver, B.C.  I had found a raccoon skeleton at a garage sale.  I took the skull and mounted it on the front of my bike helmet.  It was meant to freak out the suits.  I've matured a little since then.  ;)
 
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I personally would like a set of bone sewing needles, crochet hooks, hair combs/sticks, small containers, other tools.
this site is got some good bone ideas.

https://www.woodland-ways.co.uk/blog/primitive-crafts/bone-a-forgotten-resource/

maybe do bone game pieces?
 
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I'm slowly building a craft business as part of my drive toward self-sufficiency. A lot of the things I make contain bone and/or antler. This link should take you to a folder on my cloud, where you can see knives, combs, needles, needle cases etc.
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1033T8-OwGIBp0kPqGrEa4_uhh95h2DZe
 
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When you talk about creative use of bone, I think of Dan Phillips -- http://www.phoenixcommotion.com/portfolio-item/bone-house/
 
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Tony, you have some beautiful pieces there!
 
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You've probably heard of the "bone sauce" by that German guy what'shisface. He boils (roasts?) Bones in this inverted two-pot thing, where the fire's on top and the catchment is below, catching this unspeakably awful muck, which I think then he even lets rot after that, so you get, like, liquid evil. Then he paints it around the trunks of his fruit trees and deer won't bother them for absolutely ever. I'll bet they're real sorry for everything they've ever done and a few things they didn't.

I'll think of his name right after I get off here, I'm sure of it. Quite famous.

I have an unusual, er, advantage--I am part owner of three ramen shops, so I have this permanent waterfall of stock scrap, solid sixty pounds of pork bones per batch, as often as I deign to carry them. Clumping out under the trees with a straining trashbag of spoiled meat and bone slop dripping down the back of your pants and legs and into your shoes is an investment. But the chickens and ducks (over 100) pounce on it, reducing my feed bill. Layer feed is around 20 percent protein. Using stock scrap allows me to buy corn which is significantly less money.

The bones just lay there. I'm sure there's some long term consequence just lurking behind the curtain, my flock will be slaughtered by dragons...but I haven't seen them yet. The bones just lay there, I'm a little embarrassed to say. I don't clean them up, nada. So there are skulls and jawbones and teeth and shit just littering the ground everywhere like an Indiana Jones movie. Maybe PETA will get me before the dragons do.

I try to dump the buckets at the bases of trees. I have literally thousands of small mesquites. The slop comes with a considerable dose of fat, which soaks the ground.

How do mesquite trees feel about pork fat? Hell if I know, but I figured pork juice, nitrogen, sticky fatty stuff keeps moisture in the ground maybe--I dunno. If they can't drink it directly then somebody else will that poops or dies, and then they can drink that.

Guess I'm not real scientific around here.

In a kabillion years the bones will be a soil additive if left to their own devices. And if you think I'm going to swing a sledgehammer and crack them bones into nice fine bone meal you're better off betting on the dragons.  

In another thread I titled "My Insane Compost" I talk through my half-baked butterfly-wing logic if you're into that.
 
Anne Miller
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Michael, thanks for bringing up the Bone Sauce.  That is a good use for bones.  Here is the recipe:

Sepp-Holzer-recipe  Bone Sauce

Here is a thread about results:

https://permies.com/t/71424/Sepp-Holzer-bone-salve-sauce
 
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I'm surprised that this thread hasn't had a proper discussion of using the bones as a fertiliser. They are an excellent source of the "P" in NPK fertilisers (phosporous).

All that is needed is a way to break up the bone structure so that they can be spread on the soil, or added to compost. And making bone meal would not need bones of any particularly good quality, such as those that could be used for carving.
 
Michael Sohocki
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Yeah yeah! That guy!
 
gardener
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I have made Rib bone knives, bird wing bone whistles, buttons, and currently use bone to make guitar nuts and saddles and tuner knobs.
Bone needles are in our primitive kit that we take to powwows too, they are great for stitching new rawhide soles on the moccasins or repairing other regalia, and they are the correct tool for that work as well.

I also make bone meal from cooked bone, this goes in the gardens and around the fruit trees and some is fed to the hogs and chickens.

Redhawk
 
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First thought is make a fetish necklace. You don't need to be creative/artistic, just google images until you find images of fetish necklaces using beads, carved stones, etc...that you really like and copy that pattern with small bones and teeth mixed in.  I wouldn't worry about making the bones "safe" unless they are human and could possibly transmit diseases from the flesh, just lay them out in the sun or near an ant mound (professionals use ants to clean bones, then they bleach them) and drill holes in them.

Other thoughts are creepy wind chimes reminiscent of some hillbilly axe murders house in the woods or possibly odd standing skeletons featuring a skull and various bones to ward off trespassers.

But since you love all things death related a fetish necklace would be my first choice:


 
gardener
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I wish I had pictures of some bone art I made years ago. Visualize this...
Smooth pieces of wood base (like driftwood, but from out it the desert.) Sun dried cow vertebrae, set up so they make a hole. Small cactus planted in the hole (maybe 1.5 inch high, cute ones.)  Different ones had different decor: small fake quail (real feathers, bought cheap at an art supply store, I didn't make them,) a hawk on top of a tailbone piece, bunnies along the side, etc. The effect was of weird mesas in the desert, that looked big due to the little cacti and itty animals. Cool effect, fun use of bones from the desert.

The property I bought used to have llamas living on it, and has a rowdy deer population. I bring any bones I find up to the barn, I have about a 5 gallon bucket full now, I'll do something neat with them one of these days. Hard to tell llama bones from deer, some I'm sure are deer, some I'm not sure of at all, and may be llama. Coolest is a full skull, most disturbing is a thighbone that is exactly the same size and shape as mine... Oh dear.
 
Anne Miller
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I don't do anything creative with bones though our hunters leave us an unlimited supply.

I have these hanging from the limbs of cedar trees on my patio:







A town in Texas came up with a use for antlers - a Christmas Tree:

 
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