Bone Carving Resources – The Studio Tapu Book List

From time to time people contact me through my website asking how to go about making their own bone carving. Unfortunately unless you come from New Zealand or a Pacific Island there just are not that many resources available. So going forward I will post any and all bone carving related resources I come across and here are a few I have already found. Some of the books are hard to find but not impossible.

Bone Carving – A Skillbase of Techniques and Concepts by Stephen Myhre

This book is essentially the Bone Carving Bible. It sets a precedent for quality of craftsmanship and it will walk you through step by step how to prepare the bone, what tools to use and how to approach traditional Maori motifs without offending anyone. It is the kind of book you keep on hand when carving as a reference if you ever get stuck or forget what cleaning agent to use and so on. I recommend this book to anyone interested in bone carving be they beginner or advanced.

Scrimshaw Techniques by Jim Stevens

Not essentially a bone carving book but it does cover some bone preparation techniques relevant to bone carving. For anyone interested in scrimshaw it is a great resource. I enjoyed reading about the history of this art form and I hope to incorporate some scrimshaw into my own work at some point.

Manawa Pacific Heartbeat – A Celebration of Contemporary Maori and Northwest Coast Art by Nigel Reading and Gary Wyatt

This book covers the art of contemporary artists from Maori, Inuit and native American backgrounds. The unique cultures actually have a lot in common through their artwork which is commonly carved wood and bone amongst other mediums. Its great to see these artists getting some recognition for their skills.

Deer Antler – Practice

A couple years ago I was exploring and experimenting with different types of bone and I picked up this deer antler at a Native American market. However, it was so cool, I was reluctant to carve it and so it just hung out in my Studio awkwardly taking up space and it was good inspiration for the small antler pieces I made. Now that I have a new set of gravers though, I am going to get in there and see what happens with this thing. The bone/horn is a little different and it feels softer to cut into. Like the cow bone it is hollow on the inside except for this flaky horn stuff you can see in the last photo. I’m not really sure what to carve out of it and I think it will end up just being a learning experience rather than a piece of art but we’ll see how it goes. I’ll post the results later on.

Bone Carving Gravers by Ian Thorne – Master Bone Carver

I have known for some time that gravers are a very handy tool in bone carving and some might say crucial for detailing but I have always gotten by working with files and power-tools. Lately I haven become more ambitious in my designs and also a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to do some things I would have liked to have been able to do so I started looking into gravers. First, I tried some old chisels I had and didn’t get very far although I am certain I have seen a guy carve huge chunks of bone using a chisel like it was no big deal! Next I ordered some micro-wood gravers from a model-making company and it didn’t take too long to blunt the points on those. Finally, I found a set of bone carving specific gravers on Master Bone Carver Ian Thorne’s website

I had a little play around with them the other day and I was pleased to find they worked really well. It was slow going at first as I have no idea how to use them properly but after a bit I started getting into the rhythm and I was able to make several deep cuts into a piece of sample bone. I pulled out an old piece I had been working on of a antique key that I had become frustrated with because I couldn’t get the corners straight and I was able to use the gravers to get all those details worked out within minutes. The potential uses for gravers seems infinite right now and I am very excited to come up with some new designs that challenge my current approach to carving.

The gravers cost around a $100 NZ and they are well worth the money as the metal itself is quite expensive. They have a nice weight to them compared to the wood-gravers I was using and Ian has put them together really well with nice wooden handles. Suffice to say, I’m stoked!

Thanks Ian, your the best!!!

Studio Tapu space as of March 2013

Some shots of Studio Tapu as of 2013. The jar is full of bone dust from 2012. Consider it an offering to the bone carving gods. The Muppet lunchbox is my carrying case for when I walk down to the dog-park to carve and the picture of the Maori chief with moko (facial tattoos) is a Goldie print I stole from my Nana (sorry Nana). My studio space is not very large right now so everything has its place and if it doesn’t belong in Studio Tapu I get rid of it.

Unicorn Horn – Bone Carving 2013

This is only the second Unicorn Horn bone carving I have made so far but I like it a lot. Both of the Unicorn Horns are for sale at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in the Gift Store along with a few other designs I have in there or you can buy them on the website

The horn is about 2 inches long and 1/3 of an inch wide. Two lines spiral down towards the tip and I try to show a little grain/texture in these. We have them on sterling silver chains at either 18 or 24 inches.