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Cutting (any) IVORY .. ..

It is all done in the same exact simple manner. Make a slice that is 3/16th’s of an inch thick. At first learn how to cut 1/4″ slices; Then you can sand each side for a brilliant smooth finish with no scratches of any type.  This piece of large mastodon ivory was sent to us; by a person from City-Data who trusted us.  This piece would have cost about $400 to purchase.  That person just wanted to give it to us. but we said we would make some bracelets & ear-rings. We agreed to do it all – for free – and send the results back to that person who has shown faith & trust in us.  Another purpose we thought of – was to post all the steps for people who want to really learn how simple it is to make outrageous money from home.

Learning how to cut STRAIGHT is a must  to practice & learn;  We will post photos here of how we slice exact slices every time with no ruler or lines or measurements! Learn to use your “eyes”.. Click on the photo; and notice; he is using his thumbnail to rest the saw blade against for the start of the  cut;   But at first; make marks 1/4 ” of an inch apart apart on a piece of ivory and then begin to cut them straight.  Don’t waste your time by making just one cut at a time; You will not learn squat using that method;  But instead make many cuts and work them all down (at once). THEN you will BEGIN to NOTICE;  how to cut perfectly straight perfect slices every time.  “There are no shortcuts to practice”! This is time consuming & boring, there are no two ways about it;  Using an electric saw or other electric method will not produce the same results,  Unless you have quite the setup – learn how to use a coping saw & a dremel.  Those are really the only two tools you need to make outrageous money working from home – keeping busy !! The whole idea is to pack ONE BOX full of ear-ring boxes that are full = 100 pair of various styles – shapes & materials. If you have inventory you are going to make money!  There are many ‘hot-spots” for making  sales in the State of Alaska.  The #1 spot in this whole state is believe it or not- Juneau when the tour ships arrive. Valdez is another spot also.  But without any doubt for year -round sales – The villages are the best place to sell your crafts to locals !! Native women collect IVORY – of all types.  Ear-rings & bracelets are their favorite(s) to purchase.

Using a coping saw, move it back and forth slowly and pick up momentum; make sure you do not apply pressure to the saw or blade. Just let it rest on the ivory and draq it back and forth – let the blade do the cutting as you hold the handle loosely in your hand. This is going to take “hours” depending on what size the piece of Ivory your working with is.  Once you have 1/2 a dozen slices or so; Now you can begin the next ‘boring’ step. It really depends on the size of the piece you are working with; this piece of fossil ivory only cost us $50 bucks.  It has decent colors and is only 5 inches long  x about 1 inch tall. So slicing up this entire piece would not take that much time. About 10 pairs of ear-rings that sell for $ 50 bucks each = $500 bucks – ten times more than what you paid for it.  That has been our observations when ever we spend money on ivory. Ear-rings are by far the easiest product to create. Absolutely no waste of any ivory.  Just cut the slices,  Each pair is a different size (usually) depending on the shape of the ivory itself. Cut the slices;  round (smooth) the edges; drill a 1/16th hole in the top to super glue the stud into.  Polish to a brilliant shine; place product in box AFTER you clean the ivory with rubbing alcohol.  Keep repeating this simple procedure until you have a sizeable amount of inventory.  Two different sizes of boxes are used to package & present bracelets & ear-rings.  That is 95% of what we create on a daily basis. Bracelet boxes are 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ x 3/4″ – We much prefer to use the boxes with clear covers.  This keeps people from touching the product which always leaves finger prints from the oil on your skin. Boxes can be purchased from Paper Mart dot com or Alaska Display in Anchorage.  NOTICE; in the photo below;  five  cuts are being worked on together at once.   We usually do six or eight and work them all down together.  When you see (visually) what happens when you do this – you will be amazed at how perfectly straight every cut is!  We only use our thumbnail to place on the ivory and rest the saw blade against your thumbnail and begin the cut.  It is very easy to estimate 1/4 of an inch and make them all identical – just by using your eyes !!

There are literally hundreds of people that do this daily in many different villages all throughout the entire State of Alaska.  For some families – this is the only way to generate income to provide for their familes due to such high unemployment in the smaller villages.  This is a job – YOU must treat it as such- put in the necessary time & it will pay you huge rewards that you never ever thought possible.

Starter piece of ivory

Here in the  image below is a small piece of fossil ivory.   It is the perfect starter piece for someone new to carving; to purchase.  The shape of the ivory itself is perfect for ear-rings – just as it is.  Just slice it all up. No waste to speak of.  Or slice it up for bracelet pieces !   Once you slice up a few small pieces of ivory – your an expert!!  It is simple  to learn – fun to do and the time passes by so quickly;  This is your new job – treat it like a real job and you will reap in lots of Xtra cash.  With four sons doing this daily; we went through a lot of  ivory. But .. .. as fast as we produced inventory – it sold right quick.So you took a piece of ivory and  sliced it all  up.. .. what is the very next step.  StEp 2 :   Using a clip board (hard surface) place your sandpaper on the clip board and rub hard and fast and sand each side until it is smooth.  To do this more efficiently –

INVEST: in a good dust collection and air filtration system.  It makes all the difference in the world.

 

anything.  Everything you need is within arms reach of your work area.  Plan your set up in this manner. Wasted movements waste valuable time.  If you have room to build a small shop.  Then this is what I recommend. Use 3/4″ plywood for your bench top.  Most places that sell plywood sheets -they  also will make cuts for you.  Cut the bench top 24″ wide x 8 feet long.  The other 24″ piece that is leftover cut into 3 – 8″  pieces x 8 foot long.  Now you have the necessary lumber for 3 shelves above your work bench. The edge of your shelves have stuff hanging on them using plastic push pins. Scissors; plastic templates, other small things you want right within your reach.  The edge of your work bench should have all your clip boards hanging in front of you.  Our personal preference for mounting a vise is NOT TO PLACE IT: on your work bench.  How high to make your shop bench ??  That is truely a matter of personal preference; BUT .. .. I know – from experience, of working in the trade; much of the tips I provide here is based on over 40 years in the industry what works & what doesn’t.  Get a folding chair.  Sit down –  turn to your right or left (put it this way) if your arms are bent as if resting on arms on the side of the chair.   The bottom of your arm  that is parallell to the floor – that is the exact measurement of your bench height (about 29 inches)  You want to work – sitting down – not standing up!  If you make a work bench to stand up – you are going to be bent over all day and your back is going to hurt. Sit down and relax.  Using a small coffee or tv table of some old furniture for your vise puts you over your work at the correct height looking down.   You can slice ivory all day long with no backaches.  I’ve done it many times, to prefab for the boys.  I will take a whole tusk and just slice it all  from one end to the other but remove no slices. 54 cuts. all brought down to 3/4 of the way.   Then it is a very quick process to remove several in a couple of minutes. plus it is a great indicator of how straight you are able to cut!!  remember this .. ..   “.. perfect is close enough’ !!

Doing it that way requires you to move.   You want your vise out of the way – you do not want to have to move to  get it in front of you. THEREFORE:  The best place to mount your vise is on a small  tv type coffee end table type of old furniture with wheels on it (rollers).  Keep it stored right in front of you under your work  Ivory dust – it is extremely fine.  Learn how to control it using a dust collector or ordinary vacum or Shop Vacum cleaner.  The Main thing:  Is to save your dust. you will need it (later).  As large amounts of dust build up around”   your vise area. Sweep it off into small storage containers.  A piece of Mastodon Ivory in  a small three inch vise; Notice how much it appears to resemble old driftwood of sorts Sanding; Slicing/Sawing-Drilling. all create  This material is over 25 thousand years old!! 

It is brittle, dried out and lacks moisture.  There are many ways to treat Ivory when you first acquire it, to put moisture back into the ‘pores’.  What do you think is going to happen to this piece of ivory as we begin to cut it ?  It is very obvious – it is going to fall apart into many smaller odd size pieces.  Learning how to cut ivory is something you will only gain by experience. Notice we began at the large end.  It is still split and in sections. As we cut these pieces we will show you how to use them. This will take us many hours to make these cuts.  There is no quick way to do this ACCURATELY cept learn how to use a coping saw. Spend the time; and I assure you – you will learn how; YES !! YOU ARE: going to break blades – now and again; not to worry; when you first begin, always have at least one spare package of 5 extra blades. We try to keep10 or more on hand; just in case – we want an abundance of all suppllies and materials so it is virtually impossible to run out of; thus shutting down the job is avoided at all costs which are minimal. Your customers will supply all the money you need to grow.  1/2 of  all money we make is for more supplies & tools.  the other half is divided for food & bills;  Anything over $300 per day – we give away – to people we know – that need help!   A coping saw w/ extra blades.  A dremel tool & Burr cutting bits of many different types & shapes – they are inexpensive or very expensive depending on where you purchase them from.

You need catalogs (many of them).  Most are free;  Grizzley tools;  AIH (alaska). Build a selection of good catalogs.  I can’t stress this enough.  Black Elk Leather in Alaska is the cheapest place you are ever going to find for ear-ring studs and loops & hooks etc. Rio Grande has a set of catalogs that used to be free; now they want $25 dollars for a 3 volume set.   It is well worth the price!  When I purchase an item such as this photo of the bits – I purchase four of them; One set for each of the boys;  Everyone has the same identical set up – NO BORROWING !! Keep your area(s) neat and well organized. Make a place for your small dust brushes – dust pan for quick clean ups. You do not want to have to go searching for anything. metal rulers 6″  12″ or have holes in the end to hang up nearby, neatly. Hang as much as possible and utilize all of that wasted space in front of you. Think & learn. The absolute perfect shop setup – is a horseshoe –  A bench in front of you and on either side as you swivel.  A giant  U   upside down.  Put some thought into where you want to set up your shop.   You need access to an “outside” wall to cut a 4″ hole to exhaust the dust vent outside the house (if possible).  A  radio is a must to have & listen to; and for what it is worth; if you listen to rock music constantly; your gonna get burnt out in a few hours.  Classical Music will let you dream; soar and visit other wonderful places – for hours with no burn out associated with other types of music.  This is just my personal preference for a lifetime !! Sure I love the Beatles ; Fleetwood Mac; and a hundred other bands. Country – Rock – Jazz – July 22 2004 Khris Eves But.. .. Rap is forbidden in my household. Enough said on that subject.  You are only going to be as good as the tools you use; and learn with.  In the beginning you will learn with a dremel; Later you will graduate into using a Fordom.  It will hang from the ceiling with a long flexible shaft.  Directly up over your head,  The same place your bracelet cord should be. Above you. Stand up cut a piece sit down finished.  All movements should reguire minimal movement on your part to access anything & everything you need to keep working.  Since 90% of your time is going to be spent – making slices; then lets look at some ‘slices’ and see what you can learn – just by looking at simple photographs. The first thing I want you to notice: is the original shape of the ivory tusk used.  It was small.  That entire tusk could have easily been cut up for ear-rings of that same natural shape of the tusk itself.  But a shape was drawn on each of the slices that were cut.  Using  a 12″ disk sander (Delta – or Grizzley) cost is $265.  This is the tool of choice;  because of the front bench that can be set to any precise angle necessary to make the bracelet pieces fit together perfectly.  A bracelet must have at least 8 pieces to form a perfect circle,  But 10,  12,  14, & 16 piece tiny baby bracelets  are all possible to make.  Each has a different precise angle to bevel the ends to make the pieces fit when strung together.We will post  all the different sizes with the correct angles to use to bevel:

  • 8 piece = 22 degrees (each end)
  • 10 piece =  18
  • 12 piece =  15
  • 14 piece =  12 degrees (each end)

 

This is just a starting point for you to learn from.  Begin with a ten piece bracelet. 3/4 of an inch should be the length of your pieces. That equals a womans large wrist – Average womans wrist should be about 6 1/2 inches  there abouts when pieces are lined up together.  when you do the same steps over and over and over – soon it will all become second nature.  How long to make your bracelet pieces ?  Wrap a string around your wrist. Mark it where the end intersects with the first wrap. Staighten out the string and measure it.   Ten pieces 1/2″ long = A tiny 5 inch wrist. The more you make; the more proficient you will become.

Mastodon Hearts

 This is all learned by practing, using the tools; not by reading. Once you have made a half a dozen slices;  there is not much else to learn except practice some more; As I said 90% of what you do is slicing up ivory.  Later you will get a horizontal or vertical band saw and it won’t take but a fraction of  the time  to cut up a whole tusk.  Slice & draw out the shapes you wish to make on the piece of ivory you have cut; after you have sanded all the rough stuff smooth.  Use the 12″ disk sander or your dremel to cut off the excess ivory to conform to the shape you drew. Round off the sharp edges and begin to sand through the different grits.  Polish to a high shine. drill hole to super glue the stud into and your finished – after you wipe it all down with rubbing alcohol & tissue. Place into box . Begin the process all over again; EXCEPT one difference. – Learn to pre-fab – & make a dozen pair at once.

Lets talk so more about  some of the tools & accessories you will use & need. 1/16″ drill bits –  a turntable spindle to hold your bits and burrs  for cutting and shaping.   In the begining you will not need much of an assortment  of burrs for cutting and shaping.  Those burrs are used to inlay ivory inside of ivory and those steps come much later. First you learn by making ear-rings then I will talk you through the steps to inset materials into other materials.  When you purchase 1/16″ inch drill bits – believe it or not; buy a dozen of them; you will break them often. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY.  Keep them –  When you begin to drill bracelet pieces you will not use the whole drill bit.  You basically cut the bit in half.   Only the smaller drill bit half is used.

Bit spindle holder

The shaft part of the bit is saved as a ‘peg’ .  Later you might want to make a small ivory or baleen Jewerly case.  These pins are perfect to use to hold the pieces together when making a box.  The reason you cut a drill bit in half is so you will not drill through your finger when we show you how to drill a bracelet piece properly.  The bit is long enough to go just a little more than 1/2 way through the piece and it is turned over and drilled from the other end. There are many tricks and tips we will share with you;  I promise if you put in the time; create a sizeable inventory and you will make money.  I dont care where you live.  People the world over love the look & feel of Ivory.  It has been  treasured by collectors for many thousands of years – all over the world; Ivory is in huge demand.  Alaska Fur Exchange in Anchorage is probably the best place to purchase ivory – in person.  Go there and purchase something small to work with and make some ear-rings.  The more practice you get making simple ear-rings and selling them will no doubt make you want to purchase something larger. And then learn to make bracelet pieces and  Three pair of newly made ear-rings from mastodon ivory put the whole thing together; we will show you step by step what to do and how to do it the best most effiective way possible.  Wehave lots of experience; we have made lots of mistakes and refined our working process to avoid injuries that will happen.  Safety First &  Safety Second ! – Purchase a good pair of inexpensive safety –  glasses & wear them!  I can’t stress enough the need for safety in the work place;  I’ve seen my sons get injured many times – especially when using the 12″ disc sander.   Keep your fingers out of the way;  you can sand flesh off in a split second.  Make sure you have bandaids just in case. Careful work habits can greatly prevent many injuries that are common with working with tools.  Believe it or not ; it is very easy to drill through your finger or hand.  We take precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen Once you graduate from making ear-rings to making bracelet pieces – the same exact steps are done for each of the 12 pieces needed to make that bracelet.  ONce you have your pieces all made then it is time to drill them in the proper fashion; you need to mark exactly where the holes are going to be to insert the bracelet cord. Notice: in these images you do not have to measure anything;  just place the 1/8th ” piece of cardboard and fold around the piece and draw the two lines.  On the top of the piece and on each end.  When you drill the pieces you have to hold one end over the  back end of the piece as is shown in the following photographs.  This takes practice to hold the drill level to go through the piece straight.  then flip the piece over and drill from the other side and the two holes WILL MEET.   If and only if you drill straight!!  This is  going to take practice – Use practice pieces not real bracelet pieces until your sure you can drill straight from each end & meet in the middle.  Occasionaly  you might not be able to get the bracelet cord through the holes because it doesn’t line up properly.   Ever notice shoelaces ??  The end of the shoelace has a hard coating over it.  This is easily accomplished using super glue on your bracelet cord.  Place one end of the bracelet cord in your vise. Tighten the vise to hold the cord and with one hand stretch the cord as much as possible; Now drip super glue over the end of thecord near the vise.   Hold it stretched for a few seconds.. When you relax the cord. open the vise and cut the cord end of the new coated portion.  Now you have a hard stiff straight end to insert through the hole!! Super Glue will stick to your fingers;  Keep acetone on hand or nail polish remover to get the stuff off your finger tips & skin.  A 12″ disc sander is a powerful tool; It is expensive and extremely heavy as in more than 70 pounds.  Shipping for this tool was more than the cost of the tool to us in Point Hope – the price of the tool was $265   Over $300 to ship it to the village – UNTIL WE took the front bench part off and mailed the two pieces in two different boxes.  The shipping was less than $100 bux using that method!!

I can’t say enough about this sander; it solved all our (other ) problems and by accident taught us a very valuable technique;  Mark was the one who discovered this very kewl trick, which enabled us to make perfect insets of circles into other different types of Ivory.  We are the only carvers that can inset a round piece inside another piece of ivory with absolutly no gaps.  How is this done ?  Easily – “create a perfect circle”.  This is how it is accomplished; Unless that circle inset is perfect; there is no way to place it inside another circle.  It must be perfect.  The sander will do it for you automatically!!  This is what Mark discovered quite by accident – Notice the sander table that is tilted in this photograph.  That small bench must be set to zero degrees.  flat & level.   Now place your so called round circle on the small flat table  – Using two index fingers push that slowly toward the sanding  wheel. When that piece of small (sorta round) ivory hits that sanding  wheel which is roatating quickly – what do you think is going to happen ?  That piece of Ivory is going to take off – unless your fingers ‘block’ it from moving – then there is only one thing that is going to happen –  That small piece of ivory is going to SPIN wicked fast – thus making a perfect circle each & every time. As you can easily notice – it is very easy to sand the skin right off your knuckle if you slip!!  Pay close attention always when working with this tool.

Be Safe