Bag of Bones and a Color Question

Several months ago, a friend offered me a big bag of bone beads that she was getting rid of. I accepted the offer, in anticipation of my :glowforge:. They’re vintage bone beads or pendants, sliced into random, organic shapes. She sent a huge freezer bag that weighs in at about 2 lbs:

I’ve long been a fan of scrimshaw work and I’ve been hoarding a stash of fossil ivory for a decade or more, in hopes of trying my hand at it some day. These bone beads + the PRU afforded a great opportunity to play with that concept a bit. Albeit, this is more like “faux scrimshaw” than actual scrimshaw, but it does a decent job of replicating the effect.

Here are the results of yesterday’s attempts. It took me a while to figure out settings, and I suspect that there’s still a bit of refining to be done on that count. To add to that challenge, these beads are not uniform - there’s substantial variance in thickness (sometimes even on one bead). I had quite a few unfortunate attempts:

Even so, I did end up with several successful tries, and I intend to keep experimenting. FWIW, these images are magnified, so some of the beads show tiny bits of masking that is not visible to the naked eye. At some point I’ll go back over those lines with a fine beading awl to get the rest of the masking out. If that doesn’t even everything out, perhaps I’ll dab some ink over the image and wipe off the excess as they do with real scrimshaw.

The images that didn’t work were generally JPEGs with a lot of artifacts, or files that had a lot of shading or originally had color. The ones that did work were clean, crisp black and white images (the bees and skulls are slivers from my friend Shala’s mandalas). Some of the ravens look wonky even though the original files were relatively clean - I think this is because there was lots of fine detail in the feathers that just did not translate at this scale?

Last but not least, I’d like to try adding color to some of these, but I’m not sure what to use? I’d like something that would lightly saturate the bone (think watercolor effect) rather than an opaque acrylic that will just sit on top of it. Perhaps ink? For those of you who work with copic markers, might they do the trick?


The bees and skulls are way cleaner than I would have expected based on the top image, but the effect of the images that didn’t come out quite as crisp works well with the antique style. Thanks for sharing your experiments!


Great demo. I have a bunch of shin bone to process, but boy does it smell in the sander. Liked how you used the vintage tags. These are really nifty.


Those are awesome! They really do look like scrimshaw! :grinning:


Clearly, I need better friends. :innocent:


Thanks for such detailed description and pix. I’m still blown away by the extraordinary detail (the ruler helps).

For color, try alcohol inks. You can thin-out the colors with plain rubbing alcohol to make them “lighter”/more transparent. Most craft stores sell some alcohol inks and/or there are instructions for making them from dye out there on the internet somewhere. (I haven’t tried the make-from-dye process yet, but plan to once the GF arrives - I want to play with using alcohol inks to dye/stain wood. This Etsy shop is very inspiring, amazing boxes, and it looks like some may be ink-dyed:


Thank you for the suggestion! I’ve heard of alcohol inks and have wanted to try them in a different application. Will add them to my growing shopping list :wink:


Ah! word of caution - they STAIN! everything. I wear a hazmat suit when I use them, and I still get the stuff everywhere. It will NOT come off your skin until your skin dies & sheds… You (Drea) may not need the caution, but I know of others (ahem - you know who you are) who will benefit. :rolling_eyes:


LOL, yeah - I still need the caution :wink:



:hedgie: :pancake: :squeeee:

Btw, when did @marmak3261 get his own " try to be helpful but not authoritative" emoji? :try_to_be_helpful_but_not_authoritative:


Ha! That is so cool!

Go @marmak3261! :squee: :try_to_be_helpful_but_not_authoritative: :squeeee:


You can’t imagine how much I love this!!! I’ve had scrimshaw on my mind for awhile now–envying your stash! Your results are so, so cool.

For sure, Copic markers are something to try. Since they are alcohol based, they might be a bit neater than trying to paint with a brush. If you are looking for translucency, they would likely do better than acrylic. If you want opaque, try Testors model paints (I think they are enamels).


Hey! :grin:


Heheheheh…awesome. :try_to_be_helpful_but_not_authoritative:


now, now - I didn’t name names, kept it all very self-deprecating/self-referential/used my “I” statements :neutral_face:


Y’know what? They were gifted to me, so I’ve decided to share the wealth. I’ve listed a few lots of these on Levitada; you can find them here: Whoops, the levitada marketplace no longer exists here!

As the photos show, they’re nothing fancy - but they’re good little testers. All I ask is that the recipient(s) pay shipping, which I guesstimate to be <3 within the US.

@cynd11 just calling your attention to this in case you’d like some too. No worries if you don’t, but the offer is there for the first few people who’d like some of these weird little beads.


Those are stunning…really nice details!!


Why thank you! I’ve been meaning to join Levitada for the longest time, yours is the final push needed. Thanks for the generous sharing!


Dude. Didn’t even notice it. Probably because I need to remember it more than anyone! :try_to_be_helpful_but_not_authoritative:


wow, immortalized in an emoji, and yet still humble… you continue to raise the bar, sir!