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Cattle Bone Questions

Bella Nicol

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Hello all,


I have just run out of materials. Two nights ago I placed and order for cattle bone with the local meat market, this is the second time I have done this so as you can imagine I'm not entirely exprienced in picking and choosing these bones in raw. I normally have access to cleaned, bleached, and sterilized bones from my work which allows me to pick and choose what I like...


The last time I obtained one of these butcher bones, like this time, I did not specify which body part I wanted but I recieved a femur (it was so big I couldn't fit it in my freezer, and it was hot early summer. Yuck.)


This time I believe I have a Tibia. Is there a more desireable bone part to work with? Will I encounter any problems with the tibia?

It is almost triangular in cross-section.


Is there a bone part you prefer? Do you find bones differ in thickness from one body part to another (in comparison to the rest of the body, not other cattle)?


What would you suggest?


Thank you for your time,



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There are 6 long tubular bones in cattle. The upper ones are the equivalent of the thighbone in humans, the middle ones are the equivalent of the shinbone. The lowest ones have no equivalent, as we have them very much shorter, and they form part of the foot. (cows walk on tiptoe, as it is.)

Going from the front three to the rear three:

humerus femur

radius tibia

metacarpus metatarsus.

In English they are also called

thighbone thighbone

shinbone shinbone

shankbone shankbone

(the distinction of "front" or "rear" is added for the English names.

From the local butcher you can only get the upper two of the respective legs. The metacarpus and metatarsus have no meat on them, so they are cut off together with the hooves, and discarded. The only way to get them is to contact an abattoire, or a butcher that does his own slaughtering.

Now, to the properties.

Depends on what you want the bone for. The most commonly used bone for flat plaques is the tibia. It is triangular only at one end, and sort of rounded oblong on the other. (I assum you have cut off the two ends, at about where the spongey bone begins. That is, you are left with at the very most 1/3 of the total lenght, being a tube with marrow clearly showing at the two ends.) The tibia has one fairly flat, long surface running along one side. On the opposite side for the first half of the bone (segment) it is also reasonably flat (slightly rounded, but still usable for plaques), then it becomes triangular, from which part you can cut two flat, short pieces. (big enough for a fchhook each, to give you an idea.)

Femurs are tubular with a round cross-section. They can be put on the lathe, and made into a turned item. They were extensively used in the 18-19th centuries for the fatter parts of turned chess pieces. (chess pieces were all assembled from bits, even most ivory ones, to save material.)

Radius (which is always partly fused with a much thinner bone, the ulna. This has to be split from the radius during cleaning) has an oval cross-section, with a rather solid edge on the side opposite to the ulna. This can be used for in-the-round carving of small items. This is also the part that was used in chess pieces for the spindly, thin turned bits, like the pawn upper parts. In a large cow you can get a piece maybe 15-18, even 20mm across, in a shape looking like the letter D. The flattish, slightly rounded walls can be used too, but are thinner than the tibia walls, and narrower.

I never found any use for the humerus, it has a very complex, twisted shape. Better give that one a miss, at least at the beginning. I have seen some carvings done utilizing the very twistedness, but you need experience for that.

Now, metatarsus and metacarpus. Metacarpus (the front one) has a cross-section of the letter D. It can be used, but has no advantage over equivalent pieces from more readily obtainable bones. Metatarsus is squarish on the outside, with a round hole in the middle, and has rather thick walls. Can be something like up to 14-15mm thick in the middle. If you can be bothered cutting the hooves off, skinning and cleaning it, it is worth the effort. It also has probably the most fat trying to impregnate the bone, so be quick with the cleaning, and do it as well as you can.

Hope it helps.

Oh, and try to get bull bones, they are considerably larger.

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  • 4 months later...
  • 5 weeks later...

Maybe the avatar thing does not support the .gif aspect of moving eyes on the forum pages. It blinks in information that I can see as admin in your profile area when I looked at it from the admin area. It blinks in your profile when I click on your avatar. I don't know anything more about it, sorry.



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  • 2 months later...

I want to try to make Pistol and Revolver Grips from Bone.


I'm thinking that the flat part of the Tibia would be good for the flatish Semi-Auto Pistol Grips.


Should I try the Femur, or stick to the Tibia for the thicker Revolver Grips?


I've seen a few bone Grips, but I'm not sure if even the Femur would have sufficient thickness to be shaped into a Revolver Grip.


A curved hollow inside would be okay--Except that it would leave a gap at the top and bottom.....


What do you think?


.....RVM45 B):blink:B)

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