Jump to content

Bone/Antler handles


Recommended Posts



I'm writing a novel where a character needs to carve and shape bones using traditional hand tools and techniques. 

Some of the bones will be used for handles on swords and knives. Others will be used on arrow shafts.

I don't know the first thing about bone carving or how to use bones for handles. I will summarize most of what I've found and the assumptions I'm making. Please correct me if something is untrue.

My research suggests bones are greasy and need cleaning. We can assume this is done before the character receives the bones.

I've also read that bones create lots of powder and smell like death.

I imagine the marrow on the inside is weak and would need to be cleaned out, but I haven't found anything to state that directly.

It seems some types of bone would be better for some tasks than others. But I don't know what those would be. I would be using bird bones around the arrow shafts because I understand they are light and mostly hollow .

It stands to reason that you could make a slurry from bone powder to be used in polishing the bones


That's what I think I know. I'll now ask what I want to know. If you're willing to respond, I will gladly accept search terms, links, videos or your personal answers. If I have additional questions after reviewing the materials you shared, I'll come back here and ask. 

He is attaching as many handles to swords as he can. They need to be comfortable, not decorative. I expect the swords would be full tang and run through the bone as opposed to scales on the sides. In a future chapter he will also put small bone rings on arrowheads.

Considering that: 

What hand tools would the character need to make a basic handle?

What types of bone would be best? Deer? Bear? Boar?

What is it like to carve bone? Does it really smell like death as I've read? Does white power get everywhere making your neighbors think you do drugs? What's the experience like?

What steps would go into the process of making a bone handle or a bone ring?

Would it be possible to do an assembly line style process where the work is divided up 3-4 ways? Could each person focus on one aspect of the handle creation? Say one drills the hole and fits it on the tang, another shapes the handle and a third polishes it?


If you can think of any information I might need, please feel free to share. I want to make sure I do justice to this art form and I don't know what I don't know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Umm, what is the level of technology available in your universe?  So, a rasp and saw with various scrapers is all you would need, plus a drill; no it does not smell like death unless you are using power tools, and even then it doesn't get past unpleasant, Any bone can be worked but the shapes you describe would need a large leg-bone, cattle or large deer.  Assembly lines are a good idea.  White powder does not go everywhere, even with power tools.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Create New...