Saturday, September 01, 2007

Preparing Bone For Use In Art Work

As a mixed media artist, sometimes bone will appear in some of my various pieces. It is important to take the time to clean and degrease the bone before working with it. Anyone interested in the process can read further.

I have a tendency of collecting bones in a bag in my freezer, so that whenever I have the chance to prepare a batch of bones, they are there waiting for me. Chicken bones, turkey bones, cow bones.... it's all fair game. Ha! Just caught my pun.

The first process of cleaning the bone is to remove any marrow. Use a long thing piece of wire to help with this process.

Once the marrow has been removed, it is time to boil the bones! There are several options available to you, depending on the time and sort of equipment you have available. Bones should be boiled in water, or may be boiled with water & ammonia, or water and dish-detergent. Ammonia should only be used with stoves that have very effective stove-top exhaust. Please practice safety when preparing bone.

If boiling with water and ammonia, bring water to boil, then allow bones to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

If boiling bones with water and dish-detergent, bring water to boil, then simmer for 50 - 90 minutes.

If boiling with just pure water, bring water to boil, and simmer for two hours.

The advantage of using just water, is the resulting liquid is soup-stock, and can easily be frozen in ice-cube trays for future use. Excellent- using every aspect that we can!

When finished simmering the bone, remove and allow to cool. Use fingernails, a scrub brush, and running water to remove all soft tissue. If necessary, return the bones to simmer for longer.

Degreasing is the second half of the bone preparation process. Bone contains fat, regardless of how well clean or prepared. It may look clean, but there will still be some fat lurking within. The bone will eventually leach fat, causing grease-stains.

To degrease bones after the boiling process, allow bones to soak in Coleman fuel for several weeks. Coleman fuel is EXTREMELY flammable. Please keep the container of fuel and bones in the shade, and away from anything flammable (this includes your house/studio!) When finished, allow the small amounts of white fuel to evaporate.

When the bones are finished soaking in the white fuel, rinse them once Coleman fuel, and allow to air-dry.

Again, I cannot emphasize the importance of safety precautions when dealing with combustables! Please, practice safe art!

Now I'm off to stir the bones I've got simmering now.

Happy Art Everyone!


Anonymous said...

Super advice. I'm in the process of making a gold leafed wishbone from the capon we had for Christmas. I'm going to set it into a necklace I'm wearing on my wedding day! Thanks!

Ellen Etc said...

Thank you so much! I have some bones I want to use and I had heard about boiling, but I deeply appreciate your advice about degreasing with Coleman fluid.