'handling' mammoth tooth


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hey guys

im thinking about using mammoth tooth for the first time now, already have the scales, but that stuff seems seriously tricky

i read bit of info it it around here but still don't get it much, i know i should use fresh belts and not over heat it, but how fast does it over heat? and just dunk it in water every once in a while?
i will probably use a liner, so would that be good enough support for the drilling? or better drill it with support then glue it (so no chipping would push liner away)
also whats a good finish for it? i will probably end up doing a lot of hand sanding (i have no buffer)

also i use 30 min epoxy i bought from USKM, what the CA stuff everybody is talking about?

also i will be using 3mm pins (aprox 1/8") whats the suggested rpm for this material?

any other info would be great :)

thanks a lot


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I've only used Mammoth tooth a few times and have approached it like a bone, It really is a bone that has partially turned to stone, so I just put masking tape for backing when drilling at 400-500 RPM. The CA glue is Cyniade Adhesive better known as Super Glue. I just worked it down with fresh belts as you mentioned at 25% speed or less and hand sand after about 220 grit. Hand sand to 1000-2000 depending on the look you want? Furniture wax would be a good finish, Since you don't have a buffer.

Also you want to wear your respirator even when hand sanding cause Mammoth tooth can have bacteria in it that will make you sick. I am sure some of the Pros here that have used Mammoth a lot may have some more tips.
Hey Shokr, I've used a good bit of it and here is what I find works best.

1. Rough up the back of the scales and the mating surface of some G-10 liner with 36X or 40X paper. (Sandblasting is better if you have the equipment)
2. Epoxy the scales to the liners and allow it to fully cure.
3. Flood the face of the scales with CA until it stops soaking in. Odorless CA works best because the fumes from reg. CA get really bad when grinding.
4. Trim the G-10 down even with the scales.
5. Fit and attach the scales as usual.
6. When grinding/sanding DO NOT dip in water. take your time and don't over heat. grind a little and then touch the tooth to your lip or cheek. It may sound funny but these areas are the most sensitive to heat and as long as the material doesn't get to hot for them you're fine. That's how I work Ivory too by the way.

The banding in the tooth causes some areas to be harder than others so be careful when sanding it. As long as you're against a platen you're fine but when you sand without some kind of backing you may get divots in it if you're not careful.
Its tricky stuff but it can be done with a little care.

joe sangster

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Charles Turnage of Turnage Fine Productions has an excellent CD on how to work with the difficulties of Mammoth tooth . You will save enough on screwup prevention to pay for the CD . Darrin gave good advise as well .

Joe Sangster


Well-Known Member
I love all those points that Darrin suggested , but the one that stands out the most to me is to flood the face of the scales with CA glue . Im guessing that this will prevent blowouts and pot holes ? thats something that ive had trouble with for a while. Im always afraid to drill through ivory , bone antler because of these blowouts. Im working on a set of ivory scales right now. Im gonna give it a shot when I get home . Thanks for the tip .


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thanks everyone for the info

joe, i know about the DVD but its too expensive for one time thing, after i try this time i'll see if i'll want to be doing that again

so i will glue it to spacer material, then drill (around 400-500 with 3mm bit?) go slow of course
now the main concern is trimming the tooth to the profile of the knife, i was planning on using a bandsaw, so i guess go at lowest speed (80rpm)? i'll use the blade with most TPI i have, i think its 18 or 14/18 dont remember

thanks again

edit: when drilling, do i use oil or not or any sort of liquid for cooling/lubricating and also while handsanding, do it dry or use wd40 or something? i wouldve thought to go dry but on another thread someone suggested drilling fluid when dealing with that material
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Hey guys. Tooth isn't as hard to work as you may think, once you approach it, and work it for what it is. A tooth. Most mammoth teeth have not been in the ground long enough to fossilize, but has been dug from areas that have long been frozen (permafrost zones). Some of the teeth discovered near creeks or river beds that have collapsed, tend to be crumbly. A backer can help prevent tooth from crumbling, but as mentioned, Cyanoacrylate glue (the thinnest viscosity you can get), goes a long way towards keeping things together. You can use an angle grinder with a thin wheel to cut it, or rough shape it, ceramic belts work it easily.

Drilling it can be a bugger! regular bits wont work. Carbide bits work well, as do carbide burs used for a die grinder. If you are drilling in the "show" side of the tooth, use caution, as the tooth can and likely will separate between the dentine, and enamel layers. The dentine is the area that took the dye in colored teeth, the white is the enamel, similar to ivory, but somewhat harder. Should a tooth separate on you, don't panic, use CA to put it back together, and carry on. If you are lucky enough to have your holes line up on the dentine layers, a HS bit will cut through it. It will however, not get through the enamel layers easily, if at all.

Once shaped, sand to 400 and buff. Don't use an aggressive compound, as it will erode the dentine layers. Zam works well, as does pink scratchless.

Wear a mask. Good tooth stinks like you are having teeth drilled at a dentist, and it makes a ton of fine air born dust.
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Well-Known Member
Thanks for the info, Pierre
Tricky business indeed lol
Hopefully will go smoothly

I might do a WIP here on the forum...