View Full Version : Ivory in ebony substitutes

02-01-2003, 09:59 PM
Hi! Looking for an opinion about the handle materials.

I become involved in the project with a custom dagger. The handle materials are expected to look like the jet-black ebony, white ivory and/or the synthetic ruby or amethyst.

Now I am looking for the names of materials and some data on their workability:)

There is expected to be some carving on the handle, so black and white should be carvable.

Also I would like to find not a natural ivory - to avoid an import/export problems and to lower expenses.

For the deep black natural handle material there seems to be the options of the Black Ebony and the Blackwood. Does anybody know which is better in work, carvability and stability (mechanical and color), any peculiarities?

What can be used instead of ivory, white and carvable?
I saw descriptions of the tagua nuts, polyester altentative ivory, composite ivory and have a piece of the butterboard (carvable plastic), also I suspect that some bone/horne materials may be white inside. Any experience in work with them, their durability and color stability with time?

How to avoid staining of the "ivory" by "ebony"?

What is the source for not very expensive synthetic stones for the pommel (white, red or lilac colors), or of natural quartz? Our local source LacyWest Jewelry Supply had Austrian Swarogems several years ago, but not anymore, as far as I know.

Any opinions will be highly appreciated.


Ray Rogers
02-02-2003, 09:56 AM
Some of the materials you mentioned are natural and some are synthetic so I suppose that means you have no preference. In that case, why not use ivory and black paper Micarta? They are tough, carvable, durable, attractive, cheap, and color fast.

For the stones, that's a tough one. Rio Grande has a large selection of synthetic stones, especially cabachons, that would be good for decorating a dagger......

02-02-2003, 12:13 PM
Thank you, Ray! I didn't know that Micarta is carvable.
I'll take a look at Rio Grande products.

About natural or synthetic: I am trying to avoid animal products because it's almost impossible to find a list of restrictions on import/export.

It seems to me that anything that can pass as an alternative ivory (polyester, tagua nuts, faux ivory from Fimo) is better to combine with an ebony (exotic! dagger! :), it is not utilitary, you know ).

I would like to find a natural non-restricted white carvable product (white hickory? bone? anything else? Sorry I haven't seen any of them myself), but just don't know what to look for...

And posted opinions on the choice between the blackwood and ebony say that the blackwood is not exactly black, but much more durable that ebony. Again, may be someone know anything about that.

Thanks again,

Ray Rogers
02-02-2003, 03:24 PM
All Micarta might not be so good for carving but I think you'll do all right with the paper Micarta. Anyway, it's cheap enough to experiment with.

If you want something else that's black, you might try buffalo horn. Sometimes there's a little honey color in it but it is often pure black. That's the problem with natural materials - nature doesn't make them to your specs! But, buffalo horn is also cheap, plentiful, and I doubt there are any shipping restrictions on it anywhere since it comes from domestic animals (I think). Have it stabilized and it is very durable too....

02-03-2003, 01:20 PM
Thank you very much, Ray, for the help!
I really appreciate it!


02-04-2003, 10:06 PM
I am new to the forum and to the fantasy that I may be able to make a knife. I have been lurking here for a few weeks and have picked up some great info.

Following is the url of a gentleman that I met a month or so ago at a gun show. He is very interested in making knife scales. His pistol grips are beautiful.

Hope this helps.


Jamey Saunders
02-04-2003, 11:15 PM
Welcome, Bob!

Time to start living that fantasy! Thanks for the link. Take a look at some of the kit knives to get your feet wet. Then, open your checkbook (;)) and start making your own. Just kidding. You can do real well with files and sandpapers. It's all about your level of dedication and motivation.

02-05-2003, 01:29 AM
Thanks for the welcome. I have already purchased a small 1x30 sander and a ? hp buffer from Harbor Freight. Today I picked up a small drill press. My dear wife gave me a band saw for Christmas. I have completed a couple of knives. They are primarily a testimony to how much I have to learn. But the hook is set. I am really thankful that I found this forum. Everybody is so generous with their hard earned knowledge. Thank You


02-06-2003, 09:54 AM
Interesting thing is this Tru Ivory, thanks, Bob!
Some links I had found:

ivory substitutes:

and mentioning of White Holly wood as a possible ivory substitute, if use with clear non-oily varnish.


02-06-2003, 11:16 AM
I work the gun shows and am usually stationed close to Tru Ivory?s display.
Anything I can do for you let me know.

02-07-2003, 07:38 AM
Thanks, Bob. I had already ordered materials for a current project, but is it good to know all available options for the future.


Jason Cutter
02-12-2003, 11:19 PM
I've used some stabilised white bone from Ric Chopra's Universal Agencies Inc. If you search on UAI it'll come up. It is close in looks to ivory (to my inexperienced eyes) and has that nice colour.

I'm not sure what you mean by carving, but it grinds and polishes pretty much like any other material eg.- antler, Micarta. I always rough shape and grind profiles with no coarser than 80grit belts, go to 150grit belts to take out the deep gouges, then hand finish with 180 or 240, 400, 800, 1200, 1500 grits, then OOOO steel wool and buff with white diamond compound. I use ordinary cooking oil to clean off any buffing gunk.

I strongly suggest you first get all the smooth even polished surfaces first, THEN do any carving, jigging. I hand jig all my bone handles with a Dremel tool, so I presume you can do some carving with same.

Hope this helps. Cheers.

02-15-2003, 05:27 PM
Thank you, Jason, for the reply!
I'll try the white bone on the my next project. Undr carving I mean some ornament, or may be even a head as a pommel.

Thanks again,