Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bone Thimble and Antler Netting Shuttle

Finished shuttle and thimble
I finished a bone thimble and an antler netting shuttle today.  Both pieces are based on artifacts from the Central Arctic.  The original artifacts that I'm working off of for this set are in the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and you can view them in the CMC's online archaeology catalog:

Shuttle: IV-D-2958
Thimble: IV-D-467

Antler Shuttle: 10.5cm x 1.3cm
Netting Shuttle:  The shuttle is made from caribou antler.  I used a piece of the flat palm of the antler.  I cut out the rough shape and then split the antler down the middle along the spongy interior, so that I had two solid blanks.  I kept on in reserve and thinned the other mainly on the inside surface to remove as much of the spongy antler as possible.

Wound with thread, ready to use
The thread shown wrapped around the shuttle in the photo isn't part of the reproduction - I just loaded it up with a bit of string to show how it was used.  Shuttles like these are used in net making to hold the string while the net maker strings and knots the net.  It combines the function of a bobbin of thread with the performance of a needle.

It fits Lori's little finger
Bone Thimble:  1.6cm x 1.6cm.  This tiny bone thimble is made on dense bone.  I suspect that the original may have been made from a portion of long bone, to take advantage of the natural cylinder shape of such elements.  I couldn't find a suitable sized long bone in my collection; they were either much to large or much too small, so I carved, drilled, ground and polished it out of a bit of dense skull bone.

A dimple goes at each intersection
The dimples on the original piece are arranged in columns of 7 or 8 dots running all the way around the piece. I laid out that pattern on my thimble in pencil and then used the dremel tool to hand drill each dimple.  There's 46 columns of dimples, which works out to about 350 dimples covering the entire surface.  I soaked the dimpled thimble in tea to antique it a bit.  I used beeswax stained with charcoal to plug some of the holes and match the dirt/grease stains on the original artifact.  I need to remember the beeswax and charcoal trick - I'm really happy with the way it grimed up the surface.

Antiqued bone thimble: 1.6cm wide x 1.6cm tall

Photo Credit: Tim Rast


  1. I love these! People collect thimbles, you know...

  2. Thanks Janet. I've been surprised by the amount of thimble traffic to the site lately. They'd be good new products, if they weren't so time consuming to make.


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