Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Siddhartha Gautama, a.k.a. the Buddha

Sunday History:Bone

I am going to try and make these a weekly post. The idea is to show that technology is simple, everything that we have today is based upon some form of ‘primitive’ tech: We have only improved upon things.

Today is bone day. What can a bone be used for. Well, a good sized femur is an excellent club for one, but that is far more primitive than I want to address today. Look at what tools can be made from a bone. I made two tools from a section of bone that Voodoo had grown bored with.

Key points to remember when working with bone. Make sure it is clean and dry! You don’t want to be working with fresh bone, for one, it will crack and waste your efforts, second, it makes for seriously sticky work. Another thing to remember is to avoid working with bone with nicks and cuts on your hands. The dust will start a seriously nasty infection, and infections are something to avoid at all costs; especially in a survival situation.

One point about these ‘histories’ is to show you that even you can make something useful from materials that you have on hand or can find fairly easily. They are not intended to replace common sense or practice. I highly recommend trying your hand at these things because practice makes perfect and while you may never need the skills, wouldn’t you rather know that, if need arose, you had that option?

SO, on to the project. First up, select your material. Each of these tools can be made from many different materials, but I chose bone for this one. You can substitute a hard wood if you have that available as the methods are the same. The only reason I don’t recommend hardwood for the needle is the grain; it may not be fine enough to make the eye and still be solid. The grain in bone (yes it has one as you will find out by doing) is extremely fine and able to hold that eye in place, even when pulling sinew through leather.

Tools needed: one good sharp knife. Optional tools would be sandpaper and a hacksaw blade. Keep in mind, your tools in a sticky situation may be nothing more than a rock flake and an abrading stone. Next, inspect the bone, figure out the sections that seem strongest. You can find minute cracks by rubbing the outside of the bone with a dirty finger. They will show up quickly that way. When you have figured the part to make a needle or hook, score the length of the bone so that you can separate it. Makes it so you can use the rest for more or some other project AND makes it so you aren’t scraping for hours.

If you are making the needle, now is the time to make the eye. Do this so that you have the half of the length to hold while scraping the needle out of the bone. The eye is your reference point for symmetry.   I used an old drill bit that was chipped and just kept digging at the area to create the hole.   “Back in the day” they would have used a bow drill or a stick with sand as an abrasive to do this part of the job.   Next: Using your knife at a 90° to the surface, scrape towards the point of the needle. It won’t take a lot of pressure to remove material: Play around, find out what works best for you and how to control what the blade is doing. (yes, you will need to sharpen your knife when done, but you will be surprised how little damage is done to the edge.) Keep scraping until you are happy with the shape. As you progress, you will stop scraping at one end, slowly progressing towards the point until you have a nice taper. Don’t worry about getting ‘needle sharp either, thats another step) Now that you have the shape of the needle, its time to pull that needle off the bone. Score a line around the area above the eye. The best way to do this is with a serrated edge or similar. You don’t need to cut very deep either: just about 1/10th of the diameter. Hold the eye firmly between fingers or a pair of pliers or something similar and snap your working handle loose.  Now sandpaper or abrading stone the rough spots. You can even scrape this smooth by not applying much pressure at all while scraping, typically the weight of the knife is enough.

Use that last scrape method to ‘sharpen’ the end, You will be surprised at how sharp you can get it.

And you are done! The fishhook is the same but instead of an eye, you abrade a groove around the center, and both ends are sharpened.

Your line will be wrapped and knotted in that groove and you slip the needle into your bait length-wise. When the fish bites and hauls off with his swag, the line will cause that hook to cantilever in his throat or mouth. If you have ever had a fish bone stuck in your throat, you know he is going to give up the fight pretty quickly. (keep this in mind for trapping land animals as well.)

One point to bring to bear on the hook, you will need to consider the size of the fish you are looking at capturing. Crappy will need a hook roughly 1/2” in length. Larger fish obviously will need larger hooks. Turtles will sometimes go for these hooks without bait on them, so if you like turtle, a trot line full of these may do you a good trick in the future.

Here are my finished products from a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Give it a whirl, you don’t need any fancy tools to make these things.

5 responses

  1. Spud

    Good viable thoughts and tech for basic survival.


    October 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm

  2. Wildflower

    thank you….

    wondered what to do with leftover chilli bones


    October 23, 2012 at 12:40 am

  3. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    Nice work sir, thanks for the pictures and description of work. When I was younger and mid day heat was on, I used to carve mesquite wood arrowheads just for fun. But in doing this, I learned carving techniques and how to work with the tool – that knowledge stays in your head when completing other tasks.

    Thanks again – like the new format btw.


    October 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm

  4. Peter

    Hole boring: back in the day a piece of flint with a shape similar to this ” }” (i.e., a point) was attached to a stick, not unlike a tiny spear. Some folks used sinew to keep things together, the pre-state Mesopotamians used bitumen as glue. Basically, it was the original spade-point bit. These were used for pretty much everything, stone, bone, wood.

    Fish hooks: the preferred material was tusks/antlers in many areas, and those old-timers produced fish hooks that any modern fisherman would instantly recognize.


    October 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  5. pickdog

    Nice work!


    October 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.