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Need some tips for using Mammoth Tooth

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Mike Turner, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. Mike Turner

    Mike Turner

    Dec 8, 2005
    Hi Folks I am getting ready to use some mammoth tooth for the first time it has already been stabilized. I could use some tips and tricks and any suggestions you all may have.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. Phil Dwyer

    Phil Dwyer KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 28, 2006
    What, no pix?
  3. Mike Turner

    Mike Turner

    Dec 8, 2005
    One minute let me kick the wife on the couch to go take one :D.
  4. Phil Dwyer

    Phil Dwyer KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 28, 2006
    Ouch, never mind then.
  5. Redrummd

    Redrummd Moderator Moderator

    May 21, 2007
    It is VERY brittle. I cut, grind, sand and polish it in a water spray. I can't imagine how guys cut and polish it dry so I will be following this thread too... I use ZAM for the final polish on a soft dry buff and never let it even get warm.

    I have at least one in the albums located on my profile page.
  6. Mike Turner

    Mike Turner

    Dec 8, 2005
    Here you go Phil a pic of the mammoth tooth and the knife it will be on this week,


    Sorry don't have a current pic of the knife but it is being hand sanded now and I have chose to put a rear bolster as well to protect the mammoth tooth.
  7. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 6, 2000
    My tip is this: don't.
    But you will anyway, so keep super glue handy.
  8. Frank Niro

    Frank Niro Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    I hope I can help. First , the stabilizing thing doesn't count for buz all. To start get the thin crazy glue out and go over each side at least twice. Laying the pieces on plastic like a bag from the grocery store helps to keep them from becoming attached before you want them to.If the holes and cracks are big, then use a thicker grade. now try to face off one side of each that you are going to put against the tang or scales. A great deal of care is necessary or you will find the tooth scales will break up .It will then mean you will have to glue the pieces together and re flatten.You better have good ventilation going and you still will find out why. The crazy glue will give off a very strong odour like it hasn't dried.Once you have the one side flattened of each scale it is necessary to glue on a liner. I won't go into how to fit these to the bolster or sizing down before attaching except to say a dremel cut off disc can really help, but make sure you support the scale being cut on the bottom with a smooth piece of wood and find a belt size that removes the tooth material without chiping it off. Old belts won't work here and a few new ones will go dull before you know it When you finally get to drilling holes, I hope they won't be big ones. Use carbide bits and still pray they won't hit too much extra hard material in the scales. The white coloured stuff will be the hardest. Once the scales are sized down to the edge of the tang or liners, the shaping will be next. Of course, you knew that, but what has to be done next and perhaps many time is as soon as you see cracks or crevices, they must be filled with crazy glue again. They won't finish real smooth even after finishing done to 600 grit once you go to the buffer. They will have a very uneven surface that in their own way can look good. You certainly don't want to put these on any knife that will be used. They just won't stand up to much at all. The mammoth tooth is by far the most difficult material to work with I use. I do them on a very once in a while thing only. I'm just finishing a very small folder (well I hope I am) right now with mammoth tooth scales. Yes, it will definitely be a while before I will do another. Frank
  9. oconeedan


    May 23, 2009
    I am no expert, but maybe I can add a tip or two.
    Frank Niro is right on.
    Only use new or properly sharpened drill bits.
    Only use new belts.
    I have mammoth tooth on a knife that I use...I put bolsters on both ends of it for protection.
    Maybe not necessary, but I dovetail both bolsters for a little extra grab on the ends.
    Only use small pins, I use 1/8". Don't peen them or you are asking for breakage.
    As Frank said, superglue it first thing, and get a liner on each piece as soon as you can.
    When grinding bevel to fit dovetail, keep liner side toward the metal angle guide.
    I dip in water often.
    Always be aware that this is brittle, and you'll be fine. Forget once and you will break it.
    After installing on knife with bolsters on each end, it is actually not a fragile knife. I even dropped mine on concrete (accidently) when skinning a hog, and the brass bolsters took the hit. No problem.
    Hope this helped.
    ps-here is a photo of a couple I have made so you can see the bolsters
  10. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    Frank and Dan are giving you the truth and tough love.
    Mammoth tooth is one of the most eye catching handle materials on the suppliers table at the shows. It stops being attractive when you buy it and try to use it. Every one of those lines between the light and dark areas is a crack that is only held together by a prayer. If you don't seal/glue them up with thin CA it can fall apart while handling it. Even if you seal/glue them up, they will break in handling.Bolsters are a necessity.Work slow, using little pressure.Cutting it is best done on a wet diamond saw ( tile saw). Grind with sharp, new belts at the slowest speed your grinder will go ( this is not a good material for a single speed grinder). After basic shaping, sand and finish by hand. Drill at dead slow speed with either carbide or diamond bits and plenty of water coolant. Since it isn't a user material ( too heavy,too brittle, too expensive), I just use T-88 epoxy, and skip the pins. I've pretty much decided to never use mammoth tooth again. Top exhibition grade mother of pearl is about the same price, and looks and sells much better.
  11. Frank Niro

    Frank Niro Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    Well there you go now! I knew that what I wrote works but boy, I sure would have been pleased to find out there is a much easier way. These fellows have set me straight on that wish ! Frank
  12. Phil Dwyer

    Phil Dwyer KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 28, 2006
    Wow Mike, talk about mission impossible! Looks like you got a good advisory team. That is some gawd awful beautiful stuff.

    May your shop elementals and guardian spirits feel sated and content. This is a good time to clean and organize your shop and unfinished projects before you get started. Clear your head and heart, make love, write and mail unfinished letters, etc.

    I kid you not. Do whatever it takes to be 1000% focused, steady of hand and in good spirits.

    Good luck! May the force be with you.
  13. Frank Niro

    Frank Niro Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 10, 2000
    If you don't yet know what "recovery" work is and want to find out, then try some of the mammoth tooth. Truth is you can get down to drilling the holes and no matter how careful you are using the right drill bits, the holes will run off from staying center. Frank
  14. joe sangster

    joe sangster

    Jul 5, 2003
    Advise given above is excellent ! My 1st step is applying super glue all over & 2nd step is to epoxy vulcanized liner to back side. After that . sharp belts & sharp bits. I drill slowly & lubricate & cool with mineral spirits while drilling. I only use it for pocket folders & attach with screws rather than pins. Joe
  15. Mike Turner

    Mike Turner

    Dec 8, 2005
    WOW Thanks for all the great help guys, sorry for the delay we had to go out of town for a couple of days.

    Frank thanks for the very detailed how to.

    Believe me I have had this stuff for about 3 years now and would probably have it for many more years to come but this customer ordered the knife wanting Mammoth tooth from the get go I tried to talk him out of it but he seen some knives before at shows and he really likes the look.

    I will keep you all posted how she goes.
  16. atakach

    atakach KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 17, 2008
    bst advice, i believe., i have used it stabilized already, and still go and super glue all voids, and hairline cracks before i even touch the pieces.
    just my 2cents
  17. Mike Turner

    Mike Turner

    Dec 8, 2005
    Dang I forgot to update this so here is a pic, I backed this tooth up with a stainless steel liner. With all the suggestions I got here I think this one went pretty well just had a couple little break outs that had to be dealt with. This one is finished when the wife gets done photographing it I will post the finished knife.

    In this pic the blade is hand sanded to 1200 grit, bolsters are roughed in and scales are fitted to the bolsters and pin holes drilled. I went so fast I did not get any other in progress pics.[​IMG]
  18. hellgap


    Dec 17, 2008
    lets see the finished product
  19. Raymond Richard

    Raymond Richard

    Jun 17, 2001
    Mike, Glad to hear it was a success! I've had several small piece and tried using it for a spacer. I drilled it with a 1/16" bit and it broke. End of story. Guess that's why dentist are so expensive. :D

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