Monday, January 10, 2011

Red Deer and Mammoth Ivory Buttons

The day you've all been waiting for. Okay, the day I've been waiting for. I get to show you the buttons I made on Saturday while the two younger grand kids took their naps and the oldest watched a movie. Have I told you lately how I love naps? Especially when the two youngest take them at the same time? I adore these grand kids of ours but naps give Grandma freedom to do things she couldn't attempt while the kids are awake. And Saturday was just such a blessed day. Kirk was around to give me pointers and remind me how to use his knife making equipment, something I've forgotten.

The results were better than what my imagination had conjured up. These mammoth ivory ones photographed on camel down are just heavenly? Perfection may not have been reached but wow, my husband is even excited about my button making project. Has it loosened up his knife handle supplies for button making? NO!!, for when I eyed some of his stash, he said I could settle for scraps or go buy my own material. I do the book keeping for his business and help choose some of his supplies. I know the cost of those premium pieces of handle material. My reply to him was, "Then I couldn't afford to buy but one piece, and what where would I ever get the money to buy spinning fiber or yarn for my buttons?"
These mammoth ivory scraps, turned buttons have me dreaming of just the right color of blue yarn with a mixture of blue, brown, and tan heathered to compliment them. They will be the focus point of the sweater. Something I've never done before, but I going to buy yarn for the project. In fact, I rarely ever buy yarn. I have yarn that others have given me but I seldom buy it. How can I not though? I know it is probably all backwards to what one usually does. You find a pattern, and then decide on the yarn, and then buy buttons, right? Well, that is about to change. Many of these buttons are going to dictate the project and style. And it won't just be sweaters that these will adorn but ascots, vests, hats, and mittens too.
I know just the someone to help me with this sweater project too. My oldest daughter is well versed in yarn and after she sees these photos she's going to be dreaming of projects for the buttons too. In fact, she's already offered to swap some of her luxurious yarn stash for buttons and she hasn't even seen them yet. Yup, there will soon be two coveting my husbands knife handle scraps.
The yarn might be expensive for Red Heart or any of the common yarns won't do. But saving up for the just right super soft wool, alpaca, or something else wonderful will be worth the wait. And the design, well, I'm not fixed on that yet as I know it has to require only three buttons. Three one inchers is all I've got and all the scrap of mammoth ivory would make.

The other set of buttons I made was these Red Deer buttons. They are from a small piece of tine. The horn was a given to us by a gentlemen to put on a knife that Kirk built for him. This little scrap was all that was left. The Red Deer is native to the Scottish Highlands. Now that sweater whatever it may be will have to have a Scottish flair to it and require only six buttons for that is all their is of the horn. Why does it have to be a Scottish sweater? Well, I'm
Scottish on my dad's side. My Grandparents came to America in the 1800's. Can't remember whether it is great or great great, I'll have to look it up again on my genealogy chart, but they were part of the Mormon pioneers that went west to Salt Lake City and eventually settled in Idaho.

Here is a comparison shot of of the Red Deer button next to an elk horn button Kirk made for his sweater. Big difference in the horn. I'm putting the buttons on today, YEAH!! The sweater will be done at last. I'll get a picture of it on my hubby and show it off when it's done. First I need to give him a hair cut. Wouldn't want you to think I neglected him for the button making.
As you can see, I cleaned up the Red Deer button a little from the ones above. All the buttons but the elk horn ones, since the marrow isn't a part of the button, will need polyurethaned. This will give them a low luster and make the Red Deer ones not looks so dirty and gray. Besides, I wish to protect the marrow side and give it a bit of cohesive strength. Not that the buttons will see much wear and tear on a luxury sweater which is hand washed but with the rarity of the material, I want to be safe. I learned a great deal from these few buttons I made Saturday. One lesson was that it might be better to stick the rough side down on the vise on the drill press. The bit went where IT wanted to go when it met with the ridges of the horn. This created holes not exactly where I wanted them. There wasn't any persuading the bit to go otherwise either. By drilling from the back, it might just alleviate the problem.

As for working with ivory, I've an expert to consult. Don't over heat it when grinding or it will crack and always drill the holes from the front, very slowly. The ivory may chip a little on the back side. Mine didn't but some of the bark ivory is much more fragile than the inner core pieces so one must be extra careful. Some of you may be wondering where does the color come from n the mammoth? The dirt where the tusk laid buried for centuries impregnates into the tusk. Some only a little ways and others pretty deep. The interesting thing is that Kirk is getting only scraps too. Most all the mammoth ivory tusks found on the tundra has broken down into pieces.

As for grinding, well, it was a bit scary putting my fingers so close to the whirling belt. It not only takes off horn and ivory, but hide just as easily. The variable speed control endears me to this particular grinder. Kirk has a Burr King with one speed only, VERY FAST. I won't touch it. These few buttons taught me quite a lot about how I want to go about making the next ones. Some things I'll repeat and others, I'm changing my methods on and trying something new. As with all new things the learning curve is steep.

But one thing is for sure, there will be more button making in my future.

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