How-To: Cuttlebone Casting

Craft & Design Workshop
How-To: Cuttlebone Casting
Two halves of a cuttlebone mold, showing impressed pattern, registration keys, and sprue.
Original form and cast silver replica, after rough clean-up.

Also commonly referred to as “cuttlefish casting,” this simple, traditional metal casting technique takes advantage of the splendid properties of a finely porous bone-like internal organ that is shared by all members of the cuttlefish family. The animal uses it for buoyancy control. Though cuttlebone purchased commercially is likely to have been harvested from a cuttlefish caught for food, remnant cuttlebone from naturally-deceased animals can be gathered from beaches in many parts of the world.

The interior surface of the bone is composed of porous aragonite, a crystal form of calcium carbonate, that, in cuttlebone, is soft enough to take permanent impressions with moderate pressure. It is also naturally resistant to the heat of molten jewelry metals like silver and gold, though the mold is destroyed by the process of casting.

This tutorial from Jamie Hall of Ganoksin’s Primitive Method blog covers the process of making a simple cuttlebone casting, from a wax original, in sterling silver. It has good photographs and is clearly written and provides just the right level of detail for a beginner.

Cuttlefish Casting – Primitive Method

5 thoughts on “How-To: Cuttlebone Casting

  1. Charles says:

    Be warned though… it really smells.

  2. skr says:

    Don’t file the texture off, that’s the best part. I typically used to carve directly into the cuttlebone instead of pressing a form into it.

  3. Sharon King, Ph.D. says:

    I am totally frustrated with cuttlebone…I put too much pressure on it…and it broke….I will use plaster of paris because I really like what I have done with the wax…

  4. Ros Millar | Daisy Does says:

    […] use cuttlebone casting to produce pieces for special commisions and small batches, which uses natural methods to create […]

  5. LVL1 Classes! Cuttlefish Casting Dec 3rd - Louisville Maker Faire says:

    […] “This is your chance to play with molten pewter! In this workshop we will be carving a mold out of a cuttlefish bone and then pouring molten pewter into the mold to create our own jewelry pieces. This is a simple, traditional introduction to the world of metal casting. The cuttlefish bone is easily carved using dental tools. Here is a link from make magazine that describes the process in more detail: […]

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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