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      I needed hands to replace ones that fell apart when I restored a very old cuckoo clock. This is the process that worked for me.

      Tools I used:

      Step 1:
      I purchased guitar saddle blanks that measure 3” x 3/4” x 3mm. It was not necessary to cut the length or width, but I had to grind the thickness. The hands that I used for the pattern were about 1.55mm thick. After using the grinder for the bulk of it I sanded to smooth out the ridges that the grinding wheel made until the blank measured about 1.8mm thick.

      Step 2:
      Next, I used Elmer’s school glue to attach the bone blank to a tongue depressor. This gives rigidity, as well as, more surface to hold onto while working. I made a copy of the original bone hands and transferred the outline to the bone blank.

      Step 3:
      Then I used a Dremel with a diamond cutting disc to make release cuts along the edge of the bone. This will allow me to back the saw in and out easier.

      Step 4:
      The next step is to saw along the outline using a jeweler’s saw. This takes some getting used to and practice. I broke many blades. Now I know why they sell these blades in 144 packs! The blade that I found to work the best for me was size #1/0. I tried to get as close to the line as possible without cutting off the line. I am actually holding the saw upside down in this picture. It works better if it’s held the correct way. ;)


        Step 5:
        I did some of the initial filing around the pattern with it in the vise. If I had areas that needed a lot of material gone, I very carefully used the Dremel to quickly file. Also, the area that needed cut out was drilled so I could feed the blade of the saw through the hole for cutting. I actually did most of the detail filing in my hands, not using the vise but being mindful of where and how much pressure I was putting on the delicate parts.

        Step 6:
        After I was satisfied with the filing around the outline, I sanded on a flat surface until the thickness of the bone was about 1.55mm. Notice that I have not yet cut out the point of the hand. I left this until the last for fear of breaking it off and also I needed the end of the tongue depressor to use as a handle while sanding.

        Step 7:
        When I was finished filing the thickness, I reattached the pattern and redrew the point of the hand, then finished cutting and filing.

        Step 8:
        To remove the wood from the hand, I soaked it in warm water until the glue released. I VERY carefully inserted the blade of an exacto knife between the wood and bone at the round end to help it along. If I had been patient it probably would have released on its own which would have been a lot safer.
        I could see now places that needed additional filing and shaping. So, finishing touches were done very delicately.


          Step 9:
          I put the jeweler’s saw blade through the hole I drilled at the end of the minute hand and cut out the square. Then on my drill press I drilled the round hole for the hour hand. I had to do some additional filing to fit the hands onto the clock. Just be sure to take it slowly only removing a little and then trying the fit.

          Step 10:
          To stain the hands I put them in strong hot coffee for about 30 seconds and then wiped them dry.

          Here is the finished project!

          “Bone” appetit!
          Andrea :P


            Andrea, excellent thread, you made me smile, then…I saw my teeth 😯 …I love coffee :D I would have never thought of using my favorite beverage to darken the hands. I guess the saying is true, sometimes the answer is right under your nose ;) .
            Guitar saddle blanks are a perfect supply for bone blanks, good idea!
            Those hands look great, thank you for posting this, I will definitely refer to it when I need to make some bones hands, or for that matter any cuckoo hands as I am sure most of the techniques would work for plastic and wood too.
            Keep on keepin on.


              Thanks, William. I really enjoyed this project but is was very time consuming. On to another cuckoo in need of some TLC!

              Bob Tascione

                Andrea you did a fantastic job on the hands and on this tutorial!
                Bone used for guitar saddle blanks…who would of thunk!! Great idea.
                I did a search and found a site that has all kinds of bone and horn material for guitar, violin and other instrument restorers and makers. There are many others but here’s a link for anyone interested in supply and prices http://www.guitarpartsandmore.com/?nav=products&cat=1&sub=16

                Thanks for putting this up here for us Andrea!


                  Thank you, Bob. It was nice talking to you today!


                    Thank you Avittek, I know what I’m going to be working on next week. My cuckoo clock is a newer one with plastic hands but its going to get a face lift now!
                    Not that it matters but do you know what kind of bone it is that the supply places sell?



                      The blanks I purchased were on eBay. They are listed as buffalo bone,10 for $10. I think beef bone is what is traditionally used. From what I’ve read, it is possible to buy the white cleaned dog bones at a pet store and slice it on a band saw. I chose to go the more convenient route not knowing even if I could accomplish anything. The hands that I carved, as far as the look of the bone goes, looks just like bone hands that are on another clock that I have. Good luck! The best advice I can give on the process is to go slowly and be patient.


                      bernie weishapl

                        Great tutorial and nice looking hands.


                          Thank you, Bernie.



                            Very nicely done!
                            I am so pleased I now have someone to contact when I need new cuckoo hands making ;)
                            Great tutorial, thank you for taking the time to post it up Andrea.


                              Thank you, Paul. Don’t know how soon I’ll be dong that again! Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it but it is time consuming, especially because I was learning as I went along. Someday after all the clocks that are waiting for me are finished, I’d like to try something more detailed. ;) (that might be a while).



                                Nice work Andrea, thanks for sharing.



                                  Beautiful job Andrea. Thank you for the step by step.

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