Help me fix my cracked ivory plugs
June 22, 2012 11:36 AM   Subscribe

I need to glue/fix something weird. Help!

I bought these plugs recently, deeply discounted because of cracks. You can see the obvious weak points in how they are carved.

They are made of fossilized mastodon ivory. (Yes. Isn't that cool!?) So, my problem is that, as expected, one of them has cracked all the way through now. So, how can I fix these? I think I can glue it back together, but I don't know what to use because of the unusual material.

I need something that will be fairly invisible, not bulky, and able to stand having some pressure on it. Superglue may work, but I don't know it it's too brittle. The goal is of course to make them wearable again.

So any brilliant ideas or products?

Here is a pic of the damage. The crack runs through that bottom triangular section, nd it is also cracked through at the junction of the top left point, so if I remove the plug, it is in two pieces.
posted by catatethebird to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
Can't see the damage pix without logging in!

My first thought would be to ask the seller/manufacturer how they would fix it. My second would be to call your local arty piercing place and ask them for advice. My third thought would be to call the Museum of Natural History but that might be a little crazy.
posted by elizardbits at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2012

Can't see the damage shot - requires Flickr login.

Here's a servicer listing I searched up.

Can you do a different kind of repair - drill holes in it and "string" the pieces together?
posted by tilde at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2012

Best answer: Cyanoacrylate or CA (superglue) is pretty strong, but also can be very brittle.

These guys have a number of suggestions including hide glue and Elmer's White Glue. In particular they say:
Gluing ivory and finding the right glue can be problematic. Ivory has a creamy texture and, on a molecular scale, it is oily - hence it does not like to be glued. Elmer’s white glue works in many applications. Epoxy glues seem to work well in most inlays into flat grain wood but they tend to push ivory out in side grain applications. CA glues work great if the ivory and its counterpart are very smooth flat surfaces - we just do not know the life span of CA. For most applications I use a 55% PVA resin glue ( high strength white glue - it is like Elmer's Glue-all on steroids). In most applications one needs to clamp the ivory while gluing because the moisture in the glue will cup and pull the ivory until the moisture in the glue has flashed off. Clamp for 48 or more hours. Hide glue and fish glue work well. Titanium dioxide added as a whitener will allow the glue to dry white, thus aiding thin ivory applications with the age-old problem of translucency.

Please note - sealing the end grain of ivory with super glue (several coats) is an excellent way of protecting the ivory from cracking. This is most applicable to cue joint faces and to knife handles, especially where the ivory is fitted up against metal bolsters as the bolsters get hot during buffing and send heat into the ivory causing cracking. The CA glue will help as will caution and speed control of buffing.
posted by bonehead at 11:51 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

In short, I'd try a good PVA glue (a "white glue"). They can be amazingly strong.
posted by bonehead at 11:54 AM on June 22, 2012

Instead of gluing it, could you find a ring that just fits around the plug and put the plug into it? If you find one that is snug enough it might be easier than dealing with glue.
posted by rhythm and booze at 3:19 PM on June 22, 2012

I'd suggest trying MagnaTac which is sold at a lot of crafting/trim/jeweler's stores. It's flexible rather than brittle, pretty tenacious, and dries clear. I use it sometimes to join fabrics and papers to metals or other non-porous materials. MagnaTac sets and dries quickly, but you'll want to find a way to clamp the parts together while it dries completely.
posted by stagewhisper at 4:44 PM on June 22, 2012

Here's the image, for the lot of people who can't view it.

Would it be possible, for longer-term fixing, to make something [out of clay, molded plastic, I have no idea what] to fill in the star, and then adhere the ivory to the star? If you just glue it now, I'm sure it'll break again. Or, break at another point that isn't glued.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2012

Best answer: I like E6000 for pieces like these, because it also stays flexible. You can remove any residue after it sets by rolling it up off the surfaces you don't want it on. Rubber bands around the outside would probably clamp most evenly. Use in a well-ventilated area.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:46 PM on June 22, 2012

« Older What Did The Office Workers Of The 1600s Eat?   |   Lost in Translation Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.