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Vintage Natural Bones, 5-7/8 inch
Vintage Musical Bones, 5-7/8 inch
Victorian era kid-size bones?

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Description Technical Specs
Vintage Musical Bones, 5-7/8"

I got this wonderful set of vintage musical bones in the Autumn of 2005. They belonged to a fellow from Watchet, Somerset in the UK. The bones were part of a vintage musical rhythm set for kids. (I still use the jingle bells on some tunes I play with Raw Earth, an experimental percussion-driven urban-tribal band.)

The sharp tone they produce is characteristic of instruments made of solid natural bone.

Short Design Style
The bones measure just 5-7/8" in length. This is a tad shorter than minstrel style bones which usually measure around 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 inches long. I understand that short musical bones were prevalent among Irish and seafaring players, but I can offer you no verifiable references to substantiate the claim.

Traditional Tapered Shape
The bones taper from thin at one end, to thick at the other. Tapered designs are common among shaped wooden musical bones. Some players prefer tapered bones as it makes them lighter and thinner (and thus easier to grip) at the top, but heavier and thicker (and thus easier to rattle) at the bottom. A 28 degree arc is the standard for musical bones and these align perfectly with my template. Still, I wonder if these objects are not musical bones at all, but some kind of utilitarian Victorian era artifact.

One bone is somewhat thicker and less tapered than the other. Some folks may consider this an advantage, others may consider it a disadvantage. I regularly mix and match bones of all shapes, kinds, and sizes, so the difference to me is insignificant. Of course, these are hand crafted products of natural bone, so no two are identical anyway.

Great for Kids and Adults
I prefer minstrel-length bones but also enjoy playing these short ones, so they are fine for adults too. 

Wouldn't it be charming if these bones belonged to a Victorian era child who played them in the garden and on the boardwalk? The kid probably got them from his great uncle, a crusty old salt who carved them at sea and kept the bones stashed in a small pocket, rattling them during his long hours while on watch.

See Detailed Pictures
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Are These Whalebone?
The bones look and feel like ivory, but close inspection reveals a grain like whalebone objects I have seen in museums. Musical bones made of ox shin are somewhat similar. But ox shin musical bones are usually larger. Also, ox shin grain is unlike this grain. Moreover, the antique appearance of these vintage bones makes the possibility they are ox shin seem remote.

But whatever they are, these bones are fun to play and produce a nice crisp snappy sound. How old are they? The whaling industry was going strong in 1807, so I am guessing this set is from one-hundred to two-hundred years old.

Can you solve the mystery of these bones?
If you know the provenance of these objects or if you know how to positively determine whether or not these objects are genuine whalebone, then post your opinion via the review system. Give the 'review' one star and please title it Guest Reply.
  • Short Length: Good for kids and adults.
  • Tapered Design: Easy to grip, easy to rattle.
  • Authentic Vintage Items: Great for living history events.

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