When looking into the history of Beaver tooth as a tool, I ran into the mention of an old story about Beavers growing to the size of small black bear (Jalbert, Russell 2003), yet I never looked into to much.
Then this evening I see two very cool facts about the Beaver:
1) at one time there was a giant semi-aquatic species of Beaver called “Castoroides” (Castor Ohioensis) which would grow up to 200 lbs + , and would grow to between 6 to 7 feet tall.
2) beaver’s teeth enamel contains iron, which makes them incredibly strong, sharp, and orange. Because the orange enamel on the front of their teeth wears away more slowly than the white dentin on the back, a beaver’s teeth self-sharpen as he chews on trees.
Both of these would make the teeth large enough, and strong enough for full size mokotagen blades, instead of the smaller more fragile teeth of Castor Canadensis which we have seen on archeological and ethnological record.
There’s two ways to cut a Beaver (Castor Canadensis) tooth to form a blade. The original thought was it was cut in half along its length, then sharpened and hafted. Well this leaves the tooth extremely fragile because of its you’ve removed it’s structural rigidity. Having tried this method, the hours it took to achieve a fragile blade, isn’t worth it. There’s too much time invested for an unreliable tool.
The second method came to me after months of frustration, broken teeth, and prayers to Amikwa. Within the pile of teeth on my desk, some were cracking, which is normal. It’s where they were cracking that was important.
Like anything else, cracks form on the weakest part of the object. If you look at a cross section of an incisor, you have two very thick wall and two thin walls. These cracks normally appear along the line where the thick meets thin and they fracture leaving a “chisel edge” on the thicker wall. So by following this natural crack and removing the weak areas, you can exploit the strengths. Leaving you with a curved blade, sharp edge, and supported by a convexed spine. As you can see in the last image, it will shave solidly. The draw back was the tooth itself, being dry it became brittle in certain sections. Fresh and preserved teeth are needed for this tool.
“Cut tooth, ready for hafting”
I’m currently working on a new set of Beaver tooth mokotagen and chisel/gouges. As usual I’m looking for fresh teeth, as my trapping window is extremely small given my current work load.
“Unfinishef trial run tooth blade”