I’ve had a couple people lately asking me how I restored the megalodon tooth I posted on thefossilforum.com a couple years ago. The specific post can be found here.
Due to this, I decided to pick out a damaged tooth on Ebay for $15, and take you through it step by step. Here we go!
What You’ll Need:
- PaleoBond Sculp Hardener and PaleoBond Sculp Resin (You can substitute with epoxy putty but dries faster and is less malleable)
- X-Acto Knife
- Wire brush or any brush with very stiff bristles
- Any brand of acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby or Michaels (specific colors listed further below)
- A small paintbrush of reasonable quality
- Fine sandpaper and steel wool
- SITUATIONAL: Clear gloss used for acrylic paint
Examine the fossil and the damage.
This is the bargain tooth I purchased. It’s over 5 inches, and you can see it’s actually in nice condition minus the chunk missing. Without the damage, it would probably cost at least $150.
The broken edge is still sharp and jagged, so it appears that the damage occurred recently as opposed to millions of years ago. To fix this tooth I will need to recreate parts of the root, bourlette and enamel. Since the tooth has fairly nice detail I will definitely need my razor blade to create fine lines and serrations.
Prepare and apply the putty.
Pull out a small chunk of putty from both the PaleoBond Hardener and Resin containers. Knead them together with your hands until the colors mix completely. Mix thoroughly otherwise the putty will be squishy in some places and will not harden properly. Once mixed, take a very small piece from your ball of putty and mash it into the damaged area of your tooth.
Building the shape.
Less is more when you’re working with putty. Smaller pieces are much easier to manipulate, so build gradually piece by piece. You may get to a point where you’re putty structure is not stable enough to continue building on. Take a break for 2-3 hours to let the putty dry and come back. When building the root of my example tooth, I had to take two or three breaks in order to get a foundation sturdy enough for me to continue building up.
Pay attention to how your repair is taking shape and keep the edges of your putty level with the natural edges of the tooth. This is one of the most difficult parts of the repair, but it makes a big difference when you get it right. Wash your hands every once in a while to keep them from getting to tacky and sticking to your putty.
Begin to work in the details.
As your repair begins to fill out, work in natural-looking cracks and lines with your X-Acto knife and fingernails. Mimic the natural aspects of your tooth as best as you can. When repairing my tooth’s root, I created fissures and cracks that matched up with the real side of the tooth. This really helped create the illusion that the repair is natural.
To mimic the heavily detailed surface of the tooth’s root, I gently pushed my wire brush into the surface multiple times. Try to do this when your putty is still wet because if the putty is dry it takes much more effort. ALSO, make sure to keep the putty very smooth in areas of enamel (excluding line/crack detail). Once the putty dries, take some fine sandpaper and smooth it out further. Steel wool can then be used to make the surface even smoother. (Thanks to steelhead9 for those two tips!) Be very anal retentive about this. You will appreciate it in the next step.
This is my favorite part because it’s the point in this process where the repair finally comes to life! It also happens to be the most frustrating part.
Depending on your tooth’s coloring you will likely need the following colors in your arsenal:
- Sienna (maybe)
- Red (maybe)
- Blue (maybe)
This step is where perfectionism (making your enamel super smooth) really pays off. Paint highlights the imperfections of your putty, so don’t be disappointed or surprised if you have to start over. I started over probably two or three times.
As far as painting technique, I would love to give more instruction, but that is really an entire lesson in itself. Don’t be afraid to paint a little onto the actual fossil. You will need to do this in order to properly camouflage the merged area of putty and tooth. In fact, don’t be afraid to overlap your putty a millimeter or so onto the tooth as well. My biggest tip though is make sure you paint in a well lit room. Painted colors can look spot-on until you step into good lighting!
Apply a finish depending on your tooth.
Some teeth with top-quality enamel will need a glossy finish applied in order for the repair to look natural. My tooth did not require a high-gloss coat. Either way, you ought to apply some kind of light finish to your tooth in order to preserve the repair from scratches and humidity. I have not yet found the perfect finish to do the job, and am still experimenting with spray finish, clear acrylic gloss, clear furniture gloss, low-gloss nail polish, etc. Feel free to add your thoughts and recommendations below!
Below you can see my repaired tooth. The root could use a bit more texture and the enamel and bourlette are a little rough in places. Overall, I’m happy with the result though. 🙂
I hope these instructions were helpful! Good luck!!!!