My projects,  Other crafts

How I carved my own corset busk

You can buy corset busks but making one yourself is actually easy and fun. All you need is a piece of wood and a Dremel tool and some paint and wood wax to decorate the results! I have made now two corset busks for my 1830s/1840s corset and I took inspiration from old Finnish and Karelian 19th-century embroidery patterns.

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The tools and materials

I have had my Dremel tool for years and the kit I have resembles the one I linked down below. This set has a good amount of basic tips plus the flex-shaft attachment I used for my carving. However, you don’t necessarily need the flex-shaft. It just makes the job a bit easier as you can then hold the tool like a pen.

I also use my Dremel for cutting bonings for my bodices and corsets and sanding the edges. I can also use it to drill holes when I make jewellery. It’s a very handy tool also for leatherwork as it can be used to smoothen and thin bulky leather and to polish edges.

You can buy several different bits for carving different materials. For a corset busk with small details, I found this small round bit good

It was not easy to find wood for this project at first. Plywood is not suitable for carving and many solid wood planks were either too thick or too thin. Then, I was looking for something completely different when I saw these paint-mixer sticks at a local Tokmanni. They were 4 mm thick and made out of solid wood and the size was already pretty close to what I needed. For the total price of 50 cents (35 with discount), I could do a bit of sawing!

So, you may need a saw as well. You will also need some sandpaper and steel wool for sanding out the finished carving.

I waxed the surface with this Liberon wax. The jar sold in Finland looks a bit different but this should be the same product:

I had some of this was already as we have used it to protect our dinner table surface. It’s nice to use as it is safe and it smells nice. It also doesn’t stain badly and it dries quickly so I could continue with painting immediately after waxing the busk.

To bring out the carving, I panted the pattern with acrylic paints. You can use any acrylic colour but thicker colours need to be thinned. I decided to experiment with acrylic colours sold for miniature figure painters that my son has. The layer and shade paints didn’t really produce a thick enough coat and they looked messy. However, I found the base paints excellent for filling out the carved lines and to bring some colour:

The carving

The easiest way to transfer a pattern to the wood is to use transfer paper. Of course, you can also sketch on the wood itself if you are artistic enough.

Carving the corset busk.

Carving with Dremel is almost like drawing. I first went through the whole pattern. Then sanded the whole area with sandpaper and steel wool. Then I went back and deepened those parts of the pattern that I felt weren’t deep enough. I finished the carving with sanding and polishing the wood with steel wool.

Then I added the wax with the help of a paper towel. The waxed surface can be then polished with clean cloth or steel wool.

For painting, you’ll need pretty small paint brushes to get into the small lines. As I mentioned above, I tried out different paints and I found that the Citadel base colours worked nicely. But any acrylic colours should do the job. Just test the paint on piece of scrap wood to see that it doesn’t soak into the wood and bleed.

The finished corset busk

The finished corset busks.

I really love how these turned out. If my fore-mothers had worn corsets they would have loved these, I’m sure!

Thank you for reading and see you soon!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.

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