Netsuke, pronounced netskey, is part of a simple device for carrying things when the Japanese male costume had no pockets – the costume was popular from 1600s to 1900s.
The netsuke may have started out as a simple object, but has become highly worked, and a prized wonderful small sculpture in a variety of materials – boxwood, bone, stone, ivory. The good older ones are signed and highest price was set in 2023 at £860,000. There are cheaper ones, but these may be plastic, with perhaps some ivory dust in the mix, or mass produced by laser carving.
As the carvings are so small, the work is traditionally carried out with small chisels, jewellers type saw with fine teeth, and the action is more scraping than cutting. The work is finished with pumice or wet and dry paper.
Suitable materials are , boxwood, holly, cherry, apple, ivory, amber, whale tooth, soap stone, antlers, cow bone, walrus tooth, buffalo horn, bog oak, old billiard balls, and taqua nut.
Nick has developed work station that can be clamped on to a table top for this sort of work
I can even be used standing up. Obviously with such small work, any sort of vice would be impractical