Grossing Small Bones

Many questions come on the website regarding small bones. For example, what is the best way to cut a bone which does not fit the processing cassette? This is sometimes a real problem when a small bone or too thick bone slice does not fit the cassette.

One of the commonly used methods (wrong!) is to put the bone in decal and to cut it with the blade when the bone becomes soft after decalcification. The second common mistake is to use a knife or a blade and a hammer. This is often ineffective, as well as dangerous.

Actually, a small bone is often more difficult to handle than a big one. It is difficult to cut a small bone with a band saw. The main problem is in immobilizing the bone while cutting.

I squeeze firmly the bone between branches of a special forceps that have flat rounded multi-toothed tips. The Russian Tissue Forceps 6”(Mopec) is appropriate for this purpose. The bone is placed on a wooden or Styrofoam plastic support jig or a hard-pressed packing carton. The latter is the best. I use it more a more. A fret saw, like Precision Hacksaw (Tool Shop) or MiniHack (Stanley) with a blade 32 teeth is placed between the forceps’ branches. The bone is cut with short movements of the saw.

The specimen is between the pags held with a forceps


The described method is also appropriate if there is a calcified nodule. This specimen requires a firm but delicate grasp and a thin blade with 32 teeth otherwise the specimen falls apart.

Sometimes only a small part of the bone prevents to close the cassette’s lid. A rib cutter like Littauer-Liston Bone Cutting Forceps 6” or 10 “ (ThermoShandon) solves the problem. It is a good idea to have this instrument on hand.

The best for small bone cutting

Russian Tissue Forceps (10″ and 6″)




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