Man was using antler during our earliest recorded history. It's served us well for survival and decoration. Even today you can enjoy the benefits of antler for many purposes.
Step 1: Where to Acquire Deer Antler
If you don't want to scour the woods for deer sheds, there are many other ways to acquire antler. Here are a few I have used:
Ebay or Etsy
Craft or Antique stores
Deer processing shops
Step 2: What Can You Make - Letter Openers
Step 3: What Can You Make - Whistles
Step 4: What Can You Make - Bottle Openers
Step 5: What Can You Make - Writing Pens
Step 6: What You Can Make - Pendants & Key Rings
The antler tips can also be used for necklaces, key rings, ceiling fan pull chains. Some people like to use them for decoration. I used one to decorate a hiking stick (picture 2 & 3). Other people like to take these antler tips and shape them into bear claws or an alligator tooth.
Step 7: Brainstorm Other Things You Can Make
Salt & Pepper shakers
Carvings & sculptures
Wine bottle stoppers
Handles for hiking sticks
Again, I encourage you to go out to Pinterest and look at the many "Antler Craft" boards.
Step 8: Tools You Will Need
If you need to do a lot of shaping and/or detailed carving work, I'd recommend getting a Dremel or some kind of rotary carving tool.
If you have a small belt sander, that is a big help also. I have a small belt sander I purchased from Harbor Freight for $50.
For things like writing pens, it definitely helps to have a wood lathe and drill press.
Make sure you get some training or experience before using your power tools, and be sure to read the manuals that come with your power tools to understand safety procedures and their proper use. Also, wear safety glasses and make sure the antler is secure while you work on it.
Step 9: Protect Your Lungs From Antler Dust
Some complain about the unpleasant smell when cutting or shaping deer antler, but the odor has never really been strong enough to bother me. You will probably notice the odor more when drilling.
Step 10: Tips for Working With Deer Antler
Tip 1 - The closer you get to the base of the antler (where it was attached to the deer) the more porous the antler. As you move toward the tips (tines), it gets more dense and less porous. Likewise, when you look at a cross section of antler, the center tends to be more porous while the outer part is more dense.
Tip 2 - Make sure you secure the piece in a vise before you cut or drill. The drilling part is where you will notice the most odor. When drilling down the center of a piece of antler, I prefer to use wide and fairly straight sections of antler. And it all depends on how deep the hole. Go gentle when drilling. Antler is tough, but it can crack or fracture if you stress it too much when drilling.
Tip 3 - Use epoxy or CA glue for glueing in components (examples - pens and bottle cap opener). CA glue (thin & medium) can be used to fill in porous antler. You can find CA glue at Hobby Lobby.
Tip 4 - Use 120 grit, 220 grit, 400 grit, and 600 grit sandpaper for areas that need to be smooth. You can dry sand or wet sand. One of the things I love about sanding antler is how well it polishes to a shine. I don't even have to put any kind of finish on my antler crafts. However, when working with very porous pieces you might want to use CA glue or polyurethane to seal the antler. The CA glue can also be sanded and polished after its set up in the antler.
Tip 5 - Using a small belt sander (like the one shown earlier) works well. It allows you to use both hands to hold the piece while you shape it.
Tip 6 - I recommend not sanding all of the antler. The texture and shapes of the antler give your craft a certain character or quality. I like that people can still recognize the antler.
Tip 7 - I already mentioned wearing a respirator, but don't forget to wear safety glasses while working with antler.
Tip 8 - When turning antler on the lathe make sure you keep your turning tools sharp. On the lathe, antler turns very much like wood. It will dull your tools quicker though.
Tip 9 - When carving antler, I highly recommend using less porous pieces. Use a Dremel or other rotary carving tool with the appropriate bits. Wear your respirator because you're going to create a lot of dust. But you'll be surprised at the intricate designs you can create with antler.
Step 11: Conclusion
If you'd like to discover more ideas for deer antler, I would encourage you to search on Antler Craft boards on Pinterest. You can also visit my website (www.FourOaksCrafts.com) to find tutorials on antler crafts.
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