This instructable walks through the step by step process I took for mounting some deer antlers from scratch. If you are going to attempt to do this project yourself, chances are that you are handy and can make due without many of the tools I used. I just used everything that I already had handy in the shop.
Materials and Tools:
¼” bolt, nuts, and washers
Flocking and matching colored fancy rope stuff
JB Weld Epoxy
Loctite all-purpose glue
Step 1: Get a Deer
Even though the antlers I got aren’t very large (they barely meet the 3 point minimum in my state), I wanted to do them up nicely to commemorate my first successful deer hunting trip.
Step 2: Clean the Antlers
I cut most of the hide and what was easy to get off before I stuck myself pretty good with a knife. The flesh and skin around where the antlers attach to the skull cap like to hang on pretty tight. At that point I decided that I should try to work smarter and not harder. Searching around the web revealed that boiling is a common method to remove flesh. There is a lot of information going around about it but nothing was very specific.
What I ended up doing was boiling for 10 minutes, scrapping away with a skinny puddy knife. When it got tough I boiled again for another 10 minutes and then scrapped again. This all took place in the garage on a camp stove so as not to stink up the house. The whole boiling part didn’t smell that bad, but it did smell a little bit after it came out of the water. Not terrible. I imagine that it would be worse if I were doing the whole skull and there was more flesh stuck on it.
Step 3: Mount the Skull Cap on the Mounting Plate
So first, I cut a pear shaped little plate out of ¼” plywood. I rough cut it with a scroll saw and then sanded down to the line that I sketched on the table saw with a sanding blade. I played around with the angle that I wanted the antlers mounted. I ended up cutting a bolt off at 30 degrees and welded a washer on the top at that 30 degrees. This bolt slides through a hole that I drilled on top of the skull cap. We have a little tig machine that made quick work of the little weld. This allowed there to be only a thin washer on top of the skull plate instead of the thicker bolt head. It also allowed me to set the angle and while having the washer flush against the skull versus of having a gap on one side or the other. Next I slapped some of this stuff called JB Weld in around the washer and nut on the bolt to make sure everything stays locked up tight forever. I did the same thing with the JB Weld on the bottom where the nuts hold the mounting plate to the bolt. Next time I will probably just used gorilla glue instead of the epoxy.
Step 4: Make the Plaque
I cut it on the table saw. Kind of eye balled the angles and dimensions and all that. After I had the shape cut I racked the blade to about a 25 degree angle and moved the fence in really close to cut the beveled edge. I've seen some pictures of sleds that runs on the fence to make this kind of cut, which is a lot safer than just holding the piece up against the fence like I did. Someday I will make a sled similar and so that I don’t have to risk my fingers so much.
Next I drilled out a large hole part way through the front of the plaque so that the bolt holding the antlers to the pear shaped plywood will sit flush. Then I set the antlers on top and drilled holes through both the plaque and plate at the same time to ensure that the holes line up.
I also cut a keyhole centered on the plaque and located above the center of gravity of the assembly which allows me to simply hang it on a nail.
Step 5: Mold Clay Around the Antlers
I bought some of this low-shrink, air-dry clay at the local craft store and molded it around the anglers and mounting plate. I also covered up the top of the skull cap to hide the washer that I attached to the bolt. An important note here is that I hollowed out the clay through the holes from Step 4 so that the screws that will attached the plaque to the mounting plate won’t have to fight through hardened clay and possibly crack the clay.
So much for low shrink clay. It shrunk about an 1/8” all the way around the mounting plate, cracked a ton and some flakes fell off. I ended up sanding off the extra wood that appeared around the clay with the sanding blade on the table saw and an angle grinder. I filled in some of the larger cracks with gorilla glue to ensure that they wouldn’t break completely off and glued on the parts that did flake off back on
Then I bondo-ed all of the high and low spots and sanded smooth.
It didn’t turn out quite right so I re-bondo-ed it and filed and sanded away to give a smooth rounded shape. A file actually worked better than sandpaper because the sandpaper kind of favored cutting through bondo and didn’t make as much of a dent in the clay which left low spots wherever I bondo-ed. The file was much more indiscriminant with cutting through both the clay and bondo.
Step 6: Seal the Clay and Bondo
Step 7 requires that the surface be sealed, so I painted on a couple coats of polyurethane.
Step 7: Flock It!
This is some really cool stuff. Look it up. It gives the same look and feel of having felt tightly stretched around the smoothed clay and bondo, but without any seams or folds. It is the same stuff that they use to line the inside of jewelry boxes and that sort of thing. Apparently it is also super durable. The manufacturer advertises that it works good for goose decoys that can just be hosed off if they get too muddy and stuff like that. Just follow the instructions that come with the flocking and it will turn out great. I am really impressed with it.
Step 8: Sand, Stain and Finish the Plaque
This step can (and should) take place simultaneously with all of the other steps. The entire project takes quite a bit of time just waiting for clay to dry, for bondo to dry, between coats of stain, between coats of finish, between coats of polyurethane, etc.
I also burned my initials and the year into the back of the plaque with a soldering iron.
Step 9: Glue on the Cordage
I found some rope/cord stuff that matched the color of my flocking at the local fabric store. I ran a bead of Loctite Go2glue around the exposed space between the clay and the antlers and wrapped the cord around. The glue has a 30 minute working time so I used a couple wire ties to hold it in place while the glue dried. I left some overlap and after the glue was dried I trimmed the excess and kind of shaped the two ends together and put another couple drops of glue there to keep the ends together and prevent them from fraying.
Step 10: Screw the Pieces Together
At this point I had to enlarge the holes in the plaque so the screw threads don’t fight going through both pieces of wood. This way the screws only grip into the mounting plate and cinch the two pieces together. Had I thought it through I would have made the holes in the plaque larger to start with.
And it's done!