Antlers are enjoying a hipster-fueled resurgence as semi-ironic pieces of wall art, cropping up as decoration in bars where the bearded class can quaff PBR while blasting virtual deer in Buck Hunter.
I reject that thesis. Step out of the virtual and enter the world of the real, where men hunt, animals bleed, and one death gives rise to another's life. Antlers are beautiful and venison is tasty; here is a way to update the old-school velvet-and-walnut, smoky cigar-lounge look of your typical mount. Dropping the antlers onto a simple, graphic skull shape elevates them to an appropriate level of badassery, creating a new human-animal hybrid that defies the cliches. Use them for decoration or to hang your favorite camo baseball cap.
I got these antlers out of my parent's garage, where they had been sitting for years. The provenance is unknown; if not in the practice of shooting one's own buck, antlers can be found in attics, garages, basements, and thrift stores everywhere.
You will need these materials:
Antlers (deer, moose, pronghorn antelope, etc.)
3/4" x 18" x 24" piece of plywood
1 can white spray paint
1 can gray/black spray paint
1 can gloss spray lacquer
2 2" black drywall screws
2 2-1/2"-3" galvanized deck screws
2 steel drywall anchors
4 #10 washers
80-100 grit sandpaper
You will need these tools:
Bandsaw (optional but helpful)
Step 1: Antlerin'
Scrape away any scraps of hair on the frontspiece of the antlers with the blade of an x-acto and some sandpaper. Drill two mounting holes, about 1/4" in diameter; put them on a diagonal from one another to prevent splitting.
Wash thoroughly with dish soap, hot water, and a mildly abrasive sponge. Make sure to get at all the grit and dirt in the crevices and cracks.
Paint with two coats of high-gloss white paint, again making sure to get into all the cracks and crevices. Once dry, hit with a coat of high-gloss clear lacquer to add depth, shine, and protection.
Step 2: Skullin'
Draw out your skull on the plywood in pencil. I looked on the internet for inspiration (there's plenty), and chose to go with a slightly-cartoonish-but-still-menacing silhouette with asymmetrical cranium, big triangular eyes, misshapen nose, and fat, uneven teeth. The head looks huge because of the space needed for the antlers. Lay your antlers on it to judge. I turned mine upside-down because they worked better for hanging things that way; however, they also took up more space on the skull. Mess around with it until you're happy.
Cut out the silhouette with a bandsaw and/or jigsaw. Drill 3/8" holes in the eyes and nose and use them to get a start with the jigsaw. Sand the surface thoroughly with an orbital sander. Fold up some sandpaper and get in the nose, eyes, and the cracks between the teeth. "Break" the edges by hitting them at a 45o angle, rounding them off some to prevent splinters.
Step 3: Paintin'
Hit the skull with two coats of high-gloss black or dark gray spray paint. I liked the idea of inverting the normal color of the skull and the antlers -- making the antlers bright instead of brown, and the skull dark instead of white. You may have another, equally brilliant scheme. Once the paint is dry, lay on a thick coat of high-gloss clear lacquer for that same depth and protection you added to the antlers.
Step 4: Mountin'
Lay the antlers on the skull to get an idea of where you want them placed. On either side, mark and drill two 1/4" holes for mounting to the wall. Be sure to leave enough clearance between your mounting holes and the antlers for getting a drill in later to screw them into the wall. Glue two washers around the holes; I went back and painted the washers over with gray so they would blend in, but you could leave them galvanized if you like the contrast.
Lay the antlers in position. Pre-drill two holes with an 1/8" drill bit. Screw the antlers on, using galvanized deck screws and #10 washers.
To mount to the wall, load an 1/8" bit in your drill. Hold the mount to the wall and have a partner check if they're straight. Poke the drill through both mounting holes, marking the position on the wall. Pop two drywall anchors in the wall; I use the cone-shaped metal ones (Cobra is one brand name) that are rated to hold 50 lbs. Put your screws through your mounting holes partway, so just the tips poke out the back of the mount. Hold up until you feel the tips click into the anchors and tighten down the screws.