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Doug Bostic

Working with Antler

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I was walking through a wash near my house when I found a shed antler; so being the thrifty person I am, I grabbed it and carried it home. I've played a little bit with carving some of the tips and found a couple things. A) I'm having a very hard time carving this; the ironwood I had was easier. Is this typical, are there ways to make this easier, or am I just doing something wrong?

And B) It's hard to clearly see any of the carving on it. Do I just need to carve deeper, or would staining it work? If so, what would any of you recommend?

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Hi Doug,

 

Antler is very hard, but when the work is done, it can be lovely.

 

Use the right tools. Wood carving tools, gouges and chisels are likely not the right sort. Such hard materials require very hard metals for these tools. You will read in the archives now and then that when working very hard, dense materials, one will use tools to "scrape", a sideways planing motion, rather than cutting a curl of material. Files of various shapes and tooth (what is the right way to describe the coarse, medium to fine cutting surface of files?) will remove material also. Many of us use hight speed rotary tools with various types of cutting shapes and, um, tooth. Sorry, senior moment for the sort of cutting surfaces again.

 

If you are making fine dust, wear a mask, or use a dust collector or a fan in a window to draw the dusts away from your face and lungs.

 

Lighting source positioning will help to reveal the carved surface. Place the light at a low angle, so that it does not glare into your eyes, but casts its light across the surface, creating some shadow. I use an elbow lamp that gets moved a lot while I am carving. I also use a torpedo compact fluorescent daylight full spectrum bulb. Cool to work near, and the light is easy on the eyes and does not distort the colors.

 

In the Getting Started and Resources, you will find a rough video which demonstrates the use of some tools by Stephen Myhre, and others of mine. The concept of "scraping" a sideways motion for material removal is presented here. Much easier to see it than to describe it in words. Small Carving Instructional Videos This link will get you to that little video. I hope it helps. Notice the angle of the light and the shadows which help to reveal the carved surfaces.

 

Good luck to you. Antler is a tough material. Keep your tools sharp and cut away from your flesh!

 

Janel

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Janel,

Thank you very much for the information. It looks like I'll be putting that project on hold for the moment, so I can can make myself some tools.

But now, I have questions about the tools themselves. I was wondering what you made them from. I know you said one was from a dentistry tool, but I was wondering if you could tell me what else you had used to make the other ones.

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Hi Doug,

 

There is information available to you already here in the earlier posts. Try the suggestions below to do a little rewarding research. There are photos of tools, and different suggestions for materials to make the tools from. Rather than try to recall it all, I hope you will be able to find the information without too much effort.

 

Again, the archives can be useful. Go to Making and Using Small Carving Tools in the Getting Started and Resources area of the forum.

 

Also, use the SEARCH function when you are logged in, try tool, tools, files, Stephen Myhre, and other keywords, to see what might sort out of the nearly three years of contributions by TCP's members.

 

Good luck, have fun!

 

Janel

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All antler that I have carved (which is whitetail deer antler, very abundant in Virginia) is done with my Foredom rotary tool and a small flame bit. Takes off material pretty easily. When done carving, I buff on a glossy finish using a white buffing compound and a loose cotton wheel. I often accentuate the color with Fiebings medium brown leather dye. A small amount goes a long way. Hope this helps.

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Sorry but this is a question! I live in queensland,australia,and the deer species here are red deer. I have worked with this on knife handles and scrimshaw on the crowns but find crving it to be rather disappointing because of the porous nature of the antler. So to the question, what species of deer is the best for carving netsuki? re this link to netsuki carving in japan :- http://ameblo.jp/rokusho-dou/entry-11909065222.html

It seems to me that this is solid all the way through!

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Ron

https://www.facebook.com/scuppostuff

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I believe it is either sambar or sitka,both species are in Australia.Sambar is the knife makers choice since there is just a "vein" in the center and not the porous marrow that is in most species.

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Moose is more-or-less solid. At least in the stem. In truth, still not completely solid, but the porousness is so dense that there isn't much difference between the outer "solid" part and the inner "spongy" one. Unfortunately, not much of it down under.

The tips of any antler tend to be solid to various length. Depends on a lot of factors, point is that each antler is different. Wild ones in a good feeding year tend to be the most useable.

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May be find a deer farm farm that has them stocked bro I think there is a wild population of sitka out warwick way but they not as easily found as the red deer .

Cheers.

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