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Billy

Staining techniques with deer antler.

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Hi everybody.

 

I was wondering if anyone had experimented with staining, with tea for instance, on deer antler?

 

Please forgive me if you see this as sacrilegious, as it is a beautiful medium in its own right, but I was thinking of staining a few pieces to see what effect I could get. I've had some success with beef bone and like the effects it can bring to some pieces.

 

Also, has anyone oiled antler? With baby oil perhaps. And what effect did it have?

 

Thanks in advance for your time, Billy

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Hi Billy,

 

I have played around a bit with staining antler, mostly for doing inlay work, and replacement of engraved antler inlays on antique firearms. I have played with concentrated tea, but I didn't really like the results, especially on carved elements. A bit too orange for my tastes, I have used aniline dyes to achieve some nice results, though, particularly in combination with colored waxes.

 

I have also played a bit with oil finishes, but only with drying oils. Best results were achieved by using a very minimal amount. See Clive's thread on oil finishes in an earlier post.

 

Phil

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Different brands of tea will give very different coloured results. I've had the range from enemic orange to nearly black, depending on brand, time and whether just immersede or boiled in it.

You can use henna. Same as with teas, try different kinds, get different results.

Leather dyes are also very usable, but they tend to give a rather deep penetrating uniform colour. Same goes for clothes dyes.

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I use shoe polish to stain my antler carvings. You can "set" it by heating the antler with a torch, just don't hold the flame on it too long as it will burn. The heat sets the color in the bone and it will not wipe off. It will, however, leave it a dark color if you use very much polish.

I wipe the polish off untill I get the shade I want then set it with the torch. I've tried stains, but I like the shoe polish for my knife handles.

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I forgot to mention that about a couple of years ago I turned a chess set from deer antler buttons. The white was left as is, the black was stained a brilliant dark red, as you see on antique sets quite often. I used red clothes dye, but also added olive oil to the stain, and cooked the half-set i it for maybe 10 minutes. The result is fantastic, the colour is just the same as it was out of the pot, and the shine th oil gave it is really great, too.

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I'm not quite sure what you mean. But the recipe is simple. put enough water+stain into a small pot to cover the carvings, and add oil to taste. What I expected, and got is a beautiful shine, quite different from the high-polish type. It's more like the real old patina shine, if you kow what I mean. I did try water + stain before, just on its own, and the bone or antler came out red, all right, but also kind of dull. The colour was also more pinkish tinted, rather than the deep red I get with oil added.

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Hello Yuri,

 

I was considering that oil and water do not mix, and that the water would float on top of the stain, unless the stain is oil based. If the carving hits the oil first, as it heads towards being in the stain, would the carving first be touched by the oil, and the oil would then act as a resist. It obviously has worked well for you, so maybe I need to try it for myself to see how it works.

 

Do you first put the carvings into the pot, followed by the stain and then the oil? That order would then keep the carvings oil free until removal. I am just trying to understand the process.

 

Thank you,

 

Janel

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Uh, oh, sorry. What I completely forgot to mention is that it's boiled. As per instructions for the dye in the first place. For about 10 minutes. By the way, that also applies to tea, I used to do quite a lot of staining that way. In tea the boiling doesn't need to be longer than just a couple of minutes. For that matter, probably the cloth dye doesn't need more, either, I just thought that the oil will mix in surer that way.

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Thank you Yuri,

 

I will just have to try it. I don't think that boiling will emulsify the oil with the water, unless something in the dye or stain material can do that. It works for you, and that is what is important. Have you kept any of the dyed with oil added pieces for a length of time to see how it survives as time passes?

 

I am always curious about how things work, so I keep asking questions. :o

 

Janel

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I turned my own chess set like that. It's at least a couple of years old (I don't remember exactly), and in regular use. As far as I can see there is precious little deterioration in the colour quality, and no loss of gloss. I don't think the oil emulsifies with the water/dye, it's probably simply boils into the antler, independently of the water. And the colour fastness I attribute to the alum or whatever they add to the dye to make it colourfast. I know a bonecarver who's been using th technique for many years, and seen some work that is many years old, and there seems to be no difference in colour from recent ones. He uses some high-class German cloth dye, rather expensive, and swears by it. I suppose he's right, as always, you get what you pay for. I used the off-the shelf stuff simply because it was for myself, reasoning that I can alway re-dye it if it's not good enough.

But as I said, I don't use this technique for actual carvings, as the result is far too uniform. There is no shading at all. And it penetrates too deep to sand back with satisfactory results.

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