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Antler Carving


Bella Nicol

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Hello everyone! I'm about to jump from beef bone and shell, to antler.

My greatest concern with the new medium is the porous nature of the antler, and what will happen when I begin to carve it.

Does the antler naturally become filled when you sand and buff it? Or should I find a piece that has none of the honeycomb? That is very difficult for me however.

Please let me know! I'll be carving a pendant. Please help! :)

Thank you,

Bellamy

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Hi Bellamy.

The porous part of antler will not fill with sanding. It will stay as it is, except the sanding dust and grit will also be evident. There are quite a number of old netsukes carved from antler, as well as carvings from other, mostly S-E Asian origin, you can find some on the net if you hunt around. The porous part is avoided where possible, but when it is in evidence, it is very clearly visible as (with old carvings) still spongy, black area. (with a high polish on the exposed solid bits, though.)

The part that is much better is the immediate area where the antler meets the skull. The tip of the skull is more-or-less solid bone, and so is the bottom of the antler. This is only possible with hunted deer, though.

Another possibility is to get onto a farm that grows deer for velvet. These saw off the antler when in velvet, and the remaining stump grows over, and solidifies into a more-or-less solid "crown" or "button". Thes are flattish, round or oval pieces that tend to have a cleaner area on the side where they joined the skull, and less-clean, but still solid other side. These are shed when the antler would be shed, and unfortunately most farmers tend to leave them lying on the ground.

Yet more possibility is with moose antlers, which are reasonably solid right through, though more porous than bone in general, but uniform enough for carving.

Hope this helps.

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Hi Bella,

 

Netsuke carvers use antler with the porous interior in very interesting ways. The difference in material and texture plays a role in the composition, and with staining it becomes a very dramatic part of the whole piece. For you, it depends on whether or not your imagination can include the internal structure into the overall design of the piece.

 

Janel

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Fabulous, thank you Yuri and Janel, I swapped in my first antler for a new one with the base intact.

They now make dog chews of naturally shed antlers, lucky me! Not only, but there is also a venison farm a few kilometers away.I wish I could post pictures, but I have to use my phone to access the internet.

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Also,

Does anyone have any tips to help for my first experience with antler? The pieces have been cleaned already sine they need to be sanitary for the doggies.

The piece is about 12 inches long, with a diameter of about three-four inches around, base intact. Should I create a disc from the base, where from what I understand is more solid? Or work from the sides? As a beginner, I want to get as much use out of this piece as I can. Were it plain bone I wouldn't be so concerned. I really appreciate the feedback!

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Hi Bella,

 

I deleted your duplicate post. It happens from time to time.

 

It is good to see you thinking ahead. I suggest that you do both orientations. Personally, I would try to preserve the crown and a half inch or so of the antler right at the crown for my own kind of carving, then use the next part either as a cylindrical piece, or if thick enough for a half cylinder or what sort of length and cut the concept for carving dimension required, such as a quarter round, long or short, etc.

 

Experience will help you to make the decisions of how to cut up the antler in the future. You first will be learning what the orientation of the cut will bring to each of the carvings that result from them. Keep that in mind now so that you don't feel in error from the start. There will be more antlers in your future if you enjoy using the material.

 

From your perspective, you are making pendants? If so, is the diameter of the antler of the size you want the pendant to be? Too large?, then take the crosswise cuts from farther up. If the aim is to have solid circular slabs, what ever the diameter, with little or no matrix in the middle, then make the first cuts close to the crown. Look at how much thickness goes for the length of the antler. Would half the cylinder at the crown make the piece too thick, or could it be cut lengthwise, from a piece taken close to the crown, into multiple flat pieces on the lengthwise grain?

 

I am giving questions as answers, but I know that once you make the cuts and try carving the material, you will begin to answer your own questions. The material is not like plastic, it does have a little bit of a grain, but very little compared to what you would experience carving wood. The shape that the concept needs for carving into is the major factor in deciding how you will cut the antler.

 

The other features that are part of the material, cracks, the internal structures, etc., will also become apparent, and in time, you will consider them as assets or something to work around or avoid.

 

Please read the quote that appears in the signature lines below. The quote from Goethe has been by my work spot since my early 20's. I am now 60 and still use it to push my work and myself through the times that I feel stuck in an eddy of possibilities and limitations.

 

Janel

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