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Hi From South Wales, And A Query About Antler


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Hi All,

 

just to say hello everyone and to introduce myself, I am a wood-carver of many years, and a wood-work tutor and wood-carving instructor; my speciality is in ships-carving, particularly tiller-handles, but I also carve lovespoons and engrave rifle-stocks.

 

Anyhow, I have started developing an interest in early medieval crossbows, specifically the inlaid carved antler plate-work. Being suitably intrigued I have acquired some fallow deer antler (this winter's cast) and now find I do not know what to do with it. So, should I wash the whole of the antler in soapy water, or cut the part out that I am working with and treat only that and leave the natural oils in the rest of the (untreated) antler, or should I not use soap, but use bleach, or do I have to practice patience and wait a year before the antler is workable? In short, what are the first stages in preparing an antler blank?

 

Thanks in advance

 

 

Andrew

 

Avenue.Woodcarving

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Hi Andrew

If the antler is not dirty then you do not need to wash it. Maybe take a wire brush to it if you think that will help. You might want to get a dust mask and eye protection if you are power carving. I put antler in a big vise and use a hand saw to cut it up.The tips are solid about 3 or 4 inches down, then the center gets porous.

Hope this helps you.

 

Bruce

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Hi Bruce,

the antler is not dirty, and I have a bit of a thing against noisy, dusty, power tools, I only use them if I absolutely have to, so I am hoping the palmate sections I will be carving are soft enough for chisels/gouges/scrapers/gravers - I often carve boxwood and hornbeam, so maybe the antler won't be too different...........the smell though, that might be an issue....

Andrew

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Hi Andrew, having had one go at carving antler (my bit was from a red deer) I recommend not working antler indoors with power tools - it STINKS big time!

I tried to shape it with a 100# sanding disc at 1425 rpm with dust extractor - and the smell was really BAD! I am a former drain-layer, I have worked in a slaughter-house, and I am a smoker too - so I am not too easily offended but antler is nasty stuff.

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Mmmm, yes, I put a rasp through the crown in a heavily ventilated workshop - door and window wide open - and was gagging on the smell, I think the antler is really fresh and am hoping the smell fades with age. Prior to joining this forum, researching this has been difficult - the on-line information is sketchy at best and contradictory too. Of the posts on preparing antler that I did find, one said do not work with it for at least a year, one said do not work with old antler as it gets brittle, one said don't clean it, one said use bleach and the last said really dont use bleach, liquid soap is all you need.........Would be good to get a consensus of those who work with antler.

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Hi Andrew,

 

Welcome!

 

I have use antler just a little bit, and have never had the pleasure of working on fresh material. To me, the old antler, regardless of elk, deer, moose, it smells to me like clear (unstained) mammoth tusk does when carved with hand tools. Not objectionable, but a subtle presence when carving.

 

I use my wood tools for carving the antler, and bone as well, always attending to the sharpness and sharpening of the tools. My tools cut and shave.

 

More discussion about antler preparation and carving could go to Tools & Technical or Materials area of the forum, or maybe I could move this topic to one of those if that is a welcome idea.

 

I do like reading the experiences from those of you who use antler.

 

Andrew, is this fresh antler cream colored, or stained inside in some way?

 

Janel

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Hi Andrew,

 

Thank you - I moved it.

 

Working with hand tools raises less smell than power tools. When using the power tools for roughing in, I have a dust collector sucking the dust and odor away from the work zone and my face. The room will still smell, but it disperses eventually.

 

I chose long ago to not use mammoth tusk that was found with rotting bodies, believing that the odor would linger with the carving and contribute to an unpleasant smell association for the owner. I am unsure about what fresh deer, or other, antler smells like. I also wonder if fresh antler has moisture, or something else, like freshly cut wood sort of, that dissipates over time, rendering the material a little harder when not so fresh.

 

Old antler is a delight to carve, as is the mammoth tusk. The material is slightly less than completely opaque, and has a glow about it.

 

Yes, I imagine that we all would like to see what you have to work with now. A photo prep tip, if there is a lot of "background" that is not the subject of the photo, using the "crop" tool to remove that will make the subject fill the frame, thereby making the subject bigger at the resize dimensions you set.

 

Janel

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Hi Janel,

 

I popped out to the workshop to clean up the antler for some photos, I noticed that on the surface there is no smell when carving, but deeper into the antler the smell grows rapidly so I think the natural oils are the problem, as they dry so the smelly component disapears?

 

Here are some images of the antler. First is a light surface clean on the shaft, somewhat blurry but hopefully gives some idea of the colour. Incidentally, the antler is very easy to carve and reacts very well to the scraper.

 

 

13913581781_3edabc7476.jpg 13936709275_b6ec227ec5.jpg

 

Regards,

 

Andrew

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Hi Andrew,

 

I cannot see the photos. You have posted links to a page that requires a log in, and I would like to not have to do that. Did you have difficulties adding photos to your post, can I be helpful in some way?

 

Janel

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Hi Andrew

Antler can be filed, scraped and I use sharp knifes and chisels . Your tools work better sharp. The antler polishes up nicely with polishing compound then buffed on a wheel.

Fresh antler will still have a moisture content just as wood does. Do not put it near any hot heat source. Or bake in a window because it will crack.

 

Have fun

 

Bruce

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The inner, spongy part of antler has the blood circulating through it when the antler is still "alive". There is a lot of organic stuff left in that part, and it's that that tends to be really smelly. With cast antlers this is not so bad, with hunted ones it can be really gagging. (that's because the blood is still very much present, and starts rotting straightaway).

While I use power tools for shaping it, I also use hand tools. (And the Medieval carvers, of course did just that, too.) Normal wood chisels and knives are perfectly adequate for the job, as long as they are sharp. Even planes can be used.

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I should mention that if you are going to do a lot of work with antler, it makes sense to get an extra set of chisels just for that, and sharpen them at a less sharp angle. (sorry, I don't know the correct technical term.) What I mean, instead of the usual 30 or so degrees for wood, sharpen them to perhaps 40-45'.

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Thanks Yuri, I have a set of 12 palm gouges, half of which are near-duplicates of the others, so I think I will sharpen some secondary bevels onto the 'spares' and keep them as my antler-carving set as I am still wood-carving and so can't re-shape my main sets of chisels.

 

Andrew

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