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Antler Straightening


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 I did a search and saw that there was a topic and even same method for straightening, but it didn't include much information on that method. The method I'm referring to is a vinegar soak. I'm wondering how many others have tried this and with what results? What antler? Not horn.

I've soaked whitetail deer antler in distilled white vinegar with good results. Small pieces about neck knife size handles soak for a week maybe more depending on the amount of bend to be straightened. Larger antler 2 weeks maybe 3. After the soak clamp in a vice overnight and allow it to start drying before removing from the vice. Multiple bends or more of a spiral...Back in the soak and repeat. When putting them in the vice go slow and get a feel for the amount of tension. Too much? Soak longer.

Wish I'd taken before and after pictures. I did have one larger antler crack from not soaking long enough or drawing it down too fast in the vice. This method does remove a lot of the nice natural colors in the antler. They finish kind of a dull grey, but they can be recolored with some experimentation with dyes and other soaks, sanding, buffing,etc...

Haven't tried elk, moose, caribou, etc... Straightening that is. Meat is good!

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You don't have to use vinegar. Plain water will do. Soak the antler for 24 hours, then place into boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, remove the antler and place it in the vice and close it. Now this part has to be done fast!  You have about 30 seconds before the antler starts to cool down and you run the risk of cracking it. So wear gloves, have your boiling water as close as possible to your vice, a hot plate works good here. And make sure your vice jaws are spaced correctly before you even start. 

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You don't need vinegar. You just boil it.  

Peter Johnsson did a tutorial on this at Arctic Fire 2016. 

You boil the antler for an hour or so, then just clamp it to shape and let it dry overnight. The antler bends like hot steel.

Moose, caribou, deer, it really doesn't matter what antler you use. 

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I will have to try the water method. Thanks! With the type of antler as to the vinegar soak I was wondering if some of the less dense antlers took less time in the vinegar. Seems as though they would. In any case the straightening sure helps when trying to find/alter the right piece for your project.

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29 minutes ago, Dave Stephens said:

Moose, caribou, deer, it really doesn't matter what antler you use. 

Yep, antler be antler, no matter what critter it came off of lol. You can even straighten out horn, but that works better with a hot, dry heat. Moisture and horn usually results in severe warping. I heard of one fella who used a metal tub of clean sand, he would heat it till it reached around 225, soak the horns in the sand till it was pliable and sandwich it between two boards clamped together. 

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Yeah, I've even heard horn referred to as 18th century plastic at some of the blackpowder shoots I go to. They molded it into bowls, spoons, etc.. Some heat horn in peanut oil to get it really soft.

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Vinegar is not good for the longevity of antler since it breaks down some of the stuff it's made of, just like how you can make an unbreakable wishbone by a vinegar soak.  And on horn, the guys from the Honorable Company of Horners use really hot lard, almost a deep-fry.  Works incredibly well!  

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I have done some work with straightening and bending antler. I have tried both deer and moose antler. 
If the material is very porous it can deform as you press it. 
A dense and fine piece can be cut and roughly shaped before forming.
If it is mor thin walled it would be better to leave any shaping till afterwards.

The antler is put in water to soak for 12-24 hours and then put in a put of boiling water for an hour or so. After this you can press it to desired shape. A crooked piece and be made straight or you can shape the antler to a curved shape if you want. You have to work quickly once the antler is taken out from the water. Have the press ready and handle the antler with welders gloves (if you have weak and sensitive hands like me ;-) ). I use my bench vice for the initial pressing and have the wood formers prepared so that they ride the jaws of the vice. If you think ahead you can shape the formers so that it is possible to fasten glue clamps on the compressed formers with the antler in place. That way you can free up the vice for other use while the antler cools and dries. It is a good idea to leave the antler in press until it is bone dry. Remember that the porous core will retain moisture for quite long after the surface is dry. I left the press on for 48 hours. The time will depend on how large the piece is.

This method for forming antler works surprisingly well and have opened up a whole new range of possibilities for my little stack of antler pieces. I no longer need to find a piece that has the exact correct form for a project. Very handy. :-)

There is a find from back in the day when mammoths still roamed the earth and mankind were scraping a living as hunter-gatherers. These were hardy and resourceful folks. The find was a 90 cm long spear (tip) made from the horn of a wooly rhinoceros. That is testimony of some some skill in hunting and crafting . :-)
(I guess that rhino horn is a good material for straightening!)

http://siberiantimes.com/science/others/features/13300-year-old-spear-made-of-woolly-rhinoceros-horn-found-on-arctic-island/

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On 4/4/2017 at 0:15 AM, peter johnsson said:

The find was a 90 cm long spear (tip) made from the horn of a wooly rhinoceros. That is testimony of some some skill in hunting and crafting . :-)

Makes me wonder what they killed the rhino with........:blink:

Probably a pit trap or a dead fall of some sort.

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On 4/12/2017 at 4:12 AM, Joshua States said:

Makes me wonder what they killed the rhino with........:blink:

Probably a pit trap or a dead fall of some sort.

Or *very* shape sticks. 
Supersonic sticks with explosive tips, anyone?

Yes a trap sounds like a more probably option. 
There is an enormous aurochs skeleton on display in the National Museum of Denmark that has flint tips from javelinas imbedded in its bones. It was hunted but got away. The flint tips have been healed over. Later it was hunted again: more stone weapon damage, but fresh. But it was lost to the hunters as it drowned in a lake, its skeleton preserved to our times. Imagine the legend that arose from this creature: The monstrous wild bull that lurks in the lake, rising again enraged by the wounds inflicted upon it by the village hunters. -Children, don´t go swimming in that lake!

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On 4/4/2017 at 2:21 AM, peter johnsson said:

Here are some photos of my antler experiments.

fullsizeoutput_f6a.jpeg

fullsizeoutput_27.jpeg

Peter, I have straightened antler before with great success. But until I saw this jig I had never thought of going the other way!!! I am working on a knife that requires just the right curve to the antler. Now I know, I don't have to go thru a thousand pieces to get that right curve. Find one close and make it just right!!! Funny how some ideas are right there in front of you and you can't see it!

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I know that this is  slightly off  the original topic but I've found  that you can bend ivory as well.  Years ago I  made a knife with a bone handle that  I wanted to inlay a piece of ivory into.  Since the bone was round & the sawed ivory flat, to use the ivory as is I  would have had to grind the edges quite thin which I didn't  want to do which  led me to wanting to bend the ivory to the curvature of  the bone.  To  do this I boiled it in vinegar for two  hours and clamped it in a wooden jig until dry and the curvature stayed.

ivory%20inlet_zpsq9gwn8hm.jpg

Edited by Gary Mulkey
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After reading this a while ago I boiled some pieces of Oryx horn for several hours.

I could feel they got soft and I couldn't stand the smell anymore so I tried flattening the between 2 pieces of wood - they cracked.

I know this is a tricky question, horn rather than antler, could it work?

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Boiling works very well on cow horn, oryx may be too thick.  Also, cow horn works even better if you use hot oil rather than water.  You want it between 250-275 degrees F, not quite hot enough to fry. 

I have some Pronghorn (similar to springbok for you in Africa) I may eventually try this on. 

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Oil?........Danger Level Next :lol:

Thanks I might just try that since they did get soft, one piece looked like it would survive the flattening for a few moments before it cracked.

My only reservation is, Oryx horn being such a great an abundant handle material, and SA having so many knife makers.........somebody would've done it by now I'm sure.

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Veg oil, or preferably lard/suet/other animal fat.  Apparently it lubricates the horn fibers and allows them to slide past each other with less risk of cracking than water.  And, oddly enough, cow horn in 250 degree F lard doesn't stink, unlike in boiling water where it smells like you're boiling a long-deceased weasel with toenail fungus...

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On 4/13/2017 at 8:36 AM, Gary Mulkey said:

I know that this is  slightly off  the original topic but I've found  that you can bend ivory as well.  Years ago I  made a knife with a bone handle that  I wanted to inlay a piece of ivory into.  Since the bone was round & the sawed ivory flat, to use the ivory as is I  would have had to grind the edges quite thin which I didn't  want to do which  led me to wanting to bend the ivory to the curvature of  the bone.  To  do this I boiled it in vinegar for two  hours and clamped it in a wooden jig until dry and the curvature stayed.

ivory%20inlet_zpsq9gwn8hm.jpg

How very Greek of you Gary: 

Ric

 

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