How to Carve Antlers

Carving antlers is not a difficult project and is suitable for beginner to advanced carvers. Antler is stronger and easier to carve than most stone, and able to hold more detail than wood. Please note that deer, moose and elk shed their antlers every winter and grow new ones in the spring. Therefore no animals are hurt in obtaining antlers.

Materials

  • Deer or moose shed antler

Tools

  • Dremel
  • Dust collector
  • Protective clothing
  • Dust mask
  • Cutter package
  • Carving knives
  • Chisels
  • Files
  • Pencils

Basic carving instructions

  1. Draw your design.
  2. Decide what position the antler will have when finished, based on your design. For example, if you plan to carve out a panoramic landscape, it is best to have the antler in a horizontal position.
  3. Imprint your design on the antler by working with the antler’s grooves, using them as an advantage to obtain 3D effects.
  4. Retrace the design with power tools and, or carving knives. Once you cut out a piece of the antler you cannot replace it so be gentle and accurate when carving.
  5. Apply the final touches after you’ve finished carving out your design. For a smooth effect, use sandpaper on specific areas.
  6. Polish the carved antler and seal the it with acrylic coating.

Tips and warnings

  • It is best to take out the bigger chunks of antler first, before working on the details. As a beginner start with simpler designs.
  • Soaking antlers in water can soften an ordinarily tough material and make carving them much easier.
  • Antlers are less frequently used than horn for decorative work. The toughness of antler makes it ideal for making tool handles.
  • If you have no prior background in carving, read books that teach the standard procedures in carving.
  • Moose antlers provide wider areas for carving while deer antlers have cylindrical shapes. Choose which antler you want to use depending on your design and desired result.
  • Practice carving on soft wood first, this way antler material will not be wasted.
  • Before starting, acquire the most basic carving tools as they are paramount to achieving great results as a beginner.
  • As a beginner stick to the basic standards until you become more advanced, then you can experiment.