More notes on working with antler

Having gained a little confidence with this material, I have moved on to trying to make some flat plates.  To do this I cut a  strip 12.5 inch longx1.5 inch wide across the palm of the antler – this was pretty much as long as I could go.  The strip comprises of two faces of useful, hard, white, antler and a central filling of porous material – very soft and utterly useless for carving.  The faces were split apart using a coping saw to follow the winding twists and turns of the antler and the soft porous centre removed with a gouge.  Rather scarily the useful face-plate is only 2 or 3mm thick. 

The plates curve and twist and need to be flattened.  The first thing I tried was to heat them in hot water for an hour and clamp them flat between boards in a vice.  They were left overnight to ‘set’ and when being released from the clamp were indeed lovely and flat. Success !! No !!! As I watched the antler plates slowly returned to their original shapes!!!!!!!!! Next time I gently boiled them in water with a dollop of vinegar added and again clamped them over-night – this time they kept their new shape.  Yay!!!! The antler was boiled for an hour, I do not know if there is a proper length of time, and at the end of this the plates did not feel any softer or more pliable than when I started, the vinegar was used as several posts in various forums recommended it as a softening agent. Even though the antler did not feel different, the results suggest that the higher temperature and/or the vinegar did make a difference.

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