More Notes on working with antler

Having noticed some of the ways the antler was warping as its moisture content varied, I thought I would run a little experiment. I placed the antler plate into some warm water and added a dollop of white vinegar, I then left it for an hour or so, the antler very quickly went soft and slightly ‘sticky’ – the vinegar has this effect as it softens the surface of the antler, but the tackiness disappears when the antler dries.

Another antler plate was left in water at room temperature all day,

A third antler plate was put in very hot water for 15 minutes.

All the plates were softened by the water/vinegar mix, it seems the heat acts as a catalyst – the softening process happens more quickly with added heat, the warm water being as effective as the very hot water (in fact the cold water was also effective, it just took longer) but the use of vinegar is essential in fixing the antler into its new shape. Similarly, glueing the antler, or keeping it pressed until you are ready to use it is important as the antler is affected by changes in ambient humidity and will move out of shape if stored ‘loose’, although re-treating it is very quick and simple.

The round sections of antler derived from the ‘stalk'(main beam) and from the tines, is very resistant to flattening. It is probably very unfair of me to hope that something that grows as a cylinder can be split and flattened, but it might be worth pointing out that this is the case, since you may need to make a flat plate as long as possible (as I did) and extend that plate into the main beam. If you do need to do so then this section would need to be carved flat rather than soaked and pressed.

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