Category Archives : Craft Projects


Antler Carving Project

I’m a writer. My funds are often. . . limited. Yeah, limited is a good word for it. But I’m supposed to be creative and stuff, and fortunately everyone in my family likes gifts that err on the side of thought and effort, rather than spending a bunch of money.

I decided to use the rest of the antler I found out hiking to make something for each of them. I debated exactly what I was going to make. I considered a bunch of things, and I wanted to make something cooler than just a polished lump of antler, yet also something I could do without screwing up miserably. My mom, gram, and sister all have names starting with ‘S’ so I figured I could probably work out how to carve one letter without too many mistakes and discarded attempts–an important criteria, since my supply of antler was quite finite.

Carving antler turned out to be easier than I expected. And harder. Easy to carve and shape, difficult to do without throwing up due to the smell of burning bone. Oh deer god did it smell! On the positive side, that did discourage them from coming out to the garage and snooping on my work.

g 1 full antler

 

I clamped the antler and cut it into sections about two-and-a-half inches long.

 

G cross-sections

 

You can see the thin layer sheathing the spongy bone beneath. The first order of business was grinding out that spongy inner material, which was the really really smelly part. I actually quit and found some menthol rub to smear under my nose to block out the smell.

SAFETY NOTE: If you do this, wear a mask, at least, a respirator if possible. Bone dust can cause nasty lung infections!

I had to cut the sections in half lengthwise to do that. I used a hacksaw and it wasn’t too terribly bad, although making the cut straight was a bit tricky at times.

 

G 2 Antler cutting

Then I got to the carving, which I didn’t take pictures of, because I didn’t feel like getting my phone coated in bone dust, plus it took some serious concentration not to screw up.

To my surprise, I got roughly what I wanted on the first pass through. I tried three different stains to seal the pieces, since they’re fairly porous and fragile–and I figured that might make them smell less “bony”.

 

 

 

G Makeshift Dremel

 

I needed a small grinder for the work, so I improvised a bit. This arrangement was much easier than trying to keep the big Dremel steady and clamp tiny bits of antler. If you try this, please note that this method does put your fingers in proximity to tips specifically selected for their ability to cut and/or grind through bone. So be careful. And not stupid. Mostly the latter, really.

I had enough leftover to make some keychain decorations for other people, include one for my dad (the side pictured here is the back, so you’re viewing the letters from behind).

 

g finished

 

The little stick figure dude is the little logo dude from a game called Kingdom of Lothing my housemate has been playing for. . . at least half a decade. As long as I’ve known him.

So I made a couple of those for friends, and I even had enough left over to make a small one for myself.

G compass

 


A Project for the Birds 2

My girlfriend got me my Christmas present this week. We hadn’t seen much of each other, with one or the other being gone for most of the three weeks. I think it’s pretty cool, and, if things go as planned, you’ll be seeing a lot of it on here.

Also, she needed my help mounting it.

 

Wrapped up with a bow!

 

Anyway, she’s a bit of a bird nerd. A nird, if you will. Our other whiteboard contains a growing list of birds we’ve (she’s) spotted in and around our house, and so on. So I thought, while I was home Christmas, I’d take advantage of the Garage of Wonders–a perilous cave stacked high with tools of every description, where brave souls can simultaneously test their  I Spy and Jenga skills, and their luck–and make something cool for her.

 

First, I needed a log. Fortunately, my family being my family, my sister had an assortment of logs in the back of her car through lucky coincidence. I carefully peeled the bark off (because I needed to put it back later) and was pleasantly surprised by how pretty the grain was.

My dad helped me work out the way to actually do the job, and it went pretty smoothly with his advice.

 

Drilling

Drilling

I drilled and cut out as much as I could, for the sake of saving myself hours of chiseling.

This is the fun part, though.

This is the fun part, though.

Even then it took an entire afternoon to hollow out.

 

Getting there. . .

Getting there. . .

 

Then a simple matter of gluing the bark back on. I really wish I had thought to take a picture of this process. The log was about an inch too wide for the clamps to fit around, so I ended up balancing a nexus of sledge and building hammers on it, to provide pressure.

 

Finished!

Finished!

I think it turned out a pretty cool, actually! Here it is mounted. I might update it with a better picture later. Among other things, I’ve made the rope look a bit fancier.

 

Looking gooooood!

Looking gooooood!

I managed to get in the one spot you can see from the kitchen window on the first try, which was probably as much luck as planning, and was feeling very satisfied with myself. Lauren loves it!

Of course, the birds are all scared of it, and won’t go anywhere near it. Stupid birds.


A Wand for a Hufflepuff

This whole thing happened better than a month ago, I just didn’t get around to writing it up until now. One of my friends is an avid Harry Potter fan. I say “avid fan” because I like understatement. If Harry Potter was a real person who she could stalk, she’d be incarcerated. That’s the level of her interest in all things Harry Potter.

I decided, since I was working on my burn bowl project, anyway, (which involves a lot of sitting around outside by a fire pit)  I might as well go ahead and carve her a wand while I was working on that, since I was headed to her birthday party that night. I found the best branch I could on our pine tree, but I’d recommend a straighter one with fewer twigs if you try this yourself.

wandbranch

Now, she is a Hufflepuff, apparently, which we all know is a lame house–although they hold the House Cup for most avada kedavras caught–but there’s no need to hurt her feelings by pointing that out in the comment section.  When I picked branches, I picked a thicker one than I needed, which meant extra carving time, but I wanted a nice dense piece of wood so that it wouldn’t snap or break and would have a solid feel to it. I used a hatchet to strip off the park and soft outer layers.

wandroughcut

In their defense, I’ll have you know that Hufflepuffs are very important. The world needs Hufflepuffs, so that there can be a team for the people we don’t hate, but know aren’t about to go winning anything. Yes, nerds, I know that the Hufflepuffs won a Quidditch match, but this is more metaphorical. Besides, it only happened because a Gryffindor was being attacked by soul-sucking monsters. The next step was to pull out the trusty K-bar, and start to shape the wand and handle.

wandhandleblank

Carving is really very relaxing. Some care should be exercised not to amputate any fingers; this really ruins the zen aspects of the experience, as pain and blood will tend to do.

I finally finished with the main shaping of it, so the next step was start carving the badger, because this is Hufflepuff, and their coat of arms is a smelly creature with notoriously anemic social skills that lives isolated in a hole in the ground. This was really fun, as I’ve never done any real wood carving before. Luckily, I do have some carving chisels I picked up about five years ago for another project.

wandunstained

Michelangelo once said that sculpting was about finding the shape within the object, as if he were just freeing a shape already contained within the stone. He was a lot better at carving things than I, but I was actually fairly satisfied with out it turned out. I considered carving in some little badger legs, but I was afraid I’d mess it up. I’d pushed my luck far enough. Plus I had blisters and I was tired.

The final step was applying stain. Dark for the stripes and the handle, a nice subtle sealant for the tip and the light bits of the badger.

wandcloseup

A work of art? Hardly. A pretty cool birthday present? I think so.

wandfulldone

 

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