Attaching an Antler Handle


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Corpral_Agarn
October 8, 2013, 03:48 PM
Hi there, THR!

I have a desire to attach an deer antler handle to the tang of a knife. I have never done this before and wanted to run my thoughts by some of the more experienced knife guys we have here.

First the blade: I was thinking of using a traditional Norwegian Tollekniv blade.
Like the one if found at Ragweed Forge (http://www.ragweedforge.com/BladeCatalog.html). Specifically this one (http://www.ragweedforge.com/helle-blade-1.jpg).

Now for the Antler, I have a few sets sitting around my house that look to be in good shape.

The method for attaching the antler is where i need the most help.
On the Primitive Ways website I found an article (http://www.primitiveways.com/pt-antlerhandleknife.html) detailing how to do it.

It entails soaking (or boiling) the antler until the pith is soft then pushing the blade tang into it. I have to cut my blade tang to a sharp point (no problem) then put it in a vice and push it in. According to that article I just let it dry off and done.

That sounds too simple.
I know it takes patience and care but what am I missing here?
Is there a better blade choice? Smaller maybe? Different tang?
How much pith does a typical antler end piece have? I know the pith ends at some point.
Anybody done a handle with this method?
Any tips or other methods that I could use (need to be simple!)?

Thanks in advance!

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rcmodel
October 8, 2013, 03:55 PM
I drill a blind hole for the tang, and set them in Devcon Epoxy.

It also seals the end of the antler so there is no chance of moisture getting in there and causing the antler to swell and/or crack.

I have never tried driving a sharpened tang in a wet antler???

But I have a strong suspicion you would end up with a badly cracked antler when it dries out and shrinks back up around the tang 'wedge'.

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j219/rcmodel/Knives/Knife9.jpg

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j219/rcmodel/KTOG/Buckset1640x385.jpg

rc

Valkman
October 8, 2013, 04:27 PM
I would not try the "push it in" method as it doesn't sound like it'll last more that a few uses before coming loose. RC's method is much better and it'll last. I used stag a lot but always used scales.

bikerdoc
October 8, 2013, 04:49 PM
Using R C's method



http://i247.photobucket.com/albums/gg134/bikerdoc1948/IMG_1253.jpg (http://s247.photobucket.com/user/bikerdoc1948/media/IMG_1253.jpg.html)

hso
October 8, 2013, 05:43 PM
Yep, unless you just have to use that "traditional" approach (and other traditional approaches involve the use of plant or animal based adhesives) a much better method would be to use epoxy.

OTOH, you may want to give your method a try and then when it eventually comes loose go ahead and bore out the hole and remount with epoxy.

Corpral_Agarn
October 8, 2013, 06:37 PM
Thanks Guys!
I knew it couldn't be that simple.

But just to make it interesting, I have decided to try anyway.. and go with RC's method as well. Thanks RC!
I want to see if the "traditional" method works but I also want a working knife. I figure the "RC Method" would hold up a little better based on what I am reading. So... I do both!

RC:

Can I do your method without a drill press?
Would a wood handle be a better choice for this method? I am not against using some cool looking wood like you have in one of your pictures there!

Also, can you just go into a little more detail with the process?

As I understand it, I drill out my antler to snug fit my tang then epoxy the crud out of the tang and insert it into the handle. I would then use a cloth and acetone to remove the excess epoxy.

Would a Brass pin through the handle and peened be a good idea?

Would you recommend that brass piece at the front of the handle? I have files and can get sand paper to get the fit right on those.

Thanks again, All!

rcmodel
October 8, 2013, 08:53 PM
Yes, you can do it probably better without a drill-press.
So far, I have seen nothing on a deer antler straight enough to clamp and hold in a drill press vice.
So you might as well hand-hold it and drill it with a cordless drill.

A brass guard is not necessary, unless you want a guard.
Without a guard, you might want to do a revere taper antler so the crown can become a guard?
Otherwise, a wet cold hand can slip down the handle, onto the blade, and cut all your fingers off.

No need for a brass pin, as the epoxy is way stronger then the antler is.
The blade tang is stronger without any extra holes drilled in it for a pin!

When it comes to epoxying the handle on?
Rough up the tang and remove all scale and finish for better glue adhesion with a course sanding disk.
Then don't touch it with your bare fingers again before gluing, or finger-print oil can cause the glue not to stick as strong.

Make the hole in the antler just a loose slip fit so the tang is aligned where you want it.
But not so tight it is stressing the antler.

The epoxy is inert, and will not expand or contract during temperature swings to crack the antler.
The same cannot be said of antlers because given half a chance and not sealed on both ends?
They will eventually crack.

I also suggest you drill a 1/16" weep-hole out the side of the handle at the bottom of the hole.
Otherwise, trapped air will blow the epoxy and tang out of the handle before you get done putting it in the wet epoxy filled hole.

Clean up wet epoxy with a cloth and denatured alcohol paint thinner from the hardware store.
It works better then anything else I have found.

Then, go here, and study up some more on handles and scales and attachment bolts, rivets, or pins.

http://www.texasknife.com/vcom/index.php

http://www.knifemaking.com/Default.asp

rc

Sam Cade
October 8, 2013, 09:11 PM
Youth of the nation!
Heed ye the words of rcmodel for verily I say unto you, the feller has much wisdom, hard won by misadventure and folly. :neener:

rcmodel
October 8, 2013, 09:15 PM
How did you find out about that??

I never told nobody!!
And nobody seen it either. :D

rc

hso
October 8, 2013, 10:20 PM
I never told nobody!!

Un-huh, riiiiight.:evil:

Corpral_Agarn
October 9, 2013, 02:14 PM
Thanks again, RC! That's just what I was looking for.

For the guard I was thinking of a sort of puuko style at first, but I am thinking an actual guard may be in order here.

Okay well I need to order a couple of blades and go find my antler and pick up some tools.

As always THR has been a wealth of information!

If I can remember, and it doesn't go too badly, I may post a pic of the results... maybe...
Won't be nearly as shiny as an RC or bikerdoc product but it will be mine :)

Coltdriver
October 9, 2013, 08:36 PM
Corpral_Agarn

I have enjoyed this forum and learned a lot from it.

After reading your post I went and looked at the website you referenced and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that a quality blade could be had at such an affordable price!! So I ordered a blade and am going to give it a go.

Let us know how yours turns out and thanks for the great idea!

Corpral_Agarn
October 11, 2013, 12:37 PM
Corpral_Agarn

I have enjoyed this forum and learned a lot from it.

After reading your post I went and looked at the website you referenced and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that a quality blade could be had at such an affordable price!! So I ordered a blade and am going to give it a go.

Let us know how yours turns out and thanks for the great idea!

Glad to be of assistance. I found an article that you might find useful: http://www.ele.net/antler/foreshaft.htm

Its a little scientific but I found it to be really helpful when trying to decide how I would go about doing this.

Another Question for RC (or anybody else):
If I was to go the "traditional" route, what do you think about pushing the tang all the way through the handle, let the antler dry completely, then place a washer of some kind (brass?) at the very end of the antler handle and peen the tang over it? I figured if I put some epoxy on the washer, it would seal up that end of the antler.
Maybe something similar for the front of the handle?
Thoughts?

RaceM
October 15, 2013, 11:23 AM
On a blind tang you might wanna add some "tooth" to the tang before epoxying. I generally take a triangular file and make a few light cuts in the tang so the epoxy has something to grab on to. Never had one come loose.

On a through tang you might wanna add a relatively soft spacer (I use leather) between the guard and antler before peening the end of the tang. This lets the antler suck up tight to the guard with less chance of cracking or chipping. If I'm doing one with both guard and pommel I'll have a spacer at both ends.

I dunno about the traditional method. Seems to me, as has been mentioned, there's a risk of shrinkage and cracking, plus the pith takes forever to dry.

hso
October 15, 2013, 06:16 PM
You could stabilize the antler if the core is a problem. Soaked in acetone thinned cyanoacrylate or pushed with a little vacuum you can do it yourself or send it out or professional stabilization.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DfZXM2B51Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3GBCtWdc7c

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