Elk Antler makes excellent knife handles. It is attractive, strong, durable, and it lasts forever.
Getting an Antler
You can find a shed in the woods after runt season or buy a rack. If you buy one make sure it is seasoned. Cutting into it is the only way to know if it is seasoned. If it is gooey or oily then it needs to cure longer. Put it in a dry place and forget about it for two to three years.
Cutting to Size
Before cutting the antler into the size you want, look at it carefully to find the best angles that will be the best fit for a hidden tang or full tang slabs. If you are doing a hidden tang make sure it is longer than your tang. Hold the piece in your hand to make sure it feels comfortable. Mark the section with masking tape and then cut it using a band saw.
There are two ways to use the antler for a handle either for a hidden tang or scales.
Using the antler for a hidden tang is relatively easy if you use the crown. Prepare it by either soaking it in a bucket of water for a month or boiling it for an hour or so. If you boil it use tongs and a thick glove to remove it from the water and be careful as it will be very hot.
Wrap your blade in foam to protect it and yourself. Secure it in a padded vice with the tang facing upward. Carefully and steadily push the hot antler over the tang. Don’t wiggle or pull out to reposition. That will damage the pith. You have one chance to do this right.
Once it is in leave it to dry overnight. The pith will harden and act as a natural glue.
Make your sheath and you're ready to go.
Full Tang Scales
To make scales you need to cut the antler lengthwise to form slabs. Do this by marking the centre line on each end with masking tape. Then position the antler scale in a vice using some leather to protect it from damage. Check to make sure it is positioned to make a precise vertical cut. If correctly marked and cut the scales should fit together nicely without too much grinding.
Once it is in scales scrape away the pith by using a file, drill, chisel, or Dremel. Or you can leave the pith and fill the pores with super glue. If you scrape away the pith you can fill the hole with epoxy. Once the epoxy is hardened grind the scales to flatten them.
Drill the holes in the scales, fit the scales and tang together, add glue and then pin them together. Remove any excess glue with a Q-Tip. After the glue is set, sand the end to the desired level of finish and buff.
Make the sheath and you’re done.