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266311 Thomas Conroy 2018‑08‑07 Re: Drilling Antler the Galoot Way
Scott hit the mark as usual: 
"The good part is, nobody needs to tell you that the second time.
Bone, same as seashell, is so noxious when worked, well you will just 
naturally take your own precautions the second time..........

 "? Don't believe me? Walk up to a spinning grinder and press a piece of 
seashell to it.
You'll --run-- from the room in 20 seconds flat!
EEEEEyowza that stinks!? haahahaha"

Ohyeah. Stinks like a dentist's office when he's getting down to serious work on
you. Lots of nasty memories, in addition to the simple stench.

But the good thing is, you don't need to use power for bone or for antler. I've
used lots of both materials, especially for making "bone" folders. And I've
handled small knives and walking sticks with antler. A 6" or 8" half-round
bastard file will cut bone comparably fast with a grinding wheel or a 100 grit
sanding wheel--- a bit slower, maybe, but comparable in speed, and the file is a
lot less nasty. The dust taken off by the file is coarser, so it lingers in the
air for less time (after years of white dust all over my house and clothing I
finally came down to doing all bone and antler work outdoors. Its easier. Trust
me.) The wheel or the sander heats up the fine dust, intensifying the smell---
working with a file (or an eggbeater drill) isn't so nose-gaggingly reminiscent
of the dentist's. An eggbeater drill does fine for drilling; or if you are
clearing out the spongy area at the core of antler, an auger bit should do fine,
though finding the right size may take a bit of experiment (you want to just
touch the hard outer layers of the antler, mostly removing the spongy area with
the auger bit).

Hard enough to need a masonry drill? Just the opposite. Bone is easily worked
with hand woodworking tools. Antler is, usually, even softer than bone. And the
deeper you get into antler, the softer it is.
and when you get to the porous area at the core of the antler, well, you can
crush it in with your fingers, most of the time. If  you drill a hole in the end
of a piece of antler expecting to set a knife blade in it, the steel will crush
the porous area and loosen before you get the knife into use. I've done this,
drilled a larger hole, done it again, had it loosen again, until finally I had
all the spongy bit removed. Then I was able to set the blade in putty or
something. Now, with a knife blade I would clear out the sponge right away and
plan from the start for filling. For a walking stick handle, I make the wood
tenon on the end of the shaft big enough to touch solid antler all the way

Some antler has very thin hard walls and a lot of sponge. Other pieces have
almost no sponge and are solid most of the way through. For your magnesium rods,
Bob, I suppoose you will want to insert them in the end of the piece of antler.
Drill the right size hole and if you are lucky you may be in the solid area. If
any spponge is showing, though, you might want to drill a larger hole, put in a
wood plug, and then drill the pluug for the magnesium rod. Either that, or maybe
clear out the spong and set the rod in epoxxy.

Bone/antler is brittle, so it doesn't respond to tools in just the way wood
does. Maybe it takes off an edge a bit faster, and needs a more obtuse edge, say
35 degrees instead of 20 degrees. But hand tools are plenty. And it is really
pretty, as well as a naturally good grip, when you are done.
Tom Conroy, late to the game as usual

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