The Whitetail Deer Antler pen

Most species of deer shed their antlers every year. New buds begin as cartilage and then mineralize to become bone. The new antler is covered with velvet which supplies blood to the growing antlers.

Deer antler covered in velvet

Deer will scrape their antlers against trees and other objects to remove the velvet, at which point the antlers die and fall off. Since they are made of bone, antlers are a good source of calcium and will be eaten by other forest animals such as mice.

Deer scraping antlers to remove velvet

We buy shed antlers from a supplier out west and turn them into pen tailpieces. Antlers are interesting to turn because you never know how they will come out. Some are white as snow, some are black and brown throughout, and many have distinctive markings that make them both unique and beautiful.

Shed antler

Antlers can be a challenge to turn as well. Antler is a very hard substance which will quickly dull a blade, requiring the constant sharpening of your tools. Because antler tines can be narrow and curvy, an antler rack may only yield 4-6 usable pieces for turning pens. Also, antlers can suffer a good deal of damage during fights between males and when being scraped against hard surfaces to remove the velvet. Fissures and cracks are common in antler pen blanks, and left untreated can cause some real excitement when the gouge catches a crack in the antler turning at 3200 rpms, causing it to explode on the lathe.

But, it is well worth the effort. Antler is not only durable, but a beautiful material with which to make all sorts of attractive crafts.