Friday, August 28, 2009

Antler Update

The last couple of days have been workshop and shopping days. On Wednesday I got all of the cuts made from my last Rooms visit, which left more time on Thursday to experiment with stains and antiquing. A lot of the wood and antler in this project is in pretty rough shape. Much of it has weathered grey and and there is white rot and other fungus growing on the wood. The wood and antler are delaminating and there is lots of lichen growing on some of the antler.

I've got a few experiments on the go to try and get the colours, patterns, and textures that I need. I can post more details on what works and what doesn't work later. For now I'm having fairly good luck mimicking white rot and weathered antler with a flocking based on soapstone dust and miscellaneous wood, whalebone and antler shaving.

Another experiment that I have on the go is using vinegar to soften antler to reshape it. I usually work antler wet, but I haven't tried soaking it in vinegar instead of water. Supposedly the vinegar will soften the antler enough that curved tines can be straightened out after 24 hours of soaking. I have one tine that I'd like to curve a bit on the antler shown in the vice photo, but the main warping that I want to do is on an antler adze socket.

This piece is one of the most desicated objects in the collection. When it was excavated it came out of the ground in two pieces - I'm only reproducing the larger piece. An adze socket is part of a wood working tool. The narrowing in the middle of the piece was where it was tied onto a handle, (either wood or antler) and there is a hole (or socket) in the larger end where the stone or metal adze blade would have been inserted. In the side by side photos the original is on the left and reproduction is on the right.

There are several big difficulties in reproducing a piece like this. Some of which I've overcome already and some I'm just working through now. There isn't a lot of modification done to the caribou antler, so the first challenge was finding an antler that was as close a match as possible to the one originally used. I found a good one, but over time the antler in the original piece has warped, expanded and cracked. That's what I'm trying to do now. I'm not quite at the antiquing stage yet on this, when I'll add all the damage and cracks, but I need to start prying my relatively fresh antler apart to matching the size of the socket and the surface contours of the original. Right now its sitting in a bucket of vinegar in my shed. It needs to get pliable anough that I can hammer a wedge into the socket and get the expansion and warping that I need.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
Top, Antler adze socket from Tuktut Nogait National Park
Second, Antler reproduction in vice getting an experimental coating of rock dust and carpenter's glue to simulate aging. The texture is ok, but I need to get some cracks in there.
Third, Reproduction adze socket soaking in vinegar to soften it.
Fourth, Side by side comparison of original antler adze socket and in progress reproduction
Fifth, Looking down the socket. I need to pry the reproduction socket apart more to match the original.

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