Antler Tools

Here’s a simple DIY project for your inner buckskinner—cool looking and functional blackpowder tools made from the antlers of that little dinker you shot last season and are too ashamed to put on the wall.

Since blackpowder charges are volumetric, it’s easy to make a powder measure from a chunk of antler. It takes a little trial and error to get the cavity just right, but once you do, it will never go out of adjustment or wear out. I like to use the burr end of the antler for measures because they’re so much wider at the bottom and harder to tip over. Because this is usually the thickest part of the antler, it also allows for a larger volume of powder to be measured from a smaller overall section of antler leaving more antler for other projects.

Wondering what to do with that dinker buck’s antlers? Cut it up and make it into tools.

Wondering what to do with that dinker buck’s antlers? Cut it up and make it into tools.

Before you begin this project, try several different loads in your muzzleloader to find the one that shoots best with the bullet you want to use, and know that you can have more than one powder measure for different bullets or uses. For example, the roundball target load I use in my .50-cal. Hawken is 50 grains, but my roundball hunting load for that same gun is 80 grains, so I have two measures.

With a little trial and error, it’s easy to make a volumetric powder measure using a section of antler and a drill.

With a little trial and error, it’s easy to make a volumetric powder measure using a section of antler and a drill.

My boy wanted an antler powder measure for a target load of 35 grains for his .45-cal. Hawken, so we began by adjusting our volumetric blackpowder measure to 35 grains and filling it with some old ground walnut tumbling media. Don’t use real blackpowder, Pyrodex or other blackpowder substitute propellant when making these tools. Because things are by volume, you don’t need to use the real thing, and using the real thing is inviting Murphy to show up with his friend Darwin.

The “ball starter” section of antler is “turned down” using a coarse file.

The “ball starter” section of antler is “turned down” using a coarse file.

Once you know your desired load, it’s simply a matter of drilling into the antler either deeper (without drilling through) or with a progressively larger bit and constantly comparing the volume of the hole you drill to the volume you set your powder measure at. Here’s a tip. If you lay your drill bit down next to your section of antler, you can mark the bit with a piece of tape as a depth gauge so you don’t drill all the way through. Stop can check frequently and, if you go too far and have too large a cavity, just fill the bottom with some two-part epoxy.

It’s easy to fashion a short starter using a piece of antler and a brass rod.

It’s easy to fashion a short starter using a piece of antler and a brass rod.

For the starting tool, you can use a chunk of antler for a simple handle, but I like to use a fork. A fork looks cooler, plus you can use one tip or end to make a ball starter. The short starter is some random piece of rod (preferably brass so you don’t cause a spark) countersunk and epoxied into the antler, while the ball starter is “turned down” using a coarse file.

 

 

Scott Mayer

www.tacticaltshirts.com

www.john1911.com

“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

 

 

Scott Mayer

Scott Mayer

Writer at John1911
Mayer began his outdoor industry career in 1993 on the NRA Technical Staff where he became American Rifleman magazine first Shooting Editor. Mayer left NRA and entered the business end of publishing in 2003 as Advertising Account Executive for Safari Club International SAFARI Magazine and Safari Times newspaper. In 2006, Mayer was named Publisher of Shooting Times magazine where he was also tasked with launching and leading Personal Defense TV, the first television show of its kind.

In 2008, Mayer returned to the editorial side of publishing, this time in the digital field, as Editorial Director for Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handguns and Rifleshooter online magazines. After a brief stint in 2011 as the Digital Media Director for an ABC TV affiliate, Mayer returned to the outdoors industry and Safari Club International where he is currently Assistant Publisher and Multi-Media Communications Editor.
Scott Mayer

Latest posts by Scott Mayer (see all)

  • Freeze

    Another way is to find a drill bit that fits into your powder measures and mark it with tape. Then drill the antler until you hit the mark. It should be just about perfect with very minor tweeking.

    • Jeff

      So here is a question, what the heck do you do if you have a WAY under charge and the ball never leaves the barrel ? I always wondered how the heck do you get one out.

      • Freeze would be the guy to ask. But it is my understanding that you need a special tool to drill into the ball and then pull it out the hard way.

        Marky

      • Scott Mayer

        Use a ball discharger. Here’s a link: http://www.dixiegunworks.com/product_info.php?cPath=22_99_322&products_id=15330&osCsid=r62cmsbefk68m2encfudemo9u3
        The problem with using a traditional screw-type ball puller is that, as you thread the screw into the ball, the lead displaced by the screw has to go somewhere and what it does is expand the ball and stick it in tighter. The next thing that happens is it now takes two of you to pull on the rod, so you end up with your gun pointed at your buddy while he’s tugging on the ramrod and you’re holding the gun. Then the next thing is the screw pulls out of the ball and you’re stuck with a ball with a hole through it and, after sufficient cursing, it’s off to the gunsmith.
        The easiest thing to pull is a Maxi-Ball. Saboted bullets can pull easily, but usually you have to pull the bullet and then pull the sabot because the bullet pulls out of the sabot.

  • Brennen Munro

    My dogs have always enjoyed chewing the small bits and bobs that I get from my deer hunting friends! I may have to stash a few off for me to make things out of now! I even have a few ideas already.

    Munro