Deer antlers make durable and attractive knife handles that can last for many years to come.
First step is removing the old knife handle.
I normally just burn the old handle off using a Dakota fire pit, which is just two holes dug side by side and connected to one another at the bottom forming a U-shape. One hole is used for the fire, and the other is used as an airway. This allows you to burn off the handle quicker and with less wood.
Deer antlers make great handles for rat-tail tang knifes because the narrow tang fits well into the drilled out antler.
If you have a selection to choose from, pick an antler that will fit your knife without too much modification. For my Kukri here I only had to bend the tang slightly on my table vise to get it to fit, but I often have to cut the tang a little here and there to get it to fit into the antler correctly. An angle grinder is a must in that respect.
Once you have a piece picked, cut that section of the antler out. Remember, it’s better to cut a piece too large than to cut a piece too little.
I also found an angle grinder to be the best way to make quick, clean cuts off the antler. Make sure you wear eye protection and a respirator while cutting the antler.
Using a table vise to keep the antler in place, drill out a hole big enough to fit your tang. If the antler is curved you may need to drill halfway on one side then flip the antler over and drill out the other side.
Drill the antler out slowly and carefully. Filling in accidental holes is a pain and weaken your finished handle.
I had to bend the knife’s tang a little with my table vise to fit the curve of the antler.
Once I got a tight fit I taped off the areas I wanted to keep clean, and mixed up some epoxy. I added wood dust to the epoxy mix to form a paste that would better fill the gaps between the tang and antler.
After filling the drill hole with as much epoxy paste as I could, I placed the knife upright in the table vise over night.
Once the epoxy was dry I took a rotary tool with a grinding stone and smoothed out the epoxy and the rough edges of the antler.
Here’s a few handles I’ve made out of deer antlers.