Following a few posts and PM's I thought it might be worth posting a short article on how I go about making a priest using surplus antler. For pretty much all the priests I make I use red deer antler, but any antler of sufficient girth should be suitable.
First I cut a 6" length of antler from the main beam, ideally as straight a piece as possible:
As I am sure most of you know, antlers are formed of a trabecular or porous core, surrounded by a cortical or hard surface. So the middle of the antler is a bit like an Aero bar! This presents some challenges, as it can crumble over time resulting in instability in the priest.
To address this I do two things. Firstly I drill out the business end of the antler so that nearly all the trabecular core is removed:
Then I soak the antler in Ronseal Wet Wood Sealer, which hardens the porous core so that it can be drilled and filled. Be aware that if you pour the wet wood sealer in at one end of the antler it will filter straight through to the other end and drip on the floor, so best to leave the antler standing in a jar or similar .
When the sealer has completely dried, I then melt a quantity of lead and fill the larger cavity to give the priest some added weight:
For capping the priest I use two blocks of wood - normally lignum vitae for the business end and a softer wood (sometimes walnut, but in this case it was elm I think) at the other. In each block I drill a central hole, using a 4.1mm drill bit, through which I then tap and glue a length of 4mm brass or stainless rod:
The rod is left proud at one end, as I will then drill a hole of suitable depth in both the hardened trabecular bone and the lead.
I then use two-part epoxy glue to attach the wood blocks to the antler:
As you can see I don't skimp on the glue, as any excess will be removed through the subsequent sanding. Any glue that fills the pearling in the antler can normally be easily removed with a sharp knife.
I then use a rasp to roughly shape the wooden blocks:
You can now see the priest starting to take shape, and what follows is a lot of work with sandpaper (I use Abranet) of various grades, moving from rough shaping:
To more finer grades:
You can from the above photo that I'll also sand the antler itself, to leave the final priest smooth and without any sharp edges to cut the hand when using "in anger".
Finally I polish the wood and the antler using a cotton mop on the bench grinder loaded with white (stainless steel) polish. Shortly before the final polish I drill a hole through the non-business end of the priest and attach a wrist cord made of leather thonging, with a toggle made from an antler point.
Then it's just a question of getting the final shine to the priest:
To make a priest like this takes me about a day's worth of effort, though I think the result is worth it. This doesn't include the elapsed days waiting for both the Wet Wood Sealer and the glue to harden.
Oh, and before the inevitable posts from those with a willie fixation, yes - doubtless it could be used for "other purposes"