How to primitively process a moose antler for flint knapping
January 10, 2012 by Connor O'Malley
I received one of the best Christmas presents ever this year – a moose antler! I’ve been wanting a moose antler for years so this was very exciting for me. There are some stages of flint knapping larger stones that are hard to do with a hammerstone or a small deer antler (at least for me). Having a large moose antler opens up a whole new world of knapping for me.
Most knappers use a rasp and grinding wheel to make their antlers smooth for knapping but I am fascinated by the obscure details of primitive processing that indigenous people used before metal tools so I wanted to see how processing this antler would go using only “abo” techniques.
As you can see, raw moose antlers are rough and bumpy. To make a good knapping tool I'll need to smooth it out. Unfortunately this antler was already sawed off but the techniques I'll use would work just as well if it was whole.
On the left side here you can see how the bumps were smashed down using the flint stone. After pecking, I ground them smooth on the sandstone slab.
Here you can see how the bumps start to smooth out after grinding.
I'm going to use fire to help shape the larger bumps.
I have to be careful not to burn the antler too much because it becomes very brittle.
When the antler is charred, the pecking becomes much more effective.
Now it is time to shape the handle. I need to take a lot of the weight off of the back of this antler so the balance is more towards the working end.
I coated the lower part of the handle with clay to protect it from the heat.
If I could do it over again I would have tried to keep the handle longer. Live and learn.
When the antler is burnt it basically falls apart and you can hit it on a rock to flake off all the burnt parts.
Now I'm going to peck away the brittle parts and grind the handle smooth.
If you just grind an antler on a stone, the stone will quickly become inundated with bits of antler and it won't grind very well. The solution is sand.
Adding sand keeps the stone gritty and basically creates a giant solid peice of sand paper.
Some further smoothing on the working end. As I use this antler billet I will regrind it periodically and it will take on a much more uniform shape.
The finished antler.