How to put finish on an elk antler knife handle

Written by rhomylly forbes
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How to put finish on an elk antler knife handle
Elk antler is more durable than deer, and makes a durable knife handle. (elk image by Melissa Schalke from

A knife is much more than a tool, especially when you make it yourself. Animal bone is a popular medium for knife handles, It's easy to work with, will last for years and might cost nothing if you find antlers or other bones. Add a finish to an elk-antler handle to preserve it for the life of the knife.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Dye
  • Jar
  • Heat lamp
  • Furniture wax
  • Soft Cloth
  • Carnauba wax (optional)

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  1. 1

    Dye the antler -- if you have not yet attached the elk-antler handle to the blade -- to provide colour contrast and to help preserve the antler material. Place the antler in a jar containing the primary dye colour; leather dye should work well. Place a heat lamp near the jar; the heat will help the dye soak into the antler. Allow the elk antler to soak in the dye overnight. Remove the antler and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

  2. 2

    Add a second layer of dye if you want to add a darker hue -- or second colour -- to the antler. Soak the antler in another jar of dye for several hours . Use the heat-lamp process, and allow the antler to dry thoroughly. The antler is now ready to shape into a handle and attach to the blade.

  3. 3

    Polish the handle with 100% carnauba wax. A generic paste wax will also suffice. Rub the wax into the elk-antler handle, and polish with a clean, soft cloth. Re-apply the wax finish periodically; regular knife use will wear away the protective polish.

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