Sunday, 10 December 2006

Antler axes

Antler axes have several advantages over stone axes. Ground stone axes take a lot of time to make, not to mention the time involved in finding a river cobble that doesn't require an enormous effort to shape. Any type of good flaking rock is hard to find in Norway, so I wouldn't waste a good piece on a flaxed axe. Antler is unlike stone, a renewable resource and is relatively easy to find and shape.

There are several options when making these kind of axes. You can make one with a "diagonal" edge or use the centre of the rosette close to the base. I have made both, but have yet to test the last type. Adzes are also possible to make with antler, but is still on my "to make" list.

When choosing type of antler:
- Roe deer antler is generally too small.
- Red deer is a little weak, but will work for the diagonally edged type.
- Reindeer (caribou) is excellent for the diagonally edged type, but could possibly be used in the ordinary way too.
- Elk (moose) is the best for the one with an ordinary central bit and would be too big for much else.

To make the axes, score and split everything to as close dimensions as you can, that will save you a lot of work grinding. On the big elk axe head I have spent extremely much time grinding the end to a bevel, I would have saved myself a lot of work by scoring and cutting a little more. But anyway, the base end of elk antler, is extremely hard! Even drilling the holes will take a lot of time. Bone is said to be usable too, but isn't nearly as flexible as antler and is consequently much more likely to chip.

On one of my axes (middle) I took advantage of a limb on the antler (from a big stag) and used that as the handle. The elk axe is yet unhafted and the lower one is also of red deer.

Don't use an antler axe on hard, dry wood. Or for limbing spruce. The one with the seemingly thin shaft (which works great by the way) has been severly damaged from using it for that purpose and will need a lot of grinding to become usable again. On spruce limbs: Use a heavy batton to break them off. Spruce limbs are just as easy to break that way as by chopping them.

Antler axes and beaver tooth knives are natural choices for the abo living in a stone-poor environment (like Norway). Conserve most of the stone you have for working antler, bone and butchering. I have managed for 6 years or so with less than a kilogram of flint. That is achived by using all available edges on even small pieces and not reducing them into bifaces and finally drill-bits or arrowheads until these edges are worn out.