I recently made a video in which I take a look at the phenomenon of deer species growing and shedding their antlers each year, as well as how to restore an old shed antler back to its former beauty. At the end of that video, I promised to show where the elk shed that I used for the example would end up, so here it is! In this blog article, I’ll be making a rustic elk antler clothes and/or hat rack. So if you have some old antlers laying around that you’d like to do something similar with, this project will hopefully give you some ideas.
The elk antler that I’m using for the example here has kind of a cool story behind it. Many years ago, a buddy and I were on a hunting trip on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state. One morning while hiking through the steep mountains and valleys, we found a matching set of shed antlers from a Roosevelt elk, which are the largest elk species in North America. Finding just one shed antler that’s in decent shape is always an exciting discovery, but finding a matching set of two antlers is doubly exciting! So, my buddy and I each kept an antler as a memento of the hunt and, well, mine has been sitting around in storage ever since…until now.
If you’re lucky enough to find a shed antler out in the woods, they’ll often be discolored or bleached out from laying around on the forest floor for many months or even years, as was the case with this elk antler. Along with the discoloration, sheds are also commonly chewed up quite a bit from mice, squirrels, porcupines and other rodents, as well as wolves, coyotes, bears and other large animals who all like to nibble away on the antlers, which are a rich source of calcium. Thus, shed antlers often need a little fixing up before you can use them for a taxidermy or craft project. So if you have some antlers that need to be restored, check out the video I did on that topic.
For this particular project, I wanted to attach this antler to some kind of a wood panel as part of the design. So, the first thing I did was to get a measurement of the area where I’d be hanging the rack to see how far apart the wall studs were that I’d eventually be securing it to. After I had my measurement, I then proceeded to make the mounting panel. The forests of the Olympic Peninsula are loaded with massive western red cedar trees, but since I didn’t have any western red cedar on hand, I used eastern red cedar instead. I cut out a section that was about a foot longer than my wall stud measurement, gave it an initial sanding, and sealed the back of the panel with shellac.
The next step was to lay out the design, so first I arranged the antler in the position that I wanted to permanently mount it in and traced it out with a pencil. After that, I marked the areas of the antler that came in direct contact with the panel for drilling some holes later. I thought it would be cool to add an elk track design to the panel, so I printed out an actual-size elk track, cut it out and traced it onto the cedar panel.
After the design for the panel was all laid out, I then drilled some pilot holes in the spots I marked earlier where I’d eventually be attaching the antler. Next, I temporarily attached the antler to the panel with some wood clamps and drilled pilot holes in the antler that matched up with those of the panel.
After the pilot holes were all drilled and ready to go, I carved out the elk tracks with my router and Dremel tool, vacuumed up all the dust, and painted them a dark color so they really stand out. Finally, I gave the whole top of the panel a final sanding, stained it with some Sedona Red wood stain, and after the stain dried, applied a few coats of polyurethane.
Before mounting the antler to the panel, I attached the brackets for hanging the finished rack on the wall. I set these up to match my wall stud measurement from earlier, and simply screwed them in place.
After the wall hanging brackets were good to go, I went back and drilled slightly larger holes in both the panel and the antler where I had my pilot holes. To permanently mount the antler in place, I first ran some long skinny bolts through the back of the panel which I secured with washers and nuts. Next, I then took a measurement of how much of each bolt I’d need for a secure mount, marked it, and cut off the excess with a hack saw.
The next step was to apply some five-minute epoxy to the holes in the antler as well as on the ends of the bolts and gently hammer it in place with a rubber mallet.
After the epoxy was dry I mounted the rack to the wall with my hanging brackets and then loaded it up with my favorite hats.
So there you have it, that’s how you can make an antler clothes or hat rack from those old shed antlers you may have laying around. Check out the video below to see more…