Making an Antler Bullet Pen – Preserving Memories
My father-in-law, Eric, shot his first caribou on our family caribou hunt in 2011. It wasn’t the biggest ‘bou on the planet, but the effort required to harvest this animal, along with the entire memory surrounding this hunt made me think that preserving these memories would definitely be worth it, and making an antler bullet pen would fit the memories perfectly.
After returning home, the velvet was stripped off of the antlers, the skull was cleaned up, and the soaking process began to what I hoped would be a successful first-try at a European mount. The tips of the antlers were still fairly soft since we were hunting in August, and I thought it might be iffy anyway. My decision was made when I was at work and fielded a phone call saying a stray neighbor dog had chewed the tips off of the antlers while the skull was soaking. Bummer. I didn’t junk the whole idea, but was unsure of what direction to go in uniquely preserving the memories surrounding this hunt. A few months later, I had a discussion with a friend at work about the little caribou and he suggested making an antler bullet pen.
What a great idea! I dug the frozen skull and antlers out of the snow bank and cut the main-beam sections into usable lengths.
Brad and I planned on making a couple versions of the antler bullet pen, one for Eric and one for my Dad, to be Fathers day gifts. We cut three sections of antler (in case we messed one up) that were suitable for drilling, which was the first step in the pen-making process.
Super-glue is your friend in this process and we used it twice in making these pens. First, we used it to secure the brass tube that is supplied with the Magnum Twist Pen Kit (similar found here). Before chucking the antler section in the lathe, the ends need to be squared, which was done with a barrel trimmer bit.
It was now time to fire up the lathe and start turning! I let Brad do most of the work in turning the first pen as he gave instructions on how he was working the tooling on the bone to get it to the shape he wanted. Since bone is so porous, it can require more care in the turning process as opposed to some hardwoods.
Now it was my turn to get behind the tools and see if I could turn antler bone into chips and correctly shape the material into a usable section suitable for use on a pen.
It turns out I was successful. It definitely took me much longer than it took the master wood-turner get the job done, but I think it turned out great! I previously mentioned the two uses for super-glue on this project. We used super-glue the second time after the final sanding. Being a porous material, the bone can crack easily and applying multiple thin coats of super glue to the exterior of the antler segment gives it a more satin to glossy finish but also makes it more durable. We applied the super glue at very low turning speeds, using a very thin plastic glove to evenly distribute the glue until it started to get tacky. Be sure to wear safety glasses while running a lathe, and especially when you might be slinging super glue around!
The finished antler bullet pen turned out better than I had expected. The kit itself is very nice and looks fantastic when fully assembled. The end of the pen appears to be the head of a brass casing, complete with what looks like a faux primer. The other end of the pen-kit replicates a 30 caliber cartridge. I think having an antler segment in place of hardwood for this kit is a fantastic way to finish the look.
Like myself, you may not have access to a wood-lathe for making these, but with a bit of asking around, you might get lucky and find someone that can work on this project with you, or someone that might be willing to turn your antler sections for a small fee. This is a great alternative to hanging a trophy on the wall and can be used daily, making it practical as well! The antler bullet pen kits we used above are a twist-action version, but you can also find a bolt-action pen kit that is a great choice for this project as well, for obvious reasons.