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    Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

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    kiltedcelt
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    Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

    Post by kiltedcelt on Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:44 am

    I've been looking around a bit to find a source for moose horn that can be used for roller nuts on the two crossbows I'm making. I've found this:

    http://www.hideandfur.com/inventory/Antlers.html

    They do sell stems which I think is all I'd need. I can't see a need for buying a whole side. I wanted enough antler to make two nuts and a probably a spare and maybe enough to mess one up - so altogether probably 4 nuts. I also wanted to have enough material left over to create small blocks to glue in for reinforcement of the sockets - fore and aft as I've seen in some photos Lightly posted in her flickr account. Do you guys/gals have experience with this supplier or another where I could reasonably purchase a long enough and large enough diameter stem to get what I need out it? I'm thinking the stem would need to be 2" in diameter and probably about 8" long. This stuff seems inordinately pricey as well, but the only cheaper site I found makes me suspicious because there was no contact info available so I figure there - no contact - no buy. Just seems a little ridiculous to pay $60+ for a hunk of antler 8" long, especially when they're being simply picked up off the ground somewhere. Finally, in buying antler have you been able to purchase something you thought would be the right size and have it be consistent enough diameter to be useful?

    Also, I've been looking around for a source for bone for the overlays/inlays that I'll be applying to the bows I'm making. In all the pictures I've seen it's tough to see any joints on most bows which leads me to believe large pieces were used. If I had to guess I'd say they were mostly ivory and actually coming from a tusk would mean that the pieces could be much longer. Perhaps coming from bone they would need to be pieced together from smaller sections of bone. Most of what would be available would be cow bone and you're not going to be able to get pieces probably much longer than 8" or so out a single long leg bone. I've found a few retailers of "bone scales" for knife making and other such stuff. These pieces mostly seem to be only about 4 -6" long and no wider than about 1 1/2". Making my inlays out of a patchwork of pieces is, I think, going to look sloppy and not period, judging by the examples of bows I've seen, in particular the two bows I'm actually trying to duplicate. I'd almost rather use some sort of plastic if I could find something that would give the look of bone/ivory and allow me to use long pieces in order to preserve the look seen on the actual real historic bows. Any thoughts or suggestions?
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    Re: Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

    Post by Pavise on Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:27 am

    The base of antler part you need is called a rosette or burr and is almost like ivory to work with. They are also available from game farms where bull Elk (Wapati) are raised for their velvet antlers which are prematurely harvested every year. The remaining rosettes eventually shed naturally and are picked up and sold for crafts etc. Apparently the ones from moose, which are not game-farmed, are the better choice. You will need a large rosette for each nut roller you make and the final shape has to be considered carefully before cutting out and being turned to finished diameter on a lathe etc.

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    Re: Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

    Post by kiltedcelt on Mon Mar 08, 2010 12:58 pm

    Pavise,

    So elk rosettes could be used as well? I read somewhere that non-moose antler has a pithy section in the center which has to be filled with epoxy or something. Is the elk rosette solid all the way through?
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    Re: Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

    Post by kiltedcelt on Mon Mar 08, 2010 3:02 pm

    I joined an engraving forum to ask questions about how best to go about duplicating the carving on these bows. It was suggested that bone or ivory was NOT thinned and then bent into the curved pieces but that in the case of the more extreme curves as around the roller nut, that thicker pieces were glued in and then shaped to match the curvature of the tiller after the fact. Does this sound feasible? Also, if that could be done, perhaps I could use micarta instead of bone, assuming I could get thick enough pieces to glue in place and then shape down to match the curvature. What do you guys think?
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    horn!

    Post by Geezer on Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:04 am

    Geezer here, chiming in on moosehorn and related issues.
    First, sources: I get moosehorn stems from Moscow (Idaho) hide and fur. They have what I need and are very prompt. The price may seem high, but they have a large selection of good stuff and their list gives dimensions, weight of horn and some comments on color/texture. A good-sized piece of stem will make about 4 roller nuts, and since I make a lot of horn actions, that works out very well for me. We cut the stems into chunks and turn it on the lathe.. usually two nuts at a time, given irregularity of the material. Lathe turning moose-horn is a beast of a job, by the way. I have also used the lower sections of Axis stag horns. If you can get 'em big enough, they're lovely white ivory all the way through.
    Elk horn is very pithy in the middle. I have never got anything worthwhile for roller-nuts out of an elk-horn, not even at the very bottom, though one can get useful thinner bits here and there. Years ago a friend sent me a beautiful span of elk-horns... they were almost completely useless for my purposes.
    As for installing bits of horn or bone on curved surfaces and shaving it down to fit, I don't see any objection to that. Horn and bone are deucedly hard to work, much more so than wood, but it's do-able. Certainly the top plates (table) on most medieval bows are made of fairly thin sections, about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch thick.
    I have looked at the butt of the Fels-Colonna bow (Wallace Collection in London) which shows that the bow was made more or less octagonal and then the bone bits were glued on and then shaped/carved with all those bas-relief figures. No doubt the carving itself was done by a dedicated bone-carver. The bas-relief isn't terribly deep, but still, the bone would need to be fairly thick to make it work.
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    Re: Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

    Post by kiltedcelt on Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:49 am

    Geezer,

    I looking around, checking on an engraving forum and pricing out a number of man-made alternatives, I've found that just purchasing bone is going to be the cheapest route to go and will obviously be period accurate and will look the best I think. I'm sure a combination of thin scales and thicker pieces will allow me to recreate the look of those two bows. Is it your experience that thin enough bone (1/16") could be bent around the curved areas of the stock, either manually or by boiling or steaming first, or would I simply be better off applying a thicker piece and then shaping it down to fit? I'm guessing I would probably be using files to do the gross shaping of the curved pieces followed by removing tool marks with varying grits of sand paper. The folks on the engraver forum all seem to agree that the carving of these two bows is shallow scrimshaw-like carving and could easily be done on a very thin substrate as you would have with 1/8" thick bone pieces.

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    Re: Moose horn roller nut - source?/source for bone for inlays

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