Everyone—especially hunters and outdoorsmen—loves useful handmade gifts. Here are a few of my most treasured handcrafted items, which are things that I’ve made primarily from horn, leather, and antler. And you can make them too.
Knives are everyone’s favorite. I made this one from an old blade I found on a mountain somewhere, and a mule deer shed my wife picked up. Just clean up your old blade (or buy a new one), cut, drill, and shape your antler handle, and glue the whole thing together. Finish to taste. Watch how I made this knife below.
This whistle is the perfect mountain-man gift for the little tykes in your family. Just cut an antler tine about 3 – 4 inches long, cut off the tip, then drill from the tip toward the fat end. Don’t drill all the way through, though. Then cut a notch in the side of the antler, and fit a plug into the hole as deep as the notch. Cut a slight flat on one side of your plug and glue it in the hole, flat side facing the notch. Clean, shape, and sand to finish. *Toot! Toot! *
A fine leather rifle sling makes a gift that will last a lifetime of hunting. This project is a labor of love, so don’t get in a hurry. Use 4-5 ounce leather, a hand-forged buckle, and unless you have a really heavy-duty sewing machine, you’ll need to sew it by hand with an awl, harness needle, and strong nylon thread. Barge contact cement will hold the two faces of your sling together as you sew them. Make the sling 1 1/8-inches wide, taper the tongue section to fit a ¾-inch buckle, and tailor the cartridge loop to fit. Happy sewing!
You should make this gift for the special someone in your life. The whale-tail pendant is carved from elk antler using a saw, dremel tool, and needle files. The cord is twisted artificial sinew, and the button is a tiny antler tip from a mule deer. Any shape pendant can be made from antler, and scrimshawed if desired. Just take your time, give it clean lines and polish it nicely with fine sandpaper and steel wool, and your honey will love it. Mine does!
Robin Hood-style back quivers are beloved by all traditionally minded archers, young or old. All you’ll need is six square feet of 5-6 ounce semi stiff leather, a few feet of lacing (you can buy it or cut your own), and a small hole punch. Barge cement will make your life easier as you sew, as will a large-eyed needle to stick the tip of your lace through while sewing. Taper the quiver a little and sew an oval plug into the bottom to give it nice lines, and fold the top (mouth) of the quiver over to add rigidity. If you want a pocket, sew that on before sewing the quiver together. Add some fringe and a nice strap and give away!
Here’s a simple knife sheath that your kids or hunting buddies will love. But there’s a caveat; you’ll need the knife that’s destined to live in it, so you can form the leather around the knife. Use 9-10 ounce tooling leather, and work it damp. Before sewing the scabbard fold the belt loop back and rivet it in place, making sure the rivets don’t protrude inside the scabbard (so they don’t rub on the knife). Glue a welt in your seam with Barge cement, and sew by hand with heavy nylon thread or artificial sinew. Use a “saddle stitch” – it’s by far the strongest. Fit the knife inside the damp sheath (if the knife’s not stainless, oil it heavily with olive oil to prevent rust), form the leather firmly around the knife, and allow it to dry. Oil the sheath with olive oil, and you’re done.
If you are feeling really adept, have time to work, and want to give an extraordinary gift, build a hand-made, hand carved, scrimshawed powder horn. You’ll need a cow horn that’s mostly white with a dark tip, woodworking tools (saw, drill, dremel, files, rasps, sandpaper, etc.), nice walnut or similar wood for the base plug and end plug (I made this end plug from desert sheep horn) and a strip of leather. Brass or silver pins around the base plug add a nice touch. For the scrimshaw work you’ll need a hard scratch-awl type tool, indelible ink, pencil, spray-on sealant, and some steel wool. Lot’s of patience will help, too.
An elk ivory necklace functions as an indisputable man-card (trumped only by Tyler Freel‘s grizzly bear-claw pendant). It does double-duty, too: put an elk ivory pendant on a woman, and it becomes graceful and sexy. One personal perspective, though: I think that, like an elephant-hair bracelet, ivories should only be worn by men who have earned them the hard way—in elk country, rifle in hand. That said, I think a nice ivory pendant is a great gift for a special woman, huntress or not (though my wife has harvested more elk ivory than many men ever will). Just carefully drill two tiny holes through the tooth’s root, add a buckskin string to each hole, and an antler tip button. See the video below.
If you really want to show your father, brother, son, or buddy how much they mean to you, make them a set of elk or moose antler pistol grips. You’ll need a good flat piece of antler, a band saw or hack saw, rasps or belt sander, drill, and dremel tool. You’ll also need time and patience. Fit the grips carefully, preserve as much of the natural antler surface as possible, and polish them well.
Elk antlers make awesome belt buckles. All you’ll need is a good burr (the base of the antler with the gnarly ridge around it), a couple 16-penny nails, a hacksaw, a dremel tool, drill, epoxy, and sand paper. Bend one of the nails (minus the head) to form the belt loop across the back, and a small section of another nail to make the peg that fastens the belt. Scrimshaw, carve, or inlay—a buffalo silver dollar works nicely—for decoration, if desired.