Crafting a Deer Antler Chandelier at Home
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at Eagle Brae, you’ve likely marveled at the exquisite antler chandeliers adorning the log cabins. These chandeliers, handmade with love by Eagle Brae Owner Mike Spencer-Nairn, are constructed using naturally shed deer antlers. In total, the process takes approximately 60 hours and is divided into four equal stages: building the structure, drilling and wiring, concealing imperfections, and painting. Gain insight into the art of creating an antler chandelier as Mike shares his step-by-step instructions, empowering you to fashion your own masterpiece!
Please note that this method requires knowledge and proficiency in electrical wiring. Seek the assistance of an electrician if you are unsure or lack confidence in your abilities.
Selecting the Perfect Antlers
To create a visually appealing chandelier with around 15 antlers, you will need a minimum of 50 antlers to choose from. Each antler possesses its own unique shape and size, making it imperative to have a diverse selection at your disposal.
While collecting antlers is an option, it can be time-consuming and may even infringe upon the rights of gamekeepers, who traditionally regard antlers as their property. The ideal solution is to purchase antlers from a reputable dealer. Buying antlers enables you to select 50 specimens with similar dimensions, streamlining the assembly process. Remember to acquire both left-hand and right-hand antlers in equal quantities.
Constructing the Chandelier’s Structure
Begin by creating the foundation of your chandelier. Lay all the antlers flat on your work surface to form the bottom circle. Pair the left-hand and right-hand antlers so that their tines face inward and touch. This step is crucial, as each point of contact between antlers will be secured with a screw, providing structural stability.
Initially, bind all the antlers together using electrical tape. This tape is ideal for the job as it allows for tight binding while still permitting slight movement for adjustments. Before screwing anything in place, complete the entire structure using electrical tape bindings.
Securing the Antlers with Screws
Once satisfied with the taped structure, it’s time to secure it by screwing the antlers together. One important consideration is to ensure that the wiring routes are not obstructed by the screws. The screws should be strategically placed, leaving unhindered paths for the wiring channels.
To attach the antlers with screws, use a Dremmel tool or a similar device equipped with a conical sanding attachment to create an initial hole in the hard surface. Then, use a drill to make a hole approximately 0.5 mm smaller than the screw size. Insert the screws fully, but do not drive them all the way flush with the antler surface. Leave the screws protruding at both ends, as they will be cut off later. The electrical tape can remain in place while inserting the screws and can be easily removed afterward.
Trimming the Screw Ends
Use a Dremmel tool fitted with a small grinder disk to trim the screw heads and tails flush with the antler surface.
Drilling for Wiring Channels
Before drilling, plan the wire’s route from the entry point at the top of the chandelier to the last light. Use different colored electrical tape to mark the crossing points between antlers and the positions for the light bulbs. Long drill bits of at least 30 cm in length, preferably longer, will be necessary for this step. Begin by using a sanding tool to create a starting point, then drill through the antlers. Aim to drill as far down the antler as possible, directing the drill toward the next crossing point. Ensure that the exit point of each hole allows for reentry into another antler. The goal is to create diagonal drilling paths along the antler until reaching the points of intersection between antlers and light bulb locations.
For the wiring, a dual-core flex wire will be used. Some sections will require double the amount of wire, while others need only single wire. Plan accordingly and drill narrower holes for the single wire sections and wider holes for the double wire sections. For instance, when running the wire down the upper antlers, a single dual flex wire is sufficient. However, when reaching the antler that holds a bulb, the wire must travel to the bulb and back before moving on to the next antler. Double dual flex wire is necessary for this section, requiring a broader hole. After drilling the wiring channels, use the sanding tool to smoothen the edges of all openings. Additionally, drill holes for the bulb holders.
Installing the Bulb Holders
Secure the bulb holders in place using superglue.
Wiring the Chandelier
Provide enough wire to extend from the ceiling rose down the chain and then to the first bulb. For subsequent bulbs, ensure each has enough wire in separate lengths. To make threading the wire easier, attach a thin picture framing wire or similar to the dual flex wire and use it to pull the wire through the channels. In sections with double dual flex wire, both wires must be pulled through simultaneously. Once the wiring is complete, tape up the ends of the wires at the bulb sites, leaving ample wire to connect to the bulb holders at a later stage. If desired, test the wiring by inserting bulbs and connecting the wires. Remember that the wiring forms a series circle, meaning all the bulbs must be connected for the testing. If unsure about the wiring, consult an electrician for assistance.
At this point, the chandelier is wired but may appear unsightly due to the presence of holes. Employ taxidermist’s epoxy resin, typically available in two parts (A and B) that activate upon kneading. This putty remains soft and malleable for about half an hour before hardening. After 24 hours, it will be as sturdy as the antler itself. Fill all the holes with the putty and texture its surface to mimic the surrounding antler. If the antler exhibits natural lines, continue these patterns onto the putty. The proper texture goes a long way in achieving a seamless cover-up. Allow the putty to set for 24 hours. Also, apply a small amount of putty to cover the screw entry and exit points where the screw heads and tails were cut.
Painting the Chandelier
Paint the areas filled with putty. Acrylic paints in various shades of brown, ochre, sienna, mustard, and umber, along with black and white, should provide an adequate color range to match the antler. Begin by painting a base color for each putty area and then add details using a contrasting color. Observe the color scheme of the natural antler surrounding the putty sites and attempt to replicate it. A well-painted putty site will blend seamlessly with the finished chandelier.
Attaching the Hook Eye
At the top of the chandelier, screw in a hook eye that will connect it to the hanging chain. The location of this hook eye determines how level the chandelier will hang. To determine the optimal spot, insert screws into various places on the chandelier and lift it using pliers to assess the balance. Once the ideal balance point is identified, screw in the hook eye.
Connecting the Bulbs
Finalize the wiring by connecting the bulbs.
Hanging the Chandelier
Attach the hook eye to a chain, connect the wiring, and hang your chandelier! To ensure safety, install a weight load certified safety cable as a precaution against potential failures in the ceiling rose, chain, or hook-eye. Independently anchor this cable to the ceiling or rafter, running it alongside the chain and through the antler structure to prevent it from slipping back through. Gripple cables and stop ends are highly recommended for this purpose.
Now that you possess the knowledge of crafting an antler chandelier and have witnessed the time and effort invested in each Eagle Brae masterpiece, why not give it a try yourself? View more photos of the process on our Facebook page.
Remember, it’s all about creating something truly remarkable!