Traditionally a Solingen, Germany souvenir knife, knives made with deer hoof handles are made from a much smaller deer than the American whitetail. Hunters lucky enough to bag a deer often want something special to commemorate their accomplishment. Some mount the head and rack of their deer, and others make furniture and wall decorations from the antlers. Deer hoof knives use a portion of the foreleg as well as the hoof itself, making a soft, comfortable knife handle that is more usable in severe weather.
This article assumes that the reader has a basic understanding of metalworking and access to a complete knife mkaer's shop. It also assumes that the reader has made enough knives to understand the basic knife-making terms used in this article. If you do not have previous knife making experience, please refer to the eHow article, "How to Make Your Own Knife," by Jane Smith, and the anvilfire.com article, "Poof, You're a Sword Smith," to become familiar with blademaking and metalworking terminology.
Plastic container larger than deer foreleg
Desired knife blade and crossguard
2 quarts rubbing alcohol
Bag of extra long craft type pipe cleaners
1/4 inch diameter lamp maker's drill bit
2 quarts distilled white vinegar (NOT apple cider vinegar)
Box of table salt
1-inch long brass tubing, same diameter as deer foreleg
1 hour epoxy
Deer foreleg with hoof attached
Polishing wheel with grinder or polishing cloth
Gypsy Wilburn, a 20-year veteran industrial and artisan blacksmith, knife and sword maker, approved the accuracy of these instructions.
Failure to completely clean away all marrow from the bone will result in a very unpleasant odor from your deer hoof knife handle, rotting and molding of the hide and bone, and possible contamination with biologically active bacteria from decomposition of the bone and hide.
Cut the deer foreleg from the carcass at the length you desire your knife handle to be. Make sure the leg is long enough to accommodate the full tang of your chosen knife blade, plus a few inches more. Use pipe cleaners and alcohol to clean all the marrow from the foreleg bone. Make sure to keep filling the bone with alcohol, scrubbing with a pipe cleaner and dumping the dirty alcohol until the bone is immaculately clean and the alcohol appears clear after the final scrubbing with the pipe cleaner.
Pour the remaining clean alcohol into the plastic container and submerse the deer foreleg. Add alcohol until the leg is covered. Allow it to soak for one hour. Remove the deer foreleg from the alcohol bath and allow it to dry for two to four hours. Dispose of the dirty alcohol in an environmentally safe manner. Refill the container with distilled white vinegar. Do not use apple cider vinegar, as it has impurities that will not get your deer foreleg clean enough. Submerse the deer foreleg in the vinegar bath and soak it for two hours. Remove the foreleg and allow to dry overnight in a warm, dry place, until the hide near the sawed-off end feels like rawhide.
Use a power drill to woggle out a hole in the leg bone, until it is deep enough and wide enough to accommodate the knife tang, without drilling through the exterior hide of the deer leg. The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle of the knife. It is the surface where the handle attaches to the blade. A woggle is a slide used to hold neckerchiefs in place, and woggling is making the hole in a ring or block of wood or bone by wiggling a drill bit or file back and forth while drilling or filing until the desired size and shape hole is achieved. Use a bench grinder and grinding wheel to adjust the tang until it will slide snugly into the deer foreleg, until the blade crossguard is tight against the blade shoulder and the deer leg. Remove the knife from the deer leg.
Run a bead of instant adhesive between the deer hide and the sawed-off end of the bone to secure the hide firmly. Allow it to dry. Slide the brass tubing onto the cut and glued end of the deer leg, so that it is flush with the cut end. Mix a small amount of one-hour epoxy. Carefully smear the epoxy with a craft stick to fill the seam between the brass tubing and the deer hide at the sawed-off end of the leg. Allow to dry overnight. Grind or file the end of the deer leg flat and square to a 90-degree angle across the bone. Make sure the deer leg still fits the knife correctly, snug against the guard.
Fill the bone hole with one-hour epoxy, using a craft stick or other appropriate tool. Smear the knife tang with one-hour epoxy. slide deer leg onto tang, with the blade pointed down toward the table, so that any epoxy overflow falls onto the blade instead of onto the deer hoof. Wipe away excess epoxy. Allow it to dry overnight, as one hour is the set time for the epoxy, not the drying time.
Use fine sandpaper to prep the deer hoof, removing any roughness, gouges or other imperfections. Polish the brass crossguard and the hoof with a polishing cloth or buffing wheel.