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- Restoring Antlers -

Another How To guide from Raven Bear Design. We show you the step by step process of restoring aged, bleached out antlers to a natural looking finish; using all natural ingredients.

The color on antlers; deer, moose, etc. is the result of what they rub on to remove the velvet when they go through seasonal change. If a deer ruts in an area where there has been a large fire and rubs his velvet off on a burnt tree the antlers will be mostly black. In huge contrast; a deer that rubs his velvet off on sage brush will be very light. The rich reddish brown color found on blacktail deer and Rosevelt elk comes from the bark on cedar and fir trees.


Aside from natural coloring; there are a few reasons a set of antlers will turn white. First and most common would be sun and weather exposure. Shed horns and even whole skulls can lay around in nature for a year or more before they are found by humans. What parts have not been chewed on by rodents may be exposed to rain, sand or ultra violet - all of these things can remove the color coating.


Another thing that comes up occasionally is bleaching. If you use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your skulls (which you should) and the antlers are submerged partially or sticking out but in a way that the vapors can rise up onto the antlers; you will loose color in those areas and it will need to be restored.

Even if you have a very old mount that has been exposed to the sun through a window - the antlers can loose vibrancy and the original color; turning light grey, off white or even yellow.


First and foremost - for all the surfaces you don't want to be stained; you must wrap the surface to protect it from drips and splashes. Paper towels will not work. The fluid will soak through the paper and stain whatever it touches. 

When mixed with water Potassium Permanganate will turn purple. Whatever you put it on will also turn purple - at first. Don't be alarmed; the mixture needs to oxidize the bone to turn it brown.

Photo of a deer skull wrapped in plastic to protect it during the staining process.
Photo of deer antler being stained with Potassium Permanganate.

Potassium Permanganate has virtually no surface tension; so it will not 'stay' where you put it. The liquid will follow a path toward gravity and stain whatever it comes in contact with. It will drip, pool and splash no matter how careful you are - as seen in the photos below. This is why it is very important to cover the skull with plastic! If your working surface is cosmetically important you will need to put plastic down for that also. The plastic table being used in these photos will be permanently stained. 

Photo of deer skull protected with tape and plastic - shows speckles of liquid Potassium Permanganate from brushing it on the antlers.
Photo of deer skull protected with tape and plastic - shows drips of liquid Potassium Permanganate from brushing it on the antlers.

After your first coat let the antlers dry completely to see how dark they become. If it is not dark enough coat them again. It is always better to make a weaker mix and apply multiple coats. You can always go darker; but if it is too dark right away the only option is to use hydrogen peroxide to lighten it back up. 

Photo of a deer skull with stained antlers - first step.
Photo of a deer skull with stained antlers - first step.

Don't be in a hurry - this process when done correctly can take more than a day.


Please forgive that we are not yet finished with this page. We will be finished adding additional photos and completing the step by step instructions shortly! 

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