'Preparing Deer and Antelope Hoofs to Use on Rattles, Bandoliers and Decorations', an illustrated four page article by Ken Smith
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Preparing Deer Hoofs:    page 3

Various Ways to Shape Hoofs

The following two methods are particularly good to use with small doe and yearling hoofs (fig. 2 &3).
Simple trimming methods
You can finish the hoofs as in fig.2. You can zigzag the bottom edge with your knife or leave the edge plain. If you zigzag the bottom edge you can do the edge of the pad also, but you may have to wait an hour or so to let the pad firm up enough that you can cut into it. The edges of the hoof should be zigzagged now, because in an hour they will be too hard to cut easily.

fancier trimming methods

To finish as in figure 3, simply trim all the pad away except for a 1/4 inch up at the tip of the hoof. Now you have two newly exposed edges you can zigzag if you wish, or leave them smooth. Either way, please note: all the old bandoliers and rattles that I have seen done with hoofs as in figure 3 have the two newly exposed edges trimmed back even further. See fig. 3 for clarity. A whole rattle or bandolier done in this fashion makes a very delicate rattling noise.

two dimensional hoofs
Large buck hoofs can be cut into pieces as shown in fig. 4 by simply cutting away all of the soft and swollen pad. The two remaining triangular sides can be cut into different shapes. Orient the pieces you cut out as shown, so the tip of the finished hoof piece with the hanging hole is the thickest part. Please note: these pieces may curl some as they dry and it is best to clamp them betweem a couple soft smooth boards for a couple of days until dry. If you don't do this and some pieces do curl, simply imerse them in boiling water for a few minutes untill soft and then clamp untill dry.

A couple hundred of these flat pieces will make a wonderful traditional bandolier (a belt worn diagonally across the chest). The hoof pieces have a very delicate pleasing sound when they hit together. The State History Museum in Denver, Co. has several bandoliers in storage made with deer and/or antelope hoofs. Two of these bandoliers are made with hoof pieces. One of these is exquisitely done with the pieces being cut into five repeating shapes around the whole bandolier.

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