Published January 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Art of the antler

Jay Urlacher’s interest in the outdoors and the Western way of life has led him to antler art, etched glass and custom-crafted knives, bits and spurs.

By: By Linda Sailer,

DICKINSON, N.D. – Jay Urlacher’s interest in the outdoors and the Western way of life has led him to antler art, etched glass and custom-crafted knives, bits and spurs.

He works as a welder at Dickinson’s Fisher Industries by day and pursues his art by night.

He recently purchased a farmstead near Lefor, where he winters horses and works on the art projects.

Money in the pocket

“Basically, it’s a second income. I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid,” he said.

Urlacher grew up in Dickinson and graduated from Dickinson High School.

He enrolled at Dickinson State University to study art and was a team roper.

His interest in anything Western was fostered by his father, Dave Urlacher, who owns Dave’s Saddle Shop.

He began his art business in 2002, calling it Jay Urlacher Glass and Antler Art.

He started etching mirrors with Western themes.

His first carving with antlers was with a moose horn. Through connections with friends in Alaska, Urlacher trades his handmade knives for moose horns.

“My girlfriend, Chandra, works in Alaska. She brings them back,” he said.

Tools of the trade

Working with a moose horn, Urlacher first traces a Western-themed drawing. He uses a dremel tool, something like an air-powered dentist tool, to carve out the pattern.

“The bit spins at 400,000 rpms,” he said.

Urlacher said the horn has an outer shell and softer material inside, each having different shades of white and gray.

“The gray gives the muscle tones,” he said.

Urlacher stays in contact with friends who raise elk on their ranches in southwestern North Dakota.

“I either trade, work or buy them by the pound,” he said.

“Deer horns are the same thing. I trade or work for the horns,” he said.

Urlacher uses the antlers to make lamps and chandeliers. When he needed furniture, he made end tables and chairs.

“It usually takes four horns to make an end table,” he said.

The table tops can be carved with initials, names or brands.

Fine art

Urlacher takes his art a bit further with buffalo skulls. He paints a wildlife or Western theme on them, and applies a finish of clear-coat sealer. He uses the skulls of 2-year-old bulls.

Urlacher likes to use antlers or dymond wood as handles for knives. Some of the knives are fit for the right hand, others for the left.

Sharp thinking

To make a knife, he starts with a thin sheet of Damascus or stainless steel, which is cut with a torch or plasma cutter. A blade can have 100 layers of steel, which are forge-welded together.

Different styles of knives have different uses.

The all-around clip point is used for gutting and skinning game, the drop point is for boning game, and the trail point is for skinning game.

The cost of a sheet of Damascus steel varies from $6 to $25 per inch. Consequently, a finished knife runs around $200.

When he’s not making knives, Urlacher likes to etch mirrors with Western, wildlife or custom art.

They are framed and ready to hang on a wall.

“I’ve done them as wedding gifts and anniversary gifts,” he said.

Urlacher’s custom-made spurs, bits and buckles are credited to his interest of riding horses.

“I knew a couple of guys who were silversmiths. They made bits and spurs. When I started welding, it wasn’t hard to pick up and learn,” Urlacher said.

The iron is bent into the shape of a spur and enhanced with tooled silver and leather.

“A lot of guys still use spurs, especially for team roping and training horses,” he said.

The Forum and the Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

Art of the antler By Linda Sailer 20080120