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White River Jct. Man Carves Crafts from Antlers

  • Norman Hurd, of White River Junction, assembles a chandelier made from a combination of mule and whitetail deer antlers. Hurd owns and operates Hurd's Antler Art and Engraving from his home on Colonial Drive.



Special to the Valley News
Friday, December 23, 2016

When considering arts and crafts, antlers do not immediately spring to mind. However, one Vermont craftsman relies on deer, moose and elk antlers for his creative efforts.

Norman Hurd, 70, of White River Junction, uses antlers to make lamps, tables, wall sconces, walking sticks and chandeliers.

When Hurd, a retired postal worker, began his work 30 years ago he did not start out with antlers. Early on he carved and painted duck decoys. This led him to Ocean City, N.J., to the duck decoy championships where the winner receives a grand prize of $10,000.

That might seem like a fortune for simply carving and painting a fake duck, but the finished products actually sell for much more on the open market.

“After a contestant wins the championship a couple of times, they don’t participate anymore,” Hurd said. “You can spend as much as 1,000 hours on a decoy, so the payoff only comes to around $10 an hour. A prize decoy can fetch as much as $40,000 from a private buyer.”

Hurd respected the work that went into a winning, decoy but he quickly realized that he didn’t want to compete in that arena so he took a class to study decorative engraving.

When it came to decorative engraving, Hurd was a natural. He still has his first creation, the head of a bear carved into the butt of a gunstock. He had found his Muse.

“I didn’t develop the talent,” Hurd said. “The good Lord just gave me something and I went with it. I don’t think of myself as an artist. When people call me an artist, I reply, ‘If you say so.’ ”

The gunstocks decorated by Hurd are rarely used for hunting. Over the years, a shotgun or rifle can get banged up in the field. The guns brought to Hurd for carving are more often heirlooms or antiques that end up displayed on a wall, over the fireplace or in a lighted gun cabinet.

To carve images in wood, antler or bone, Hurd uses a paragrave tool powered by an air compressor. Since the paragrave rotates at 40,000 revolutions per minute, he is careful not to let his fingers get in the way. Luckily, all of his digits remain intact.

Hurd became interested in working with antlers when he visited Keen, N.Y., a small town near Lake Placid. There, he found a shop that featured two lamps made with deer antlers, and took an immediate interest.

Though Hurd is an avid bow hunter, he has never used any deer antlers from his own harvest.

He orders deer, moose and elk antlers from a dealer in Montana.

In fact, no animals die to provide material for his craft. Every year, members of the deer family shed their antlers, leaving them on the ground. This has led to the growth of a lucrative business for anyone willing to search the woods for “drops”.

Because the New England deer population is relatively small compared to other areas of the country, few of Hurd’s antlers come from the local area.

“There are a lot more deer in the West and Midwest,” Hurd said. “Herds out there can reach numbers over 40,000 in a single state. Our herds aren’t that big.”

Hurd is not averse to creating something from antlers harvested by local hunters, though most of those antlers are kept for wall mounted trophies.

What began as a hobby has grown into a business that Hurd runs out of his White River Junction home.

His workshop has taken over his garage. He also needs to build a separate storage area for all his materials.

Even if a seven-foot coffee table made of elk antlers is not your personal decorating taste, Hurd’s outdoor themed creations can be described as exquisite. His trips to log-home shows inspired him to transform antique snow shoes and deer antlers into wall sconces.

He employs combinations of deer, moose and elk antlers to fashion floor lamps and elegant chandeliers.

The work is intricate and painstaking. “You don’t just throw these things together. It takes time to make sure all the pieces fit so the design looks right.”

Hurd’s pieces have been featured in magazines, including Log Home Design, Log Home Living, Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, New Hampshire Home and Heart of New Hampshire.

To view Hurd’s creations, visit his website, www.hurdsantlerartandengraving.com.

While he does accept orders from his website, Hurd prefers that potential customers come by his home to see his work in person. He wants them to know exactly what they are getting. He has certain items in stock, but most of his sales come from custom orders.

To make an appointment call 802-291-9923 or email norm@hurdsantlerartandengraving.com.

Coleman Stokes can be reached at stokecoles@gmail.com.