I want to discuss ways to acquire carving material. Namely, bones and antlers.
Bone Carving Materials and Where to Get Them
I find that pet stores often have beef bones, horn sheaths, and antler pieces for dog chews. Often these are filled with goopy snacks. Do not bother with those. Look for the bones that are empty and not cooked. I buy these and cut them in half with a band saw to get a blank canvas!
I do not recommend buying antler chews at pet stores. They are over priced. Instead, I buy antler sheds off eBay and from a taxidermy shops. I cut these sheds up into usable pieces. Taxidermy shops sometimes have a pile of found sheds for sale. I’ve also seen sheds available at woodcarving suppliers.
Most of the materials you see in my image there I have acquired through trading, bartering and donations. If you tell people about your hobby then people will become interested and start bringing you things. I’ve also offered art in exchange for large lots of materials. Wanted ads on local online forums have also brought me great materials to carve.
Finding and cleaning
If you live where you can hunt for sheds, I DO recommend this and I envy you for being able to.
I do not recommend this for other bones. It is time consuming to hunt for dirty bones then clean them before you can even cut into them. So unless you just cannot get the material any other way (maybe it is a super rare animal in your area, for instance), don’t do this. If you must do this, do refer to my upcoming bone cleaning tutorials.
Woodcarving stores, suppliers
These stores are often small and go unnoticed, so open up your local google search and see if there any wood hobby stores in your area. These stores specialize in anything you might want to carve, and they have the know how to acquire any rare material you might want to try out, including animal bones.
Butcher bones and cooked bones
Unless you’re prepared to put a lot of work into cleaning these I would not recommend this. Cooked bones cannot be cleaned as the heat has pretty much cooked the fatty grease into the bone and it will not come out. Grease inside a bone will clog and wear down your cutting and carving tools. Be aware!