Call has seen the light regarding antlers

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Call has seen the light regarding antlers

By Charlie Meyers, Denver Post Outdoor Editor

October 06, 2002

RIFLE - Unlike most hunters, Roger Call never wonders what to do with those antlers that don't quite measure up top a spot over the fireplace.

A large man of middle years, Call is an antlersmith. Using the horns of deer, elk and, occasionally, moose, he makes chandeliers, lamps, tables and just about anything else one might imagine.

"You don't need a trophy rack to make a nice chandelier. Midsized racks often are the best. You can do anything you want with them," Call says of an enterprise he began five years ago and transformed into as much of a full-time job as he cares to make it.

In a shop tangled with drill presses, band saws and drill bits 20 inches long, he cranks out antler art certain to catch the eye of any fancier. A symmetrical tangle of elk antlers 8 feet tall hangs from a pulley, awaiting the final touches that will make it the centerpiece of a dining room or the focal point of some grand entryway.

Off to the side, several small deer-horn chandeliers of deer stand in various phases of completion.

"This one has a broken tine, but I'll bet you can't find it," Call says with a laugh. Nor can an observer locate any of the several plugs that hide the places he drilled for the light placements.

"The secret is in a special grout that doesn't shrink," says Call, who also has a mysterious potion that restores antlers bleached by the sun. He works only with natural antlers, calling any use of plastics "not pure."

In an activity that increasingly attracts artisans of varying skills, Call ranks among the masters.

"His work is among the best I've ever seen," says Littleton resident Kent Ingram, who presented Call with a conglomeration of anglers accumulated from a lifetime of hunting and came away with a lighting treasure.

While somewhat clandestine about his methods, he confides he uses steel beneath a chandelier base to reduce bulk and add the strength that allows an essential freedom of expression. Call crafts from his own design and inspiration, never by order. Most are from antlers he purchases from dealers; only rarely does he use those collected by clients.

"Thing is, I have hundreds to choose from, which allows me to make a much better design," he says.

Call chuckles at the recollection of a man who insisted on a chandelier from a box of mismatched antlers he had collected. "He had four small racks, a bunch of tiny ones and a broken antler from a whitetail. The chandelier ended up looking like a scorpion, but he was ecstatic about it. I took a picture so I could remember what never to do again."

Call experiments with light placement, some symmetrical, others free-form.

"Luckily, most people seem to like the same things I do. Otherwise, I wouldn't have a business," he says.

While the finished product costs considerably less than you'd pay at most shops, Call's work doesn't come cheap. Depending upon size and time, chandeliers cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000. A large piece might require as much as 60 hours, along with the expense of the antlers and other materials. Call says a large mule deer rack might cost $26 per pound, about half that for a smaller specimen.

Call once operated a mechanics shop in Rifle, "but after I lost an index finger and hurt my back, I figured I'd better try something else."

He rediscovered a boyhood proclivity toward art in which his instructor at a San Jose, Calif., school was Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

"Ben was my teacher and wrestling coach in eighth grade. I remember him riding up to the school in leathers on his motorcycle. He only gave me a "C' in art."

Call said he thinks of himself as an artisan rather than an artist and admits to an occasional frustration when he can't puzzle out the right line to insert wiring. When he finds himself in this dilemma of horns, Call grabs his fly rod for a quick jaunt to a local river. "When I get back, everything goes right together."

Call confesses to being in arrears with production, including a chandelier he promised to his mother. His work frequently is exhibited at Foothill Flurries crafts in Evergreen or by direct order from his shop, 970-625-1843.

"I guess you can say I'm as busy as I want to be," Call says. "I do have to go fishing once in a while."
 


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