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Turning Horn (Read 4,057 times)
 
Eric Armstrong
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Brookville, PA, Pennsylvania, USA
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Turning Horn
Sep 12th, 2012 at 8:48pm
 
I have started to make some boxes using horn for the body and turned wood for the base and lid. Here's how I turn a horn.

1. I start by turning a tapered plug, sized to fit the horn segment.

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2. Here's the equipment needed to straighten the horn. I heat lard in a "Fry Daddy" to 350 degrees to soften the horn. Boiling water will soften the horn but it doesn't get hot enough to erase it's "memory". Lard works best. The horn stays in the lard until it can be flexed with (gloved) fingers.

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3. When the horn is heated and softened I push it onto the plug (hard) as far as it will go. I have also pre-cut the horn segment that I want to use and drive it onto the plug with a light hammer and wood block. The idea is to get the horn to form a straight taper and be round inside.

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4. It's easy to see where the plug ends.

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5. After the horn cools I cut it just above the top of the plug. If I try to cut it higher the horn will be seriously out of round on the inside. Very difficult to fit a lid. The edge can be rounded with a scraper but the rim will not be concentric with the outside surface.

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6. I put the plug back on the lathe using the centers that were made when the plug was turned. I square the two ends.

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7. I start shaping the outside surface using a roughing gouge. This tool seems to work best.


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8. As I removed material from this piece of horn it became transparent. That's not always what happens. As the layers of horn are peeled off the colors can change. It can be pure white, transparent or mottled.

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9. When I finished shaping the horn was almost completely transparent. I finished the outside surface with sandpaper and ScotchBrite (high speed) and polished it with DuPont #7 Polishing Compound.

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10. Here's the finished box. The base and lid are walnut.

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I added a surprise inside - a dollar coin.

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Here's some other examples of horn and wood boxes I made.

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I get good mileage from one horn.

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« Last Edit: Sep 12th, 2012 at 8:52pm by Eric Armstrong »  
 
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Jeff Vanden Boogart
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #1 - Sep 12th, 2012 at 9:04pm
 
Those are very cool, Eric!

Where do you get the horn?
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Eric Armstrong
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #2 - Sep 12th, 2012 at 9:12pm
 
There are several gunmakers' fairs, antique gun and artisan shows in PA and MD (Fort Frederick). Dixon's Gunmakers Fair in July is a great source. There's a pickup size pile of horns on the ground to choose from. The Gun and Artisan show in Lewisburg, PA in Feb. also has a large pile. These horns are relatively inexpensive and are cored and polished.

Powderhorns and More (Multimedia File Viewing and Clickable Links are available for Registered Members only!!  You need to Login or Register) is an excellent mail order source. The folks there will work with you and try to match your needs.
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Rev. Doug Miller
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #3 - Sep 12th, 2012 at 9:47pm
 
I assume that you look for horn that is as straight as possible to start with?
Cool
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #4 - Sep 12th, 2012 at 9:52pm
 
Those are absolutely fantastic, I wonder if you have tried the horn in a pressure cooker. The only way to increase the tempature of boiling water is to increase the surface pressure on it.
I love things like those boxes, something new, something no one else is doing.

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john Taylor
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #5 - Sep 12th, 2012 at 10:23pm
 
I've been working horn for the last ten years or so. It is definitely a learning process with almost as many failures as successes. Your boxes are beautiful work. The oils increase the transluscence considerably.

Another way to soften horn without heat is to soak the horn in plain sudsy ammonia. It takes from one to two weeks, depending on the thickness of the horn so it is much slower than heat, but there is less carmelizing (orange coloring) and less chance of cracking or delamination. Soaked long enough, and deliberate delamination can be accomplished to produce "leaves" for lanteen products. Horn is an intriguing material to work with, but the resulting pieces are worth the effort.
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Breck Whitworth
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #6 - Sep 12th, 2012 at 11:38pm
 
Eric those are incredible! I love them smilies=bowdown
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Robert Tewart
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #7 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 12:18am
 
They are great.  I hope to see some at a club meeting soon.
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #8 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 4:43am
 
Very nice! I love the translucence.
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Eric Armstrong
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Brookville, PA, Pennsylvania, USA
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #9 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 6:27am
 
I do look for the straighter horns - ones that the powder horn guys pass over.  It's also nice to have them fairly round to start.  However, if the section is cut before heating, an out of round horn can be straightened nicely.
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steve rost
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #10 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 6:49am
 
Beautiful, Great step by step tutorial.
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Paul Gilbert
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #11 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 5:23pm
 
Freddie Hicks wrote on Sep 12th, 2012 at 9:52pm:
Those are absolutely fantastic, I wonder if you have tried the horn in a pressure cooker. The only way to increase the tempature of boiling water is to increase the surface pressure on it.
I love things like those boxes, something new, something no one else is doing.


According to my steam table to get 350 F in a pressure vessel you need about 120 psi gauge. A pressure cooker at 15 psig is about 225 F.
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Paul Gilbert
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #12 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 5:25pm
 
I'll plead typo here 15 psig (30 psia) is 250 F.
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Gary Hostetter
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #13 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 6:09pm
 
Beautiful work...
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Re: Turning Horn
Reply #14 - Sep 13th, 2012 at 8:25pm
 
Paul,
I wasn't sure how hot they got but I knew you could cook them to jello and would probably be hard to tell how long to cook them in a pressure cooker.
I'll leave the horn to the horn pros. That kind of stuff ain't for experimenting in my wife's pots Sad smiley=lolk.gif
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