This process assumes that the horn has already been separated from its
- Finding the horn: Try to find a horn that has relatively few flaws in
it. Keep in mind that no horn is perfect. A lot of work will have to be
done to make even the best raw horns presentable. Choose colors that
will complement the pigment you will be using later.
- Clean the horn: The inside of the horn must be cleaned and sanitized
before any work can be done. First, you should sterilize the inside of the
horn with a strong mixture of bleach and water. Let it soak overnight
outside or in a well-ventilated area. Neutralize the bleach with vinegar.
After bleaching DO NOT USE AMMONIA. Then wash the inside of the horn with
soapy water and a scrubbing wire brush. Be sure you reach all the way down
inside the horn.
with course grit paper. Be careful to remove only the blemishes and not to
sand to long in one spot; you want to retain the natural curved surfaces of
the horn. If you do not have a power sander you will have to sand by hand.
If the blemishes are extreme a file or sharp knife can be used to cut them
away. To remove major blemishes you may go across the grain of the horn.
This will speed the sanding process. Make certain that the following
sanding are done with fine and then ultra fine grit paper. Final sanding
should be done with an ultra fine flap sander or a polishing cloth. You do
not need to sand the entire surface or the horn; leave the top portion,
which you will later cut away.
- Cutting the top: Cut the top of the horn off with a fine toothed saw.
A hacksaw will probably suffice, but a band saw will be preferable. Try to
cut the top off as level as possible. Sand the raw edge smooth with ultra
fine grit paper then a polishing cloth.
- Cutting the design: Trace or draw the desired design onto the horn.
Remember you are transferring a flat image onto a curved surface and will
have to compensate. Carbon paper will work well for this.
- Etch the design: Use a stylus, nail, or a strong pin to scratch the
design into the surface of the horn. A dremel tool or carving knife can be
used for deeper images. Be very careful. A mistake is best remedied by
finding some way to incorporate it into the overall design rather than
trying to sand it out.
- Pigmenting the design: Use pigmented wax or water based ink to fill in
the design. Use caution with ink that it does not flow freely into small
cracks and crevices in the surface that you did not notice before. If ink
is used, carefully sand off the ink remaining on the surface.
- Wax the outside: Warm the horn so that it will take the wax more
readily. Smear the wax across the surface of the horn. Beeswax works well
for a shiny finish. Shoe polish will also work if spread very thinly, but
it will change the color of the horn slightly. Buff the horn with a rag to
even out the coating.
- Treat the inside: Again, beeswax can be used. Do not use this method
if you intend to drink hot liquids. Salad bowl finish can be found at
unfinished furniture stores and also works very well. For those with
authenticity concerns, no, it is not period. But it is made from natural
mineral oil and spirits. Hot and cold liquids of varying strength can be
drunk from the horn then. To use the finish, first heat the horn, and then
apply finish liberally to the inside with a brush or rag. Be sure to coat
the entire interior. Dump out the excess. Hang the horn in a
well-ventilated area with a fan blowing up into the horn for 24 hours. The
finish will require 72 hours to cure completely; then it will be safe to