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Kentucky Colonel
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PostSubject: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 26th 2017, 10:53 pm

I was out looking for leather straps when I stumbled on a bin with a large horn. 
I had been having some success with carving so why not try scrimshaw, too?
The price was reasonable so I decided to bring it home. 
Totally accidental. 

When I got home, I looked to the great guru for help  :Grace  the internet. 

I discovered I had goofed. The horn I bought was black. Scrimshaw needs 
white horn. I decided that since I now had a horn I could not practice scrimshaw on? 
I would attempt to build my first powder horn. No, I had no clue how to begin. 
Totally accidental. (LATE EDIT: Later in this thread we discuss White India Ink and the scrimshaw is back on. 
It is just gonna be tried on a complete horn.)

The Trouble Starts

Taking Its Measure

Wondering What the Heck I Have Done

I watched some videos, did some reading, looked at some pictures, said a prayer, and began. 
The first thing I did was to try cut the tip of the horn off and drill the spout hole. 

Apparently, this is when a lot of horns are ruined. And, I did have trouble. My horn was solid 
much deeper into the length of the horn than normal. In fact, it was longer than my drill bits. Plus, the 
combination of the extra length and the curve meant that drilling a straight line to the cavity was a problem.
The recommended measurements for how much to cut off the tip were way off for this horn. I almost ruined it. 
But, a second cut made drilling possible.

Sorry Its Blurry

I had to find a way to steadily mark the horn for cutting. I used O rings and a white wax pencil. 
Those O rings were also a big help to me as I used the Hyper Tough (Dremel knock-off) to etch 
the horn and make a start for the files.

One of Several Files I Used

I used a furniture scrapper a LOT. When I tried to move faster with bigger more powerful tools, 
I always made it worse and had to work to correct my haste. 

I also wasted a lot of time polishing the surface to see how it looked. 
So not necessary. (But, fun) I found the attachment below to be helpful if I 
was careful. But, even then, I had to sand/scrape/buff a lot after.

The Horn Became White As It Was Worked

The reading I did told me the next step was to carve an inner plug out of pine. So, I did. 
I threw that pine plug away. It fragmented under the files. I grabbed a piece of maple instead. 

Maple Is Fun

When I was satisfied, I boiled the horn to make it capable of becoming more circular at the base and 
be able to shape it to my plug. I literally changed its shape. Temperatures in a boiling pot are around 220, 
but I was still careful to watch it so it would not melt. This was complicated by the fact that horn has 'memory' 
and will try to return to its original shape when it cools. If your plug is too big, the horn will bulge and even split. 

Caldron Boil and Bubble - This Was Done While the Wife Was Away (recommended practice!)

For those who do not know, horn and antler are just a kind of hair. Boiling it, sanding it, cutting it? 
It smells like burning hair. Anyone with a nose is likely to object to being in its presence for good reason. 
Add the smell of epoxy and being in the kitchen? (Chuckle) Some interesting discussions are possible. 
I recommend ventilation and solitude or bribery (Flowers? A dinner date?) for a happy household.

The Plug Has to be Bevelled 

The cast iron was useful because when you tap the horn against the side it was heavy enough 
to feel when the horn became malleable. When I thought it was ready, I used a rubber mallet to 
seat the maple plug into the horn. I also used a 1 hour heavy duty epoxy.

Getting Close

It is recommended that you cut a larger hole to lower weight and increase powder capacity. 
But, it is not necessary. I only drilled a smaller hole because I wanted more surface for the epoxy to adhere to.

Checking to Be Certain It Is Even

I chose a nice piece of walnut for the outer butt of the horn. It is drying now. I obviously have some carving to do. 
I ran the grain of the walnut opposite of the length of the horn. That or parallel grains are recommended for the best look 
when installing the outer plug. 

Tune In Later to See If I Pull It Off

Dunno

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over the good fortune of others." 
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Last edited by Kentucky Colonel on September 1st 2017, 4:10 pm; edited 7 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 6:45 am

Nice write up. Looks like a fun project.
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 9:25 am

I didn't know you could boil them to straighten them. I tried to make one about 2 years ago and couldn't get a hole through it without perforating the horn due to the curve.

Good luck with your project.

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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 10:04 am

@Kentucky Colonel wrote:
I discovered I had goofed. The horn I bought was black. Scrimshaw needs 
white horn. I decided that since I now had a horn I could not practice scrimshaw on? 
I would attempt to build my first powder horn. No, I had no clue how to begin.

Great start and good looking progress, first horn or not.

You could still practice the scrimshaw if you want and like the looks.  I've seen some great looking black buffalo horns scrimshawed with white India ink.  Really! I don't have any examples to pass along, but you might find some online. 

You won't find it in any office supply store, but decent art supply stores sell the white India ink. While you're there, check out another possibility- They also sell red India ink!  I point that out because Indians and Native Alaskans regularly used red ocher for decoration.  Most I've seen around here was "scrimshaw" on wood, but it looks great.

On thing with the scrimshaw work. If you do something and decide you don't like it, the scratching is so shallow it's pretty easy to "erase" the work by scraping or sanding and start over.

Great work, and looks like you're having a ball.  Scrimshaw likely will be more fun on top of good fun.
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 11:05 am

Thanks, Vincem.

Bob, I did perforate the horn on my first attempt. Fortunately, it was a long horn. But, if the other guys' measurements were correct, I had an abnormally thick horn, too. I am not sure if I could drill it when wet and flexible... I think you'd need something other than your hands to hold the tip straight while you drilled. It is very hot and it would need to be forced out of its normal shape while you drilled. (Maybe with 4 hands on it?) If you could get it drilled, the hole should work. The horn would just 'flex' back into it's original curve with a new channel in it.

Brownbear, I have got to see one of those red inked buffalo horns! White India ink. Who knew? I am having fun, but keep worrying about ruining it after all this effort. Laughing

Question Does anyone know who sells butt pins for powder horns? I could use wood, but would like to have more options. TOTW does not list them under powder horn parts. I see pins for guns and knives, but that is it. I have not had luck looking for these.

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over the good fortune of others." 
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 11:23 am

Just did a google search on your behalf and blew my own mind. Blick art supply lists 24 colors of India ink!  While I was googling I also found this example of a buf horn scrimshawed in white.  Couldn't find one done in red, though.

As for butt pins, I've always used brass tacks. A bud with more patience than me whittled his own pins from a different color of horn than the butt, as well as wooden pegs. Turned out really well. I'm aware he's also whittled pins from deer horn, but I haven't seen those.
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 12:57 pm

@BrownBear wrote:
Just did a google search on your behalf and blew my own mind. Blick art supply lists 24 colors of India ink!  While I was googling I also found this example of a buf horn scrimshawed in white.  Couldn't find one done in red, though.

As for butt pins, I've always used brass tacks. A bud with more patience than me whittled his own pins from a different color of horn than the butt, as well as wooden pegs. Turned out really well. I'm aware he's also whittled pins from deer horn, but I haven't seen those.

Oh, that is nice. Well, no excuse now. 

I love the compass on that horn. I think I will try it. If, I manage to do a good job finishing the horn, that is. 
That brass piece is sweet. I like the look of those wooden pegs, too! I think you just finished the design direction 
I'm gonna go for!

(The words, 'give him enough rope' come to mind... I am batting above my league! heh, heh. Its kinda fun.)

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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 1:50 pm

You're headed for fun!  I look forward to what you come up with.

Here's a recent horn I cobbled together recently. It's a small one, only 6" long and those are the smallest brass tacks I could find.  They still seem too big, but a gunsmith friend offered a suggestion: "Why not just use brass rod, picking the diameter you want?  No need for heads on them- just sand/file the rod down flush."  Works for me, and I'll do that next time.



Meanwhile, be sure to drill for the brass pins first, whether tacks or rod. The horn is too hard for it to penetrate on its own. I match the diameter of the tack shaft to the drill bit, but don't drill into the wood unless it's hard like maple. The smith suggested that if I can't find the right diameter bit among my stuff, don't go to spending money at the hardware store. Just head the tack red hot and burn holes in the horn. Not quick, but it works well.
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 5:17 pm

@BrownBear wrote:
"Why not just use brass rod, picking the diameter you want?  No need for heads on them- just sand/file the rod down flush." 

Couldn't you peen the ends of the brass to make an "antiqued" head for the pins?

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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   August 27th 2017, 8:08 pm

@patocazador wrote:
@BrownBear wrote:
"Why not just use brass rod, picking the diameter you want?  No need for heads on them- just sand/file the rod down flush." 

Couldn't you peen the ends of the brass to make an "antiqued" head for the pins?

Absolutely, and a good idea I hadn't considered. Thanks!  Stay tuned next time I make a horn. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   September 1st 2017, 9:56 am

Some on FB mentioned using White india ink for a black horn.
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   September 1st 2017, 4:03 pm

@FrontierGander wrote:
Some on FB mentioned using White india ink for a black horn.

Thanks! 

So did Brownbear.
@BrownBear wrote:
You won't find it in any office supply store, but decent art supply stores sell the white India ink. While you're there, check out another possibility- They also sell red India ink!  I point that out because Indians and Native Alaskans regularly used red ocher for decoration.  Most I've seen around here was "scrimshaw" on wood, but it looks great.

After he alerted me, I decided I was actually going to use some white India ink and have selected the scrimshaw design.

UPDATE: I have been frozen on the horn. I got too 'serious' after talking about it. It put me off and caused me to not want to carve anything for fear of 'ruining' it. That is actually a ridiculous worry. I've already built a usable powder horn! I could fill it up with powder right now. I can't ruin that. Its done. 

I think I have talked myself around it. But, I am legitimately waiting for the arrival of the ink, a leather strap, a couple D-rings, two pieces of leather, and two pieces of brass. It will be a little while.

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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   October 5th 2017, 6:38 pm

Well, I know a couple of you likely thought I ruined the horn and just shut up. tongue

Nope. I needed time to figure my next moves. And, we have had some distractions in Florida. I had to re-certify my scuba. Work got busy. And, I made mistakes that needed to be corrected. Learned a lot.  

First, I roughed the walnut down to get it out of the way. I used electrical tape to protect areas I did not want to scuff. That stuff was handy.

Epoxy can stain wood and it went deeper than I thought it would. It took me a lot longer to rectify that than I though it should. But, I got it done and looked at the shape and then the feedback from you fellas. And, I looked at some of the hardware available. I kept changing my mind. 

Finally, I tabled making a choice and set about trying my first scrimshaw.  I apologize, but I failed to take as many step by step shots, but I think you will get the gist. 

I decided I liked the design of the compass; simple and fitting. This is what I ended up with.

As it turns out, I did not need white India ink. The carving and sanding filled in the white enough for me. I may apply it later if it fades, but I liked the idea of using only natural materials. 

I used a dentist's tools, the Dremel knock-off, and a white wax pencil. I drew the design directly onto the horn and went at it. I was pleased at how it progressed. And... I got cocky. 

I decided the horn had more room for more designs. I went searching and found a cool old map of the Wilderness Trail that I thought would look good on the horn. 

I was not confident that I could draw the map free hand onto the horn so I taped a copy of it onto the horn. I then carved through the paper wherever the ink was on the paper. 


(I have decided that carving horn is exactly like hair. It has 'cow licks' in the horn that make it stubborn and wavey in places.)  

This is where things started to go awry. 

I had finished the vast bulk of the carving. The whole Wilderness Trail from the Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River with Boonesboro, Harrodsburg, Logan's Fort, Boone's Station, the Falls of the Ohio, and The Cumberland River to French Lick. (I have NO idea how folks do the really fine, thin line, delicate carving... )

I did exactly what I intended to do... But, as I carved and the paper guide began to fall off in pieces, I began to see a problem. My wife came in and had a reaction, too. "OH!" she said. "Did you have to cover up that compass? I liked it simple." I was irritated. Mainly, because she was right. It looked too busy. 

If I had free hand drawn the Trail without using the paper, I would have seen how 'busy' the thing looked before carving. Hindsight... 20/20.

I used a furniture scraper to 'erase' all of the Wilderness Trail from the horn. That took some effort. Then I turned my attention to the walnut plug.

On the plug, I decided to forego any additional hardware. I imagined myself sitting in the woods, carving for entertainment and purpose. No hardware stores... So, I did what I would have done. I carved a groove where I could tie a leather strap without any need for further mercantile assistance. When I was satisfied, i turned my attention to the silver inlay on the butt of the plug. 

(I hear you... 'Where did our stuck-in-the-woods-without-a-store guy get silver? He carried a silver coin and used that- beaten with a hammer. He did the same to get a couple slivers of gold later. Idea)

This is when I ran into bigger trouble as you can see below. 

I had watched another video and thought I had found an easier way to do the inlay. 
Any time I try to do it faster or easier, I get bit in the donkey I sit on. I got into trouble with 
executing my simple Hunter's Star design.

See those crushed spaces around the silver? The walnut crumbled under the pressure of my stabbing in.  See how the longer piece wanted to step out of the wood? The tool I used was not sharp enough to stab into the wood smoothly and evenly. Ugh!

I was frustrated enough that after I cussed myself out a little bit for being stupid, I decided to walk away from it for a day or two and collect my thoughts. But, I didn't leave it until I soaked the wood in a lot of spit. It treated it three times before I was done and then left it to set. 

When I came back, I was determined to epoxy the silver in and use wood putty if necessary. When I came back, I discovered that the spit had 'healed' a lot of the wood. After the epoxy dried, I found I did not really need to use putty. It looked good after I cleaned it up and filed it a bit. So, I stained it with Tung Oil and left it to dry. 

I moved onto the spout plug and ran into another issue.

I am not finished with this, but I have roughed out a heart shape from the same wood that the butt plug is made from. I realized my spout hole was so small, a wooden plug would be too narrow to hold up. So, I had to re-drill the actual horn to make it bigger! This maneuver is done at the beginning because it is so easy to ruin your horn completely. I made it through OK, but was a bit concerned. 

I used the silver wire from TOTW for the butt plug. I also used gold from a busted 14 C gold bracelet I found smashed on a road years ago. Nice to find a use for it. I hammered out the gold with my Japanese artisan hammer on an old mechanics vise that has a small anvil surface. I picked up the hammer from Woodcrafters. A pair of wire snips and a needle nose plier was helpful with a sharpening stone to shape the cut edges.

Here is the hammer and the plug. You can just make out the white of my wax pencil. 

So, here it is as it stands now. It is not finished. I have to finish the heart/spout carve and inlay. Plus, I also want to work on the strap a bit. I'll just show it when its done. OH! I also used Beeswax, gun wax, 0000 steel wool, 3-400 grit sandpaper, and a variety of files.



I hope you have enjoyed following my amateur bumbles. I learned a lot. I had a lot of fun. I am happy with what I have made and it is a one of a kind. I found it pleasant, relaxing, and satisfying. I also have renewed respect for some of the exact and finessed carving work I have seen. Wow. 

I must have sharper, thinner stabbing tools for future inlay.

PS. I was going to use walnut pins for appearances. I was going to hand make my own dowels from the same walnut. I looked hard at buying a dowel plate from Lie-Nielsen ($55.00 before shipping). But, I dislike paying high prices for things I know did not cost much to make. I delayed and looked for other options. I tried using a washer, a vise, and a mallet to pound my own makeshift dowels. I kept bending my washers. I would have found an alternative, but I realized I really did not need them and they would not add much to the over all look. In fact, they might detract.

Also, this powder horn stands upright on the butt plug. I enjoy the look of it sitting on a desk.

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over the good fortune of others." 
― Robert Heinlein


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NMLRA


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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   October 5th 2017, 7:27 pm

Really fine work. The results were worth all the steps between A&Z!
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PostSubject: Re: An Accidental Powder Horn   October 6th 2017, 7:33 am

Good job. It shows more patience than I can muster.

If you come across a horn that's bigger in circumference, I think the map would look nice.

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