More on Horn

In the last issue, I talked about using horn, assuming you were getting it already partly prepared from a supplier. What do you do with fresh horn?

Horn contains a core that must be removed before it can actually be used. Suppliers do it for you. If you get some raw horn from a meatpacking or slaughterhouse, you will have to do it yourself. First you want to saw off the usable part of the horn, above the swelling where the horn meets the skull. You can use a hacksaw for this.

To get rid of the core, you will need to boil the horn. Make sure the horn is fresh, because if it has started to rot inside, you may have to set up a fire outside the city limits. Fill a large, old pot with water and bring it to a boil. Make a loop of heavy string or cord around the small end of the horn and suspend the horn in the boiling water. Do not submerge the entire horn, as this may soften the outer shell and cause it to separate later on. Check the boney material inside the horn from time to time. Eventually it will become soft and you can remove it while the horn is still warm with a pair of pliers and a pick or screwdriver. Scrape out everything that is left and continue as described in the last issue.

If you want a flat sheet of horn to use for combs or whatever, slit the horn with a knife or saw from the top to the bottom. Suspend the horn over a low fire or gas burner. Don't get the horn too close to the fire, or it will blister. When it is hot, remove it from the flame and flatten between layers of towels or rags. Apply gentle pressure to flatten and then place a weight on top until it cools. You may have to repeat the process until the horn is as flat as you need it.