John Shorb gave a talk on "choosing your horn" at at the West Coast Horn Fair last year in Morro Bay, California, last year. He had several examples of horns with defects that would lend a person to pass when choosing. One example that he recommended passing up was a thin, translucent, misshapened horn that had a severe delamination at the tip.
Scott Morrison recalls, "I was sitting in the back of the room with Steve Skillman in "Heckler's" row and I just couldn't let this go by. I told John something to the effect that this was nonsense and that there was a lot that one cold do with the horn. John came right back and said that when the horn came to me as it was being passed around the room to go ahead and keep it. The gauntlet had been taken off and the challenge issued; John was pretty much telling me to put up or shut up.
Well now honor was at stake and I could not back down. So I took up the challenge and not only would I take this "Sow's Ear" and make some sort of "Silk Purse" with it, but it would come back to the West Coast Horn Fair in 2013 to be auctioned off.
The horn sat in my to do box until recently when I decided that I needed to "get-r-done". When I got back from the WCHF last year, all I had done with it was to cut off the tip and drill the spout. I had originally thought that the horn would be good for a Southern banded horn with an applied tip and when I cut and drilled it, I saw that there was plenty of material for such a horn.
As you can see in the photo, there is approximately 1/2 inch at the tip, which would be plenty for an applied tip or even threaded for a screw tip. The discoloration at the tip is where the internal separation of the horn layers occurred. I decided on a horn with an applied antler tip.
I had turned a base plug and fitted a rear ring to the horn and when I did a trial fit of an antler tip the horn looked too long to my eye. I ended up taking about 3/4 inch more off of the tip which improved the proportion. There was still plenty of material at the tip so I had no problem fitting the antler.
Of greater concern to me wasn't the tip but the thinness of the horn. When the horn was cleaned and polished, there was left humps and hollows from the sander that was used. One side of the horn was also pretty flat. Normally, there is enough wall thickness on a horn that I can work it to some semblance of round. However, since this horn was to thin, I was afraid that if I tried to round it I might break through the wall. The best I could hope for was to remove the humps and hollows and have a smooth body. The flat spot would have to remain.
I first thought of having just one band on the horn, but decided that this would be too uninteresting so I went with three bands. I heated the bands so they were pliable and they slipped around the oblong shape of the body easily, leaving no gaps. The base plug is walnut. The button finial is turned horn and tapered to slip fit into the base. I heated the bands so they were pliable and they slipped around the oblong shape of the body easily, leaving no gaps.
The base plug is walnut. The button finial is turned horn and tapered to slip fit into the base.
The horn was stained with aqua fortis, then a patina applied with a combination of shoe polish and blackpowdered tempura paint.
It measures 15 inches along the outside curve and 2 1/4 inches across at the base. The horn is nice and translucent and light as a feather.
I think it is an acceptable "Silk Purse" made from the "Sow's Ear" that was the original horn."
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