Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Bruce Horne “Completion” Powder Horn By Art DeCamp

The late Bruce Horne (1952-2021) was a very talented artist in almost any medium that he chose to apply his talents.  I knew Bruce best as a very skilled maker and engraver of powder horns.  I first met him in person at the Honourable Company of Horners annual Horn Fair at Elkins, WV in 1998.  He was one of the top horn workers at that time and had quite an array of horns with him that were in various stages of completion.  It was a wonderful learning opportunity to have the chance to examine these horns.  The following year at Dixon’s Gunmakers Fair Bruce gave me some very helpful “hints” about how to dye horn.  It was those comments that made it possible for me to figure out how to color horn in such a way that it has that warm golden/brown coloration that is much like the color found on originals.  His engraving on horns was always well executed and anytime I saw one of his engraved horns it served as an inspiration to me to work harder to improve my own horn engraving skills.

One horn in particular that he did was an engraved horn with the detailed scene of the Boston Massacre taken from period newspaper illustrations on it.  Very well done, yet somewhat lightly engraved.  When I asked him how he a darkened his engraving lines on this horn he simply replied, “with dirt”.  He did not elaborate and was always fairly close with words, so I interpreted this to mean that he used no ink or the like but had simply applied dirt or soil from the ground with his fingers by rubbing it into the surface.  

A few years later at one of the CLA Shows in the early 2000’s, Bruce went out of his way to find me and compliment the horn work that I had displayed there on my table.  As talented as he was and as much as I admired his work, it was quite a surprise and honor to me for him to make these fine comments about my horn making efforts.  In all of these senses, Bruce Horne definitely served as one of my early “mentors” and had a large impact on my endeavors as a horn maker.

When Bruce passed away on December 24, 2021, I was saddened greatly to know that this great talent would not be around anymore.  One of the areas that he had special talent for was the replication of Tansel style engraved powder horns.  His Tansel engraving was among the very best in the sense that his work accurately replicated Tansel work and looked very much like originals.  

So, when Art Riser began listing some of Bruce’s work on the Contemporary Maker’s Blog site in early March 2022, I was quite intrigued when two unfinished Tansel horns that Bruce had started were listed for sale.  Both horns had been fully shaped by Bruce Horne, and one even had a butt that was lathe turned by him.  In addition, he had begun drawing his planned engraving on each of the horns in pencil.  With this much completed work to start with, I decided to purchase these horns and do my best to complete them in a manner that would be suitable as a combination of the work and style that Bruce intended along with my own well-known Tansel replication work style. 

The first horn and subject of this article was to be a Tim Tansel style horn with the typical fish-mouth engrailing, engraving included the drapery-like borders, Federal Eagle with “E Pluribus Unum” banner, two running deer, a vine-like decoration, a flower, and an officer riding a horse along with an unfinished two-line banner that was to have some wording inserted.  Bruce’s drawing was almost complete on each of these motifs to the point that each individual engraving cut was clearly defined.  The drapery-like borders had been drawn and cut in but not inked.  The two running deer were roughly drawn but not detailed and the banner under the horse and rider had the words “Washington” and below it on the next line was “Columbian”.  

I set out to complete this horn in the Bruce Horne / Tim Tansel manner using my engraving, inking and coloring techniques.  This included use of some blue ink on the mounted officer’s coat, brown ink on the eagle’s wings and black ink on the rest of the engraving.  I also added ferric nitrate highlights to several of these design motifs.  No butt had been turned for this horn, so I turned one from maple wood in a shape that was common on Tim Tansel originals and fabricated a brass ring and loop for carry strap attachment at the butt.

The only engraving motifs that had not been “detailed out” by Bruce were the two running deer and the two-line banner.  I used photos of original Tim Tansel deer to add the detail and shading cuts to the engraving of the running deer.  I was unable to figure out what phrase that referenced both Washington and Columbian had been used on an original or what Bruce had intended.  So, I improvised the phrase “Washington: Father of Our Country” to complete the phrase on the banner.

Once the engraving was completed, I added ferric nitrate highlighting to the traditional spots that Tim Tansel highlighted.  The shield on the eagle’s chest, the “E Pluribus Unum” banner, eagle’s beak, the vine-like motif and the two-line banner.  Next, using the dyeing techniques that I first learned about from Bruce Horne, I dyed the horn a light yellowish tone to match several original Tansel horns that I have examined over the years.   In recognition of Bruce’s initial work on this horn and my completion of it, I signed the horn “B.Horne – A.DeCamp” and dated it below in my normal method “MMXXII” for 2022.

The attached photos show the original horn as started and drawn by Bruce Horne and the completed horn that I have produced using his initial concepts and sketching.  

Bruce Horne (1952-2021)

Original horn as started and pencil drawn by Bruce Horne.

Completed horn by Art DeCamp 9/12/22.

Copy and photography by Art DeCamp.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Art! I never felt that Bruce received the recognition he deserved for his artwork, from horns to calligraphy to flintlocks etc, etc. I miss my good friend every day.


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