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working with sheep-horn

Dec 3, 1999
I've only used sheep horn once to date. That first time all went well and nothing has shifted on the knife since it was completed (4 years ago).

Now that I'm in the middle of a custom order with sheep horn, it's not being nearly as cooperative.

I sanded the scales flat on the 6X48 (slowly) and they showed flat against a precision plate.

Half an hour later and they're bowed out.

Help, advice, etc. ????? Please!!!!
I looked through the search and couldn't find anything on this.

I have heard that sheep horn is very unstable. On the other hand some prominent makers use it apparently quite successfully. The trick seems to have complete control of processing the horn from beast to knife, and making sure the stuff has cured out for several years in a stable and dry enviroment. when you buy stuff like this you never know what under what conditions or how long its been cured. Unfortuantely i've never heard of a cure for unstable horn.
Nick Ive used it several times and have used super glue and spacer material. I leave it clamped on a flat plate until Im ready to mount it. I always use bolts instead of pins in case it gets a mind of its own later.
Hi Nick.

Believe Fox Creek has it right. Am pretty sure that I read somewhere that even sheep horns have lanolin in them. The number I think I remember is 5 years of curing outside to get rid of the lanolin, and then maybe more years indoors in dry place. Let's face it, we don't live in dry places.

Hope you can work it out,

Asi es la vida

I have never worked with sheep horn, but done lots of work with impala, kudu, eland, oryx, springbuck, cape buffalo, gnu, blesbuck and others. Well, horn is horn. Best to use it at least two years after is removed from the animal. If possible, try to remove the center bone. (On some horns this is impossible) as this aids in drying. I use heated linseed oil to flatten bend pieces. This also helps to get rid of moisture inside the horn. Heat until the slab becomes soft, (when the oil starts showing loads of tiny bubbles coming from the horn) Test with pliers, then clamp using a couple of G-clamps. Next thing to remember. Horn has a memory. It will return to it's original shape upon heating. It expands and contracts very efectively due to changing moisture in the athmosphere. When your slab is flattened, do not go finer than 100 grit. Wipe the inside with acetone and do not touch before glueing. I use 5 minute epoxy. Grind the horn to 1mm from the tang. Place in a warm oven (35-40 deg C.) overnight.Next day grind to final shape, file and final polish all in one session, the wipe with a good quality penetrating wax, or gun stock oil to seal the pores. The horn will eventually absorb moisture, causing it to expand past the tang. Which is better than having a raised tang.

For more info visit www.blades.web.za
, go to the materials page.


[This message has been edited by RSA Knifemaker (edited 06-29-2001).]

[This message has been edited by RSA Knifemaker (edited 06-29-2001).]