Boiling the Horn

Luckily, I have a vet who provides me with fresh horn, mainly from the Hereford breed of cattle, which tend to be a little smaller than Welsh Black horn.
Most vets just dispose of the horns, so try asking a farm vet if they can pass a few your way.

To remove the inside flesh you will need to boil the horns in water for several hours. I would do this outside as it is pretty smelly.

After a about 1.5 hours the insides of the horn will soften and you will be able to prise them out relatively easily.

If they are still solid you will need to leave the horn simmering for a bit longer, when the inside is soft I use a kitchen knife to cut around the inside of the horn, a bit like an oyster, and then pull the soft tissue out with my hands. It will still be very hot???

Once the horn is cleaned out I leave them overnight in a bucket of Baby Bottle sterilizing solution to reduce the smell and then leave to air dry and season for several months.

the traditional method is written as…

“the horns of a fully grown bullock, with a gentle curve and perfectly free from blemish, were cleaned and rubbed, in front of a fire, with as much hog’s lard as they would absorb and then left to mature for a year in a cool, dry place. After this, they were scraped out carefully with very fine sandpaper and a flexible cane, and the outside was scraped and polished until the horn was of the requisite thickness. The horn was then put into a very hot mixture, consisting of 9 parts of linseed oil and 2 of turpentine. with a piece of beeswax about the size of a large walnut and a small stick of dried oak bark. There it was kept for three days, being kept hot all the time, After this is was hung in a chimney to dry and harden, after which it received its final polishing with fine sandpaper and was varnished with a fine solution of beeswax turpentine.” ….Shore Shineyn

Apparently the term “green horn” was used for new settlers in the Americas who didn’t wait to season their horns, resulting in a green fungus/mold growing on them?

You can buy fresh horn from


Buying seasoned horn.

Mysticum in Germany sell them as drinking horns, you will need the 0.2 litre horn as the others are too wide.

http://www.mysticum.de/Horn-work/Drinki … -horn.html


Texas Leather craft sometimes have steer horn in stock



I use an Opinel knife to remove horn quickly and later on I use the knife as a scraper. I also use a craft knife and a small woodworking chisel. I have heard that if you warm the horn with something like a heat gun it becomes easier to carve but I have not tried this yet.

I aim to make the walls of the horn 2mm thick, so it becomes like fine porcelain, it develops a timbre when it is thin enough a bit like tapping parchment. You will hear it start to ring as you work on it. You must leave extra thickness at the tenon end, at least 5 or 6mm wall thickness if you intend to have a flower-globe artichoke pattern.

Some people use a sanding linisher, which works well but is messy, noisy and everything happens so fast that can loose the sense of getting to know the horns properties and flaws.

I drill out a 13mm hole to take the chanter tenon, which ideally should have a depth of at least 15mm otherwise the horn will wobble on the chanter as it won’t have long enough sides to grip.


I like the horn ‘scraper-finished’ with visible tool marks. For a finer finish you can go down through the grades of sandpaper, starting at 80 grit and finishing with 1200 grit.

by Johnathan Shorland

by Gerard KilBride

by Gerard KilBride

Then you can use ground pumice stone, wire wool, burnish in a drill and finally, wax the horn or use t-cut car polish.

One great tip given to me by Osses the alboka maker was to cut a small bit of blotting paper and fit it into the top horn, this then keeps some moisture away from the reed and then you can change the paper at will..

by Gerard KilBride

by Gerard KilBride

by Gerard KilBride

by John Shorland

by Gerard KilBride

by John Glenydd

by John Tose

by Gerard KilBride

by Gerard KilBride

by Gerard KilBride

By Arnoud Jespers

By Arnoud Jespers

by Gerard KilBride