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Custom Powder Horns
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Below are photos of a couple of Powder Horns I've done. When I take on a
horn project I like to find out a little about the intended owner of the
I think a powder is a personal thing and should reflect who the person
Knowing a little about the person that will carry the horn gives
a feeling of what I should put on the horn. The person ordering
the horn can
certainly specify things they would like to see on
the horn but I must have
the freedom to decide where they would best fit
Because there is so much area on a powder horn to work, I am unable
a firm quote. If I do take on the project, on rare occasions I may
very loose ball bark estimate but a powder horn is one of those
"If you have to ask the Price, you probably can't afford it."
I do guarantee
that you will like the horn when I'm finished
or I will sand it off and
start over for no additional charge.
(Done for an Iowa man with maps of Iowa rivers.)
Working on a cow horn presents a few new problems, because the horn is round,
keeping consistent line quality is much more difficult, because as you work
around the horn, your cutting tool is either getting closer to the surface or
it's moving away causing you to constantly readjust your grip on the cutting
tool. Also, since horns have grain fibers that run the length of the horn, your
scribe or knife can catch and run with the grain and suddenly you have a line
where you didn't want one. An interesting fact is, a cow's horns and hoofs are
made of basically the same material our fingernails and toenails are made of,
it's called Keratin.
The gentleman I did this horn for grew up
and has lived his whole life in the
Marengo Iowa area, so I included a map of the Iowa River (on old maps called the
"IOWAY" River). There are also the Red Cedar River (now called the Cedar River)
and other smaller tributaries. There is also a Mariners Star identifying which
direction is north. Just the decoration at the spout and butt ends of this horn
took many, many hours and lots of cramped fingers from working around the
The photo to the left and the one above show more clearly the
grain that runs with the length of the horn, it looks like streaks of the
different colors. On this cow horn and others I've done, the whiter portions
tend to be softer than the other areas and on this horn the greenish areas in
the photo to the left seemed to be the hardest material and more difficult to
work on. In the 1700's much of the land west of the Mississippi was only known
to a few adventurous Fur Trappers or Mountain Men as they were called. Above the
Buffalo skull there is an Indian village with tipis and below them the words
"UNKNOWN WILDERNESS." You can't see them very well in this photo but I placed
the tipis where the white streaks behind them looked like clouds.
To the right is an early 1800's rendition of the Great Seal of the United
States, because of the white background on this portion of the horn, the image
and shading are much clearer. Also, in the photo above you can see how much
clearer the Buffalo skull is on the portion that is over the white background,
there's just more contrast between the white and black. These days, horns that
are mostly all white are very hard to come by, probably because more breeds of
cattle these days are being bread without horns.
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This is a dainty
little powder horn I made for my Sister-in-law after she got her first black
powder rifle, it was a 32 cal. TC Cherokee that I called a "TOY" gun. Since the
horn was intended for a lady, I inscribed more dainty things on the horn. The
feathers and ribbons seemed to fit her personality. Like I said above, I like to
know a little bit about the person a powder horn is intended for, it helps in
somewhat personalizing the horn for that person.
Here is a closer view showing a
banner with the
owners name and identifying it as "Her Horn." This is a traditional way of
putting the owners name first, then "his or her" horn after that. The other
name, "Running Fawn" below her real name is a name her Buckskinner friends gave
her in a Native American style naming ceremony. For someone to receive a name
given to them by their peers is a great honor, kind of a "Right of passage" if you will.
On the back side of the horn is a Native American style Prayer.
here's a few lines of it.
O Lord, Great
~ Whose Voice I hear in the winds
and Whose breath gives life
to all I see, hear me.
~ Make my hands respect the things You have made
and my ears sharp to hear Your Voice.
~ Give me wisdom to understand the
things You have taught.
~ Help me learn the lessons You have hidden in every
leaf and rock.
~ and so on
Here's a view of the bottom side of the horn with some animal
tracks that tell a story. Coming up from the bottom right of the horn are the
darker split hooves of the "Running Fawn" that you see jumping over the name
banner above. The other set of
see along side the deer tracks, are the tracks of a fox. The
tracks of a Fox are in a straight line with one foot in front of the other,
rather than being staggered and offset from each other like dogs and wolves. You can see the fox
tracks following the deer until they cross the tracks of a snowshoe hare, you
can see the fox tracks mill around a bit to catch the scent of the hare, then
you see his tacks following the hare off to the left and the deer tracks
wandering away in a different direction. The fox must have thought the hare
would be a much easier meal to catch. You can always tell which way a
rabbit/hare is going, their tracks make kind of an arrow and the rabbit is going
in the opposite direction the tracks seem to be pointing.
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The horn below was a real pleasure to work on, it's a horn made
by a gentleman named Doug Horn, really, his last name is Horn, he makes the
horns. When he is finished making the horn, he then antiques them giving the yellowish aged look you see in the photos
below. Before the aging process the horn was as white as the Lady's Horn above
and if you read the information on the first horn above, you know the white
portions of a horn are the easiest to work on, at least that's my opinion.
The gentleman that ordered this horn wanted it to show things
that a Mountain Man with a little artistic ability might have put on his horn.
The photos below show mountain ranges, rivers, mountain passes, etc. This is a
good example of a Mountain Man's "Map Horn." This horn has a nice gentle curl to
it and measures roughly 11" from the tip of the spout to the tip of knob on the
really nice hand turned walnut butt cap.
Here's an enlarged view of the Eagle carrying a banner that
says, "A FREE TRAPPER, BEHOLDIN' TO NO MAN." The fur trade in North America had
been started by the French in the 16th
century. Once the wealth that could be had by trapping beaver and other fur
bearing animals, as well as trading trinkets for fur with the Indians, everybody
wanted to get in on the action. The English set up a fur trading post on Hudson
Bay, the Dutch, the Russians and others formed fur trading companies and hired
trappers to go to the upper plains and Rocky Mountains for them, to trap and
trade with the Indians and return with a bounty of furs. There were a few
adventurous young men that would have nothing to do with the fur trading
companies and the pennies a day they offered for all of the hardships a trapper
had to endure living in the mountains during the harsh winters there, when the
furs were at their prime. A trapper working for himself was called a "Free
Trapper," he was responsible to and for no one but himself and maybe another Fur Trapper or two to help him fight off hostile Indians the might encounter along their way.
On this portion of the horn is Fort Bonneville, built in
1832, the early and heavy snowfalls made it unusable in the winter and it was
abandoned in 1839.
This fort was never an official military outpost, it was used as a fur
trading post. The map shows several
rivers such as the Snake River, Green River, Wind River and more. Mountain
passes shown are the Teton, Union, Togwotee and South Pass. Circling the butt of
the horn is the owner's name, then, "HIS HORN" ~ "TO KEEP YE POWDER DRY." You
can see more of the name and the scroll border in the photo above.
This portion of the
horn shows more of the Green River and some of its tributaries. To the left of
the map is a Buffalo skull with a feather tied to its horn, had this been a real
Mountain Mans horn he obviously sympathized with the Indians and the onslaught
of white men moving west, below the skull are the words, "WE KILL THER BUFFALO
AND TAKE THER LAND." On the right is a Beaver sitting atop its dam, then the
twigs that made the dam transition into tree branches of the trees that shade
"Meek's Ol Cabin." OL Joe Meek was a Mountain Man legends were written about,
one such story told about OL Joe chasing down a Grizzly Bear and whacked him
with the ram rod from his rifle, why?, Just to prove he could. To be a Mountain
Man and live in the mountains, you had to be that kind of man, afraid of no
thing or no man.
On the bottom of the horn at the right are a Ceremonial Pipe, often called a
peace pipe by mistake, it was and still is used in Native American Ceremonies.
There is an Eagle feather attached to a Medicine Wheel and in the scroll work at
the right of the photo there is a tomahawk, a steel trap, and a stuffed bird.
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HISTORY OF SCRIMSHAW NOTE FROM THE
FROM THE SEA INLAND ART