Cow Horn to Drinking Horn

by Angus MacCormack
In order for a cow horn to be usable as a drinking vessel, it needs some preparation on both the outside and the inside. Here are the basic steps and materials involved:


1. cow horn
2. a garden hose connected to an outside water source
3. chlorine bleach
4. baking soda
5. bottle brushes
6. a container that will hold twice the capacity of the horn
7. sandpaper, in several grades ranging from coarse through fine
8. steel wool, graded from .0 to .0000
9. a belt sander
10. several grades of sandpaper for the belt sander, in varying grades
11. emery compound
12. tripoli compound
13. clear acrylic spray (Krylon, for example)
Preparing the outside of the horn 1. Fast method-- using a belt sander. A. Use a belt sander with a 3' or 4' belt. Turn it to a vertical position at about a 90 degree angle. This takes away the flat surface of the sander so that you will be pressing the horn against a yielding surface. Sand up and down the horn: ALWAYS SAND ALONG THE GRAIN OF THE HORN.
B. Wet sand the horn-- wet it and smooth it down, starting with coarse paper, and progressing to finer and finer grades.
C. Buff with emery compound, and then with tripoli compound for a glossy surface. You may now carve or decorate the horn if you choose, or leave it plain.
D. Seal with acrylic finish.

2. Hand method (Also known as the slow method)

A. Take a knife or piece of glass and scrape the scales off the horn, using a file and piece of sandpaper to smooth out any nicks as you go.
B. Wet the horn and sand it with coarse through gradually finer grades of sandpaper.
C. Buff with steel wool, starting out with .0 and working down to .0000. Decorate as desired.
Finishing the interior Start with a horn that has had all the pulp and tissue scraped out.
A. Prop the horn upright and fill with undiluted bleach. The bleach will begin to bubble as it destroys all bacteria and other grunge.
B. When all the bubbling has stopped, put the hose as far into the horn as you can and flush it for about 10 minutes.
C. Make a super-saturated solution of baking soda and water. This should contain as much baking soda as will dissolve in the water and then some. FIll the horn with this and scrub with a bottle brush.
D. Repeat previous step with soap and water instead of baking soda.
E. Fill and soak for several days with vinegar. Rinse. Then fill and soak with beer, wine, uisquebagh, or what you will.

NOTE: This has been described as two separate processes, for the sake of clarity. However, you might want to finish the outside of the horn through step 3, then treat the interior, before going back to put the finish and decoration on the horn.

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