Forming horn

Dear Ochidians,

Experimenting and mixing precious and non precious materials is fun.
I was recently given a slab of horn that I find very interesting.

I heard that horn can actually be bent and formed with heat and
pressure. Is it better to heat it in a liquid? Is there an ideal
temperature so is is easier to bend? Would anyone know about it or
about related litterature / websites?

I would really apreciate your help. Thank you all in advance.


It can be done with either dry or wet heat. I’ve found boiling to
be easier to manage for most purposes, as you have fewer concerns
about scorching, I do make small adjustments using a heat gun as a
heat source. The right molding temperature will vary a bit with the
thickness and even species of bovine that the horn comes from, and
your elevation. General rule of thumb is about an hour minimum at a
slow boil/high simmer plus about another 10 minutes or so for every
millimeter of thickness. You will have to experiment with scrap to
get the baseline for your local. Here in N. Florida, I can mold
simple shapes after 60-70 minutes, say a spoon bowl. Compound
curves, like a fluted edge is more like 90 minutes. It helps if the
molding tools are warm as well. They don’t need to be scorching
hot, but too hot to comfortably touch seems to help.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

Can this horn material be treated like wood marquetry and colored by
scorching it by placing the piece into hot sand to give it a shading
(brownish) color treatment?


Can this horn material be treated like wood marquetry and colored
by scorching it by placing the piece into hot sand to give it a
shading (brownish) color treatment? 

Hmm, I hadn’t thought of trying scorching heat to color horn. I may
have to experiment with some scrap. Historically, horn was
certainly used for inlay and veneer work. It can be delaminated
into thinner layers (it will do so on it’s own if left in the right
conditions). I have colored horn using leather dyes, and (quite by
accident initially) Kool aid drink mix.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

I have no experience with boiling horn but I think that the
temperature is a little too low in order to do much forming. I have
attended a course dealing with horn, bone and similar items and as I
recall, the best temperature is between 150 and 200 deg. C

One important thing to remember is to apply a generous amount of oil
before heating, otherwise the horn will dry out, smell like roasted
pigskin and start to bubble. Use the cheapest cooking oil available,
here in Denmark that is grape seed oil.

You can use a regular kitchen oven on the lowest setting, smear the
piece with oil and place it on a piece of alluminium foil. Leave it
in the oven for no more than four to five minutes. You will have to

One little snag about working with horn is that it cool off very
fast so you don92t have much working time before it gets too cold to

You can also use a hot air gun but never forget the oil or else the
horn will be ruined.

If you are unhappy about the shape you get you can always oil again
and reheat. This will bring the horn back to its original shape.

Have fun