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Real horns: Customized drinking cups, mugs, and glasses

Author: Miss Lavish London
by Miss Lavish London
Posted: Aug 30, 2021

Real horns: Customized drinking cups, mugs, and glasses

Real horns are extracted from the buffaloes or ox to be used as mugs, drinking vessels, and beer glasses. Horns are used as drinking glasses since the medieval ages. These are extracted from the buffaloes and ox, then converted into a drinkable vessel by removing its inner core through an extensive procedure. Some cups were made by commercial shops in the East, using a lathe to turn a flattened horn disc, which is then press-fitted into a groove, which is turned in the inside bottom of the cup. This requires great skill in order to achieve a precise fit that would help prevent leakage. Another original and standard method of producing a horn cup is by inserting a tightly fitting wooden disc into the bottom of the cup and securing it with wooden pegs or nails.

History of drinking horns

We know for sure that drinking horns have been around for 2,600 years, but they've likely been around for even longer than that. In all that time, drinking horns have gone from practical drinking vessels to meaningful and symbolic reminders of the hallowed past. They've been made of horn, metal, and glass by civilizations all over the world.

Procedure for making drinking horns

Horns have two sections, including the core and the outer horn. The thickness of the horn section dissolves when the core is removed, varying from animal to animal, making it one of the variables that make each horn unique. To remove the core, most horn-makers boil the horn until it is soft. The inside is made of marrow, and its removal is often messy and challenging. Another method is to leave it in a warm, dry spot until the core separates from the horn naturally. Either way, the core must be removed before being processed further.

The process of splitting a raw horn and pressing it to fit a design can be done with either a "hot" or "cold" method.

  • Cold Method – If the horner plans to use the natural shape of the horn without molding it, the horn doesn't need to be heat-treated. A practiced hand can see a horn and finish it off with beautiful designs using files, rasps, lathes, or other woodworking tools.
  • Hot Method – In the hot method, the horn is heated until it becomes pliable. This is where a true artisan is required. Each horn has a different melting point. If the horn exceeds that point, it will likely become unusable. A skilled craftsman uses careful judgment throughout the process to determine the best temperature for working each particular horn. There are several methods of heating horns ranging from boiling to dry baking.

Once the horn has been heat softened, it is then pressed into its designated shape. In the 1700s, a block presser used heated iron plates to fuse and shape the horn parts.

For our Game of Thrones Style Tankards, the horns are formed and then heated again. At that point, the lower part of the horn (closest to the tip) is partially removed to form a "tail." This part is then folded down, and when cooled, will create the handle.

Finishing touch

Once horns are formed, reheated, and set, they are cleaned and polished to specification. Some of our horns demand a high polish and smooth look, while others are less refined and have a more natural look. It is purely a matter of taste how much to polish. While it's true that raw horn doesn't necessarily need a coating to hold liquid, owners of natural horn must be careful not to use the cup for dairy or acidic beverages like cider. Because of this, we've opted to coat our horns, so they're able to hold any cold liquid.

Traditional finishes include varnish, wax, or brewer’s pitch. Since wax and brewer’s pitch are more suspectable to degradation by acidic drinks and washing, Ale Horns are sealed using a specially formulated food-safe water-based coating. After polishing, sealing, and finishing, the horns are affixed with metal fittings or other decorations. The horner had planned and (optionally) engraved before being used.

Types of horns

The sutra Drinking horn: This drinking horn from Lazio, Italy, was made in the late sixth century AD by a master of the intricate glasswork that distinguished Italian horns from the rest. Horns like these were probably used for ale rather than wine and came to symbolize high status in Germanic society.

Hochdorf Chieftain’s Grave: This was discovered in Germany dated back to 530 BC has given us unmatched insight into the lives and customs of ancient Celts. In the burial chamber of a Celtic chieftain, many artifacts, including jewelry, clothing, and even a fish hook, were found. At the foot of the couch on which the body lay, a cauldron that was originally full of 100 gallons of mead lay within reach of enough drinking horns to host nine people.

Sutton Hoo: Sutton Hoo is the site of two 6th and 7th-century cemeteries in the East of England, one of which contained a completely undisturbed Anglo-Saxon ship burial. This was a significant archaeological find because, before this, it was challenging to tell myth from fact when it came to the early medieval period. The items found in the ship burial hearken the times of Beowulf, the Anglo Saxon hero who celebrated his victories by imbibing from his drinking horn while sitting in his vast mead hall.

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Author: Miss Lavish London

Miss Lavish London

Member since: Aug 24, 2021
Published articles: 5

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