Re-conditioning Horns

Discussion in 'Taxidermy' started by buck wild, May 2, 2019.

  1. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Here is how I get a little life back into those boiled, dry out horns that come back to us. These are my personal sable and roan horns rec'd recently. I took careful measurements before leaving and needed to rebuild approx 1/2 " of horn to each.

    First I make a silicone mold of the bottom 3/4" of each horn. I can provide more info on this later if someone is interested.

    horn 4.jpg


    I next taken softened beeswax and apply a liberal coating over the entire horn. This will fill the cracks and provide a natural sheen.

    horn 2.jpg

    I use a low heat source (hair dryer, paint stripper on LOW) to soften the now hardened wax into the horn and buff out the wax. Here is half the horn completed for this part of the process.


    horn 3.jpg

    One finished out compared to one that hasn't been started.

    horn 3.5.jpg



    Often waterbuck and in this case roan have "peeling" parts of the horn. I use more wax to build it back up.
    The raw horn next to the repaired one.

    horn 8.jpg

    After rubbing and buffing the wax into both horns, I use a small paddle bit to drill out the horn cores and fill with Borax. I'm always concerned about future bug damage and although I can't say this will do anything, I figure it cant hurt.

    horn .5.jpg

    Next I apply a liberal amount of bondo over the cores and slide the horn over slowly to pushing down any extra bondo equally out the bottom. After the horn seats on the core, I dip my finger in dentured alcohol and pat down the extra bondo flat against the horn so that I can apply the silicone mold made earlier before the bondo hardens. Using the DA will keep the bondo from sticking to my finger and making a mess.

    horn 5.jpg

    horn 6.jpg

    After the bondo sets, remove the silicone mold, trim off the excess and rasps any areas of the bondo if needed. It doesn't always make the perfect impression of the horn and I usually follow up with some touch up areas with Apoxie Clay.

    horn 7.jpg

    I now have my 1/2" built back in and begin using different paints, stains, and powders to build the color make into the horn.


    horn 10.jpg




    horn 11.jpg


    horn 12.jpg
     
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  2. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    In total, not counting the molds that were made another day earlier, it took approximately 3 hrs to do both sets. The coloring phase didn't get covered here much because it's hard to detail but it's basically using different paints and pastel powders to get that finished color. This usually entails lightning the horns as they come back darken then normal . Mine weren't too bad as I left explicit instructions to leave them as natural as possible.
     
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  3. Tally-Ho Hunting Safaris

    Tally-Ho Hunting Safaris SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Fanatic

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    When can i send some horns to you???
    Looks great
     

  4. blacks

    blacks AH Fanatic

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    Great job and thanks for the post. I've heard about the silicone mould for texture before and would like to learn more about the technique .

    I'm curious if these are for Euro display or for mounts? As for mounts I usually find it easier to mount the animal first with just the cores to work around, and then affix the horns later. Then blend and colour as required .

    Cheers
    Tim
     

  5. Ragman

    Ragman AH Elite

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    Very interesting. Thanks!
     

  6. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    These will be shoulder mounts. Horned animals have the skin grow right into the horn- thus the usual soft area between the two. I always want my horns secured to the core before mounting so that I can butt the edge of the cape right up to the horn and securely glue it in place also allowing for hair pattern placement. I have heard of folks putting on horns after mounting but I never understood how they established the critical skin to horn junction that way, but again I have never tried it. I did once make a detachable horn but it detached at the area you saw my bondo rebuild thus when mounting I still had the solid foundation of the bottom of the horn to work around. I also thinks this creates a seal around the horn and core that should help deter bugs from getting up inside. The horns will be wrapped in plastic before mounting to ensure the new texture and color is not messed up in the process.
    Thanks for asking.
     
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  7. blacks

    blacks AH Fanatic

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    Thanks for the detailed reply. Your horns look very natural.

    I've always mounted, then attached horns to cores, filled any gap with apoxy clay, textured and coloured. But I do far more antlered game than horned.

    Funny how we all have our different ways. I'm only self taught, so maybe I need to give that a go.

    Is it any particular silicone, or just the stuff in a caulking tube?

    Cheers
    Tim.
     

  8. Witold Krzyżanowski

    Witold Krzyżanowski AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Looks great. Thanks for sharing.
     

  9. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    For small projects like this, yes 100% silicone caulk from the tube will work. Get a bowl of water, squeeze the caulk into the bowl. It will begin to stick to itself in a ball. Then use a 50/50 mixture of Dawn soap and denatured alcohol to wet your fingers, reach into the bowl and pull out the ball of silicone. Keep wetting your hands with the soap mixture and you'll see the caulk will be almost putty like. Push it into the areas you want to make a mold. Use some type of release agent on the horns but stay away from oily releases as they will considerably darken the horns. Baby powder will work or a silicone powder. Keep working the caulk, reapplying the mix to your fingers. Let air dry fro 24 hours and remove the mold.
    Let me know how it works for you
     
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  10. blacks

    blacks AH Fanatic

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    Outstanding, thank you so much for the advice. I have a tahr head to rebuild so I'll give your technique a go !
     

  11. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Great work, it looks outstanding!
     

  12. wesheltonj

    wesheltonj AH Legend

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    Nice. I have used Sno Seal on lots of white-tail horns.
     

  13. cmk

    cmk AH Veteran

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    Very nice! I really prefer this to the blackened (shoe polish?) horns.
     
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  14. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    I still get a few questions about this process so I'll add more info/ pics.
    I recently received a nyala for remount. Horn color wasn’t too bad but they were really dried out.
    Before pic
    69A083FA-CD4C-4091-8375-687203DF266C.jpeg

    I melted the natural colored beeswax in a pot and applied a thick coat with a stiff paint brush. You’ll probably need to keep a heat source on wax to keep it liquid until you are finished. Similar pics to first post in this thread- horn coated in wax with no real rhyme or reason other than getting it on.
    F27CA4BA-E23A-41FF-A6CD-3B82556E640D.jpeg

    Next step I take my paint stripper heat gun on LOW setting, while holding horn upside down, I begin melting wax a small section of a time letting it pool up and run down the horns in waves. Keep moving the heat gun down without stopping too long any any one place. The wax will melt then begin to set up on section you already moved from.
    88D9480F-D945-4C0D-B9F5-846A02B89FA3.jpeg

    It usually takes 3-4 rounds on the melting to get wax absorbed into the horn and cracks. Don’t melt it so much it completely runs off horn. Here is pic of about where I want it before I start the rubbing process.

    88D9480F-D945-4C0D-B9F5-846A02B89FA3.jpeg

    I hit the horn again lightly with heat source then use a rag to begin rubbing the horn surface smooth. Really work the wax onto the cracks removing any large areas of buildup.

    0AD97D23-15EC-4049-921E-4CE12FABE19E.jpeg

    Next step is where you can get creative. I have several tubs of dirt from my local area. One is very fine with a light grey color often perfect for African horns especially kudu ;). You can also use powdered clay in the dry form as you see with my red dirt and i have a darker grey dirt in the bag in between. I use the color or a mix of dirt to get the color I want. Rub the dirt into the horns by hand. The warm wax will hold it in the cracks but most will fall off so do this over a trashcan, box or something to catch the reside dirt.
    CACF30ED-2C4A-409C-A072-0C469CEB4F02.jpeg

    You can also use dry powder temper paint and other type stains if you need a stronger color. I really like the dirt though if possible. Most people doing this for their personal horns will likely be happy with this product. Wax is still warm in this pic. Let horn sit for 24 hrs and the color will be less shiny.

    4C5A56FF-D726-4D91-A860-AB7B1AD7F77A.jpeg


    There are still further coloring techniques I will cover for those needing the expert touch, but those will have to wait until I can get more pics together.
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2020
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  15. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    While I’m on the topic of treating horns, for those of us using dip and pack services, we get our skulls after clearing Customs and think oh goodie ready for the wall. On those animals where horns don’t often slip from the cores, there is likely still some yummy crap inside the horns. These include impala, most type wildebeest and buff. I took video of me pouring hydrogen peroxide down between the horn and cores while upside down. Here are a few screen shots from the video. Not all will be this frothy but be aware. I ran 4 “treatments” before I felt I had most of the nasty killed.
    ADC6197F-6A04-4FD8-A9CA-421678DEE224.jpeg 440AB6FB-DE2D-46C8-85E1-DE7C314DCECF.png
     
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  16. MarkB

    MarkB AH Veteran

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    Thanks buck wild, excellent tutorial for us part time taxidermists, I also only settle for the natural horn look, cant understand the black shoe polish finish. Have you ever tried the 2 equal part epoxy sculpt for the horn bottoms, I find it takes the latex mold details better than the bondo and allows more time for details, still use bondo to attach horns to pedicles. Also add the deeper lines and groves while still "soft". Agree the horn sheaths on before mounting is what I do, a trial fit gives me the distance # that I feel should be built up to get the hair horn match just right. Will definitely try the beeswax, normally use floor was.

    Thanks again.

    MB
     

  17. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Glad to help Mark. I have used epoxy sculpt type material on horn projects but only use the Apoxy Clay as it dries flat. I agree it gives longer working time with great detail but I find I get good results with the bondo and normally that half inch of rebuilt horn gets covered by hair overlap. When I do competition pieces I would use the epoxies. I think you’ll find the beeswax to be a better filler than the floor wax or the popular mop and glo. I do use mop and glo on the horns I take in from the States but I control the slip on those with very little of this cracking drying we see from Africa horns.
    I’ll post the finished horn project soon
     
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  18. MarkB

    MarkB AH Veteran

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    Your answer answered my question perfect, you are far more advanced than I, I find the bondo works/hardens faster than I, to the point that I have rasped off as I was not quick enough with the texturing (bison horns), luckily big old fluffy fur covered all my mistake. The mop and glow will stay on the self and beeswax is on the order list. I will definitely show your post to my mentor who taught me, he bugs the hell out of my, buckets off oven "cooked" dried different colored local dirt. Never even thought to use the same habitat dirt for horn coloring, I used paints to naturalize the epoxy. Also made a real chainsaw hollowed stump for my Gbear as I did not like the looks of catalogue versions. I really do like my mounts to look as they did when I saw them alive or approached them. Not "plasticized" and painted perfect. Love these threads. Learn so much.

    Thanks

    MB
     

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