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  #1  
Old 04-18-2009, 09:34 PM
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Oh great...I got some buffalo horn.

I bought some scales of buffalo horn to put on a knife.
They were a little warped so I got them flat on my disc sander.
After doing a search on here about how to work with it I find out its not worth a crap to use as knife handles.
Lots of complaints of warping and splitting after pinned down.

Why is this stuff being sold as knife handle material if its that bad?
I havent put them on yet but am now wondering if I should.

Anybody use this stuff with good results?


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  #2  
Old 04-18-2009, 10:36 PM
pork chop pork chop is offline
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I have put buffalo horn on a few knives, I too had to flatten some of it on my disc grinder. I find it pretty stable and have yet to have any problems. Maybe I have just been lucky. I do know that if I use any more it will only be the black & white, the other colors don't look too good to me and if you want a solid black handle paper micarta is just as cheap and makes a much better handle material. Just my opinion.
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  #3  
Old 04-19-2009, 03:30 AM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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I've used it with good end results, but working it can be frustrating.

You have to go REAL slow when sanding it flat. Any heat will warp it again. Even after you get it, let it sit in a dry place for a day or two and recheck it.

That said, I've never had any split.

I like the honey horn due to it beauty and horn in general because NOTHING polishes like that stuff! However, for straight black, go with paper micarta, though it will not get anywhere near the level of gloss when polished and may scorch if you try too hard.

Now that I've discovered, Jantz's mini-corbys, I'll be using those on furture horn projects. I think they will give me the peace of mind I like when I send a knife out into the world.


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  #4  
Old 04-19-2009, 08:44 AM
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David Broadwell David Broadwell is offline
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Funny, people have thought horn was actually worth a crap for eons!

I used black buffalo horn a few times many years ago. Scales came blocked and fairly flat, and I simply ground the back side on my platen and epoxied them to the tangs, then ground the handles to shape. I was given a couple of sections of whole horn and used it for some fittings on Japanese style knives and sayas, but not handles. Only encountered two problems. One was 20 years after I made the knife it got dropped and the handle chipped out. I replaced the scale and re-shaped it to match the original. The other problem was the smell. The first time I ground horn I thought I was going to barf in my dust mask! It smelled like I'd just burned all the hair on my head (and I had hair back then). Nasty stuff!

I used a stick of ox horn once. I turned it in a lathe and used it on a dagger. Worked beautifully.

Horn is like any other natural material. You got to understand its characteristics and how to work it. Walrus ivory scales have given me far more trouble than horn ever did. If you are worried about warping and splitting, things that every natural material will do, use a synthetic.

David


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  #5  
Old 04-19-2009, 09:16 AM
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I've used it a few times but I sent it out to be stabilized first. That goes a loooooong way towards eliminating the warpage and shrinkage problems common to any natural material (but maybe worse with horn than most other materials). As for splitting, that has as much to do with how you put in the pins/bolts as it does with the material.

Anyway, if you like the glossy highly polished look it's hard to beat buffalo horn .....


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  #6  
Old 04-19-2009, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Rogers
I've used it a few times but I sent it out to be stabilized first. That goes a loooooong way towards eliminating the warpage and shrinkage problems common to any natural material (but maybe worse with horn than most other materials). As for splitting, that has as much to do with how you put in the pins/bolts as it does with the material.

Anyway, if you like the glossy highly polished look it's hard to beat buffalo horn .....
Is the horn stabilized the same way as wood?

This stuff sounds like a pita. I might try it on a knife im going to keep for myself.


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  #7  
Old 04-19-2009, 10:02 AM
fatzombie fatzombie is offline
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I've never used buffalo horn on a knife and I dont see that I ever will. I once used it on a pen though. It was fairly easy to work except the smell but that goes for all bone. The pen was easy to polish and it came out perfect. But several months later I found that it split. My problem is that I dont want to put the effort into making something as perfect as I can to see it fall apart of its own accord later. That being said some people have no problem or they arent aware of the problem because it was fine when they last had the item. I would be wary of using it on a project that could be difficult to fix later. I made this decision based on other peoples experience with it as well as my own. I'm not saying it wont work, but that the risk of future failure is much higher than other easily available and reliable materials. If you really want the look of buffalo then there are acrylic substitutes that are difficult if not impossible to tell the difference by looking at them. BTW pens do not have pins or bolts holding the horn on. They are just the horn turned to a cylinder and glued to a brass tube. The spliting occurs in natural weak spots. Alot of the time it is where the white streaks are, which I think gives the horn most of its character.

Last edited by fatzombie; 04-19-2009 at 10:08 AM.
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  #8  
Old 04-19-2009, 12:14 PM
Doug Lester Doug Lester is offline
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I think the lesson here is to be carefull of people who make global statements about different materials. Some are accurate, such as you won't get structural steel to hold a decent edge for long. Others are evidently like a statement that you heard or read about buffalo horn. It was just someone's opinion who had a bad experience with horn. Not long ago there was a posting about no one puts diamond wood on a knife unless he was a real putz; also a very untrue statement. Just someone's opinion. Every material has it's characteristics. Some of those characteristics are good for some applications and bad for others. BTW, structural steel, like A36, makes great letter openers and replicas of swords that were designed strictly for thrusting through gaps in armour.

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  #9  
Old 04-19-2009, 12:51 PM
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Ray Rogers Ray Rogers is offline
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Yes, the stabilizing is done the same way as wood. I send mine to K&G and have it stabilized with acrylics the same way they do wood. I have numerous small scales and pieces laying around here for over 10 years through hot un-airconditioned summers and almost unheated (in my shop) winters and none of it has ever split or cracked. About two years ago, I made the handle for the hunting knife pictured below from one large chunk of stabilized buffalo horn. The knife went to Texas where it is very hot and humid (Houston area) and then out for a few hunts. The owner sent me a picture of the knife after extensive use, covered with blood and goo, and said that several guys used it to dress numerous animals. He was bragging on the edge holding but I'm sure he would have mentioned it if the handle had failed in any way.....



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Old 04-19-2009, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Rogers
Yes, the stabilizing is done the same way as wood. I send mine to K&G and have it stabilized with acrylics the same way they do wood. I have numerous small scales and pieces laying around here for over 10 years through hot un-airconditioned summers and almost unheated (in my shop) winters and none of it has ever split or cracked. About two years ago, I made the handle for the hunting knife pictured below from one large chunk of stabilized buffalo horn. The knife went to Texas where it is very hot and humid (Houston area) and then out for a few hunts. The owner sent me a picture of the knife after extensive use, covered with blood and goo, and said that several guys used it to dress numerous animals. He was bragging on the edge holding but I'm sure he would have mentioned it if the handle had failed in any way.....

Nice knife, Ray. If it didn't hold an edge I'd really be surprised!

I do wonder about stabilizing horn though. Several years ago Jim Frey, Wildwoods stabilized wood, ran some experiments with stabilizing elephant ivory. He ran some slabs through the process he used for wood and concluded that it wasn't worth the effort. The pores, or cell structure if you prefer, was so small in the ivory that his stuff wouldn't really penetrate, and therefor wouldn't do a good job of stabilizing it. I would think that horn's pores were as small or even small that ivory, and stabilizing would not work. It's the same for some species of wood such as ironwood that are so dense the "soup" won't penetrate well enough to do much good.

I have had some pieces of buffalo horn in my shop for over 25 years. No AC and just above freezing in the winter, and they are in good shape. I have some old elephant ivory there also, and it's fine as well.

Shankmaker, I don't believe horn is any more of a PITA than other materials. Ivories move around a lot. So do some woods. Ever hear many positive comments on snakewood? I had a piece of fine English walnut left over from a gun stock job warp over to one side almost 1/4" at the butt. Sheep horn does all sorts of crazy things. If you want the look and feel of a natural material on your knives, you have to be prepared for the possibility of these kinds of problems. Otherwise, you have to live with Micarta and metal, and I've had some metals warp as badly as ivory.

David


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  #11  
Old 04-19-2009, 01:57 PM
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I finished my 2nd knife afew weeks ago in buffalo horn and I think it is worth trying. Like any handle material it could chip or crack while you are working with it or have a hidden flaw that you don't see until you sand down further. On the image of the left side my small wharncliff near the ricasso area there is an area that could be a weak point that did not show up until final shaping. As for warping I purchased 2 sets of scales from texas knife and some were warped more then others. I sanded the back side down to level trying not to get hot, and make it warp again. this stuff does stink because it is compressed hair! I did my rough cuting with a coping saw and it took awhile decause it is very dense.When I epoxied it to the tang I roughed up the back of the horn and the tang with my dremal tool and clamped it. The pins were a tight fit with epoxy and not peen. I think the end results of using a streaked buffalo horn is worth the end result. Just take your time as you would on any of you knives and find out the best way of working withthe material you have.
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  #12  
Old 04-19-2009, 02:28 PM
huntforlife huntforlife is offline
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I just got some water buffalo horn and it was "tweaked" just a little. I read somewhere that you should boil them for a short time, then clamp them to something flat to flatten them out. That didnt work. It never seemed like it would get soft enough to flex that much, and all it did was delaminate the layers of horns. So, I scrapped those scales.


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Old 04-19-2009, 03:37 PM
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I have used buffalo horn 5 or 6 times and pretty much have the same result as most everyone else here. Work it a little slower with a good sharp belt and don't let it get to hot. I have had horn and ivory warp many times when trying to flaten it on my disc or platen and it got to hot then warped. Now I go a little slower using new belts and have great results. I have used buffalo horn for both handles and bolsters with great results. I always use some some kind of fiber liner I don't know if that helps anything or not but could help keep moister out. Horn also polishes up great.


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  #14  
Old 04-19-2009, 08:28 PM
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It's a tough material to pein down. I prefer it for hidden tangs over scales, just seems to work better that way. If it gets hot to the touch, that's likely too hot.... I use a rasp for most shaping, hand-sand and polish. A little linseed oil thinned with turpentine makes a nice final finish.
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  #15  
Old 04-19-2009, 09:37 PM
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Gday guys,
I have used it 3 times, once as a full tang, twice as spacers on full tangs. Every piece shrunk enough to be "too" noticeable so I wont use it again.

Maybe our Aussie climate just doesnt suit it. The one piece of walrus which wasnt fossilised that I have used shrank even more.

Cheers Bruce


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