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Making Powder Horns
Video Review

Making Powder Horns
American Pioneer Video
120 Minutes

One of the joys of muzzle loading is making your own accessories. Even better is the praise received when your friends admire your creation. I've made my own pouches, belts, clothing and misc. shooting supplies, but I have never attempted to build my own powder horn. After viewing Making Powder Horns, from American Pioneer Video, I realize that this may have been a mistake. I suppose I always realized that the materials, cow horn and wood, were inexpensive and fairly easy to obtain. As far as tools that simple hand tools are all that are required. In fact I discovered that some of the original powder horns were made using a piece of broken glass or knife to scrap the horn and a nail to scrimshaw the design. I suppose all that held me up was the answer to some simple questions and some help with carving and scrimshaw techniques. That is exactly what this video supplies. A step by step approach to building a period powder horn of your own.

Ron Ehlert is your instructor and guide. He begins by offering a few words of sage advice; "Research before you start." With that out of the way you are ready to select a cow horn. But which one? Should the horn have a left or right hand twist? How much twist is too much? Should the horn be a short, stout horn or a long, slender horn? What about color? All these questions will be put to rest after viewing the video. Will it make the selection process faster? Probably not, but at least you'll have an excuse ready for your wife.

Ron gets right down to work, showing several different methods to work the horn surface down. The frontier method, scrapping with a piece of glass or a knife blade produces a different finish than the more traditional rasping. Both are acceptable, as Ron explains, depending upon the desired result. Much to my surprise there were professional powder horn makers on the east coast that supplied horns that were practical "works of art." But for every professional there were a hundred individuals who made their own horn. Personally I prefer these horns, carved and scrimshawed by the owner. With the horn worked he down explains the next step, making and fitting the end plug and the pour spout.

What appears to be a straightforward task really has a few curves in it. For instance, do you want a straight, star or oval pattern wood grain for the powder horn plug. The same can be said of drilling the pour spout. It is not quite as simple as it looks. What makes these types of video so useful are all the hints and insights that make the job easier. Ron Ehlert has obviously made more powder horns than we can imagine, and through the video is able to share all his experience with the viewer.

If all you are interested in is a nice plain powder horn, then you can basically stop the video early. But if you are interested in carving and scrimshawing the horn you are in for a treat. Ron's forte is scrimshaw. In his own humble manner he demonstrates several different methods. Each method is well shown and the different results clearly displayed. With that out of way, he continues to teach us the correct way to lay out the scrimshaw work finishing the horn with the simplest engraving tool, a knife.

All told this is another good video from American Pioneer Videos. Whether you want to build a simple horn or a fancy one, this is the video for you. If you are a re-enactor or a historic preservationist, or just an artist looking for a new project, then it is a useful addition to your library. Maybe you're just interested in the "how do they do that" side of the art. Owning this video will deepen your appreciation for this American art form. In fact I may just go get that horn I bought five years ago and turn it into the powder horn of my dreams.

Video provided courtesy of the Log Cabin Shop for review.