For all you powder horn makers...I'm in the process of making my first one. To plug the base, do I shape a plug to fit the horn or shape the horn to fit a round plug? Is one easier or better than the other?
You can do it either way. Frankly, I find it easier to shape the horn to a round plug, then final-fit the plug. You do this by softening the horn in hot water, hot cooking oil, or with hot air, and "sizing" it on a conical sizing block or what-have-you. (Don't tell anyone, but I use a small red clay flower pot!). You still have to fit the plug, but you can turn one on a lathe if you have one, or file and fit.
Many will say it's just as easy, if you don't have a lathe, to leave the horn in its natural shape and file and fit the wood to it.
"Est Deus in Nobis"
A small clay flower pot! Great idea, to bad I didn't think of that after my 5 horns that I already made! I fit all my plugs to the natural shape of the horns and haven't had much trouble fitting them, I also use acraglas gel to help seal the plug in good and tight and it just makes it stronger. Making the acraglas gel light to dark brown or black makes it easy to match the horn color too.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Deadeye,
I have used both methods and do not have a prefered one. With either I think it is eassier at the last fit/intallation of the plug to heat the horn to help assure a tight unifom fit.
Lads: Of late I too have been fussing with making some powder horns - initially for myself, now for a friend. When I studied historic horns I noticed that some were obviously made by professionals - folks who made them for a living, or shops that sold them to the military and traders. Those seem to be the most "polished" looking - lathe turned butt plugs, etc. Others were simpler, more "primitive" it seems. I surmise that those were made by individuals for their own needs, or for their family. Lacking a lathe, they just used the shape of the horn they got, shaped a plug to fit that and called it good. As the experienced folk here have noted, both approaches work just fine.
So, in my effort to create "humble" accouterments, I have followed this path. A friend, who saw my horn at Martins Station last Spring, said..."this looks like it was woodsman made and was an effort to copy a F&I War period commercial horn". Surprise! That is exactly what I had hoped. Rather than a staple to retain the strap at the butt, I went with the "lobed" style, which he said fits in well with that period.
So, perhaps the natural shape of the plug may be seen as the marker of a frontiersman made horn, while the true round one, with a fancy turned plug, is the mark of a professionally made one from a shop where a lathe was available?
I got no proof, and doubt anyone else does, but this seems at least plausible.
If you turn your plug round and heat your horn to fit it, make sure you don't have your plug so big that it puts a ring around the big end of the horn where the plug stops inside the horn. I have seen them made this way and it looks like garbage. The ones I made I fit the plug to the horn because it did not occur to me that I could do it the other way.
Hombre del Bosque
pistuo deo lalo
Col. Boone, I like your post, it is what I have refered to as "educated speculation" rather than just using what one likes or is easier in the absence of true period information. The problem with "educated speculation" is that often the "educated" part iof the equation is left out.
This "agualgel" - what is it? I never heard of it before. Where is it sold?
Isiah, You can get acraglas from Track, you mix resin & hardener together then add brown or black dye which comes with the kit. Mix it again to get the color even then put the gel where you want and after 24 hours it's hard. This stuff is used for bedding barrels in stocks or other things you might inlet.
There's two different types, acraglas and acraglas gel. I like the acraglas gel the best. The other is real runny.
Thanks, gents. Good information!
I do have a lathe and that's what I have used on my horns. But to add to what Volie had to say...I always taper my plug to fit the horn properly. You can hold the horn next to the plug to see how much and where to file/sand the taper. Then I seat with wax when I do the final installation, then tack. Haven't had any leaks yet nor a 'bulge' in any of my horns.
If you were to choose to fit the plug to the horn (not lathe turned), I would definitley do this step. Makes for a better fit IMHO.
Thanks. The term I was taught (have a degree in History)is "informed conjecture". Simply put, if we have studied the subject in depth we must have ingested some level of familiarity with it. Should we attempt to replicate some of the work we have seen, we find that there simply are aspects we cannot know about this far from the time of the making. So, using our "parallel knowledge" of other things, and "informed conjecture" we can begin to come to some representation of what we think it might have been. Not ironclad, not perfect, but as long as one provides that critical caveat "it seems to me, based on extant examples"...we have brought in "informed conjecture". The important element there is NOT to lead folk to believe you are stating a known fact...just your educated opinion.
So, when it comes to the horn thing - I do know that a lathe was not at all common outside the more established craft shops, and such is required to properly turn a round plug for a horn. But, I also know that horns were commonly made by their users, or for that user by another non-professional who had no access to a lathe. Thus, connecting the non-round plug with the woodsman crafter is not at all unreasonable.
Anyway, that is how I have operated in all of this. One poster here tags his mssgs with "it is not what you know, but what you can prove". Cute, but shows me that this fella is perhaps a bit less sophisticated in his study of history than some. Heck, we will NEVER be able to prove it all...so, if we are to try to get a complete overview of another time I believe we have to engage in "informed conjecture" now and then.
The key, of course, is just how "informed" you are! :-)
Just my opinion, however.
Very true. I often am amused at all the opinions given on so many topics by so many who do not appear to have much in the way of any basic understanding of the topic. I have always tought that every one is entitled to have an opinion but for any opinion to be valid or have any meaning one muct have at least a minimal working understanding of the subject matter of which the topic deals with. For example it wouild be pointless for me to put forth a opinion about the cosmic "String Theory" due to a total lack of any depth of knowledge in the realm of advanced quantum physics. Many parralels can be seemn when folks find theneed to give an opionioon of HC/PC levels and other such things in this hobby. This is not directed at anyone but just a general observation.
trg1 - So well put, Sir!! Seems to me that history as a subject is so broad and requires so much study that to focus upon one tiny point is just silly. All of it is entwined in a web, much of which is beyond our understanding - would that the old craftsmen had written in detail of what they did and how the did it...but, such is not the case. We, therefor, have to look at their work, look at parallel history, and try to discern their methods. In the end we must, to some degree, fall back upon logic to guide our "informed conjecture".
I am amused at the idea that our ancestors were simply not capable of new ideas, improvement of old ones, and experiments on their own. Do these folk see our ancestors as a collection of dumb brutes who have no ideas of their own? Goodness, that is just silly.
Did everyone simply make the precise same shooting bag, horn, knife or other accouterment or item of equipment? Doubtful. If Joe Miller had an idea that would make HIS shooting bag more useful to HIM, I bet he would have made one that way!
So, to imply (or, worse yet, claim) that "all" of item "X" looked like "this" and ONLY "this" seems to bely the creativity, talent and intellect of our ancestors. Not sure about other folk, but mine were not that dumb!! :-)
So well put Co. Boone. My sentiments exactly!!! I just wish more folks would get your message!!!! Thanks for expressing that!!!
"Don't Retreat, just reload"
Sage - Thanks for the kind comment. As I have followed this forum for a while now I have to shake my head at the mindless focus on this or that, to the exclusion of the application of reason. Goodness...folk need to get past one or another minute "proof" of this or that to look at the larger picture. One can spend a lifetime poking through rusty "dug artifacts", while not seeing what they actually MEAN.
My point is that the mere cataloguing of items, collection of statements, letters, and the like is not "a study of history". Rather, having done the above, the real "Historian" attempts to UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS.... THAT is the tough part, the simple cataloguing of stuff is not that difficult.
So, for those of you who choose to try to see what all of this means, my hearty best wishes...we need you, and future generations will be the better informed for your efforts.
Col. Boone. You certainly possess a way with words and such clarity. I have tried many times to express what you have written to others who fit your description to a "T". "Not every piece of canvas was set up like a "diamond shelter". Not every piece of canvas was 8X8. One did what one had to do to fit the situation. Adapt and conquer, invent etc etc....thanks again. Jim
"Don't Retreat, just reload"
Sage - Thanks for the kind comments. Glad you find the ramblings of some value.
You are so right....things simply were not as standardized as we are lead to believe by the "librarians" in their statements of "facts".
I have to say that I also agree with Col. Boone, Sage and trg 1 in their recent comments. Some conjecture, within reason, can't be all bad.
Now, back to the subjuect at hand. I mentioned that I have and use a lathe. One thing I ommitted...all of my plugs were made from tree branches that I recovered from my own yard. I have a large Sycamore tree and it drops branches more frequently than I care for, however, the end grain figure is very eye pleasing. I'll cut a branch off at 90* that is just oversized to the horn I want to plug. Put it on the lathe to get a better taper on the plug, then heat up the horn and fit it over the branch/plug. Let it cool remove it from the horn and cut it to a workable thickness (1/2"-3?4" thick) and replace with wax and tacks.
I suppose if one was careful, one could cut the branch to the proper size and just fit it to the heated horn without the use of a lathe. Most branches are pretty much round and a warm horn will conform to that shape.
Give that a try and see what the end grain looks like on your branch. If you like it, use it.
One other point of interest, all of my caps are cut flush to the horn. That is to say they are all flat on the end of the horn. I can show pic's if anyone is interested.
I don't own a lathe so I just shape mine with a files and a knife until I get really close to right shape. Then I heat the horn and tap it gently into place.
"Better fare hard with good men than feast it with bad."
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