Carved Drinking Horn




Introduction: Carved Drinking Horn

About: I'm a mechanical engineer in the Eindhoven region. In my spare time I like to make random stuff, both usefull and especially useless.

Every person eating tons of meat and drinking even more beer is either a dwarf or a viking. So what do all those people need? A drinking horn.

This instructables will cover all steps I did for my drinking horn. This includes some simple carving and metalwork and excludes the proces of preparing the horn for whatever usage you desire.

If I will make a standard for it in the future, the building process of that will be added here.
14-6-2013: The instructions for my socket are added.

Step 1: Materials

  • 1 cow horn (size as desired)
  • carving tools
  • polyurethane coating, don't just use a coating. Use something natural like bee wax.
  • Copper tube
  • Materials for socket, I used some forged metal curles I got from a friend.

Step 2: Carving

Horncarving is not the same as wood carving as I was told. I did neither of them, so I was new to the entire proces.

I started with an internet search for a picture which suited me. I found a picture of God Hephaestus which I liked. With a little help of Photoshop and a thick black permanent marker I created a black and white image suitable for my carving skills. The picture was scanned and lines were added so I could draw it on the horn.

I made a mistake with the drawing of the grid on the horn. I started with a line parallel to the horn fibres. Between all lines was 1 cm of space, which resulted in a rhombus. Due to this shape the drawing looked strange. My advise is to stay perpendicular and parallel to the horn fibers, this results in a better looking drawing. I resolved the problem by doing some hand drawing where the rhombus shape was doing strange things to my drawing. The initial drawing was done with pencil, but before I started carving I redid everthing with a permanent marker because I wiped out the line when I started to carve.

Carving horn was more difficult than I expected, the horn is very hard. However, when the outlines where carved, layers of horn were easy to remove due to the layered structure of a horn. I added some pictures of my work in progress. When you do this for the first time I suggest to rely on your own skills which will improve during the carve. This is the way I managed to get better results than I expected.

Depending on your horn, your carvings reveal a black or a white surface. When you look inside the horn you can make a good guess where it will be white and where it will be black. When placing your drawing you can take this into account as I did.

Step 3: Making the Horn Drinkable.

When I bought the horn it was already 'drinkable' because it was desinfected. However, everything you put into the horn will taste like wet cow, which is not the bad part, the smell is worse.

There are several ways of making your horn drinkable, the choice depends on what you want to drink out of it. I desided I liked the look of steam coming out of the horn, so I needed something that could withstand hot drinks. This means I had to coat it with a polyurethane resin. I poured the resin in the horn, turned the horn while holding it at an angle until the resin touched every spot in the horn. The resin cured while holding the horn upside down, with the excess resin I also coated the outside.

The resin I used was not approved food safe, but when hardened it will not give toxins anymore (I hope) so I used it anyway. When you do the same, make sure you know what you are doing. I will drink once, maybe twice from this horn, that is why I used it anyway. However, the first time I drank from it, I think the resin wasn't cured 100%, the day after I had to stay home.

Plans for the future:
Soften an existing polymer glass and make it fit my horn. This way it will be able to hold hot drinks and it is foodsafe. Every help with this is welcome.

Step 4: A Copper Edge

I wanted to make it my horn and try some new things. Giving the horn a copper edge was one of those things. It started with a normal copper tube which I cut and made flat on an anvil. A little bit of hammering to get in round my horn and it was time for the rivets.

The rivets were made from a small copper rod. I took about 1 cm and made one end 'round' with a hammer. This would be for the inside of the horn. 4 Of these rivets were used. A advise to start in the middle of the old tube en work your way out. I did it the other way around but my piece of copper turned out to be to big so there are some big holes between the copper and the horn. Still I am happy with them. When the rivets are in place put the inside of the horn on the rivet on the home-made anvil and start hammering your rivet until it fastened the copper and looks good.

As you can see in the first picture, I tried to solder the ends of the copper. I didn't succeed and I gave up. The burned horn only smells but the horn can handle the looks.

Step 5: The Horn Socket

Allthough I said in the beginning of this build that I would make a socket for it, in the end the plans were changed. As you can see in the final step I had put the horn on some small copper buckets. I liked the looks of it so no socket was necessary. That was until this forged material came to me. 2 Days later the socket was finished.

Step by step instruction:
  • Start with some ideas.
  • Choose your idea.
  • Weld the curls to the plate.
  • Paint the metal after cleaning it.
  • Put it under the horn.

Step 6: Enjoy

The most important task. Enjoy you newly made drinking horn. I enjoy it every day laying on my nightstand next to the wooden alarm clock made in one of my other instructables.

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    1 year ago

    What about using coconut oil to seal the horn?


    Question 3 years ago on Step 1

    Hey,beautiful horn! Great carving! I've been looking for a way to clean out the smell of my drinking horn which I've bought recently. Its smells horrible and right now I'm using denture tablets. I've heard alcohol from a pharmacy helps too. Is there anything I can do to get out the smell? I'm not an expert on them as I've only just bought one, could you help me? I'm struggling to find the right care for it.

    Thanks in advance,



    Answer 3 years ago

    Hello Daisy,

    Like I mentioned in the Instructable I've used a polyurethane resin, or actually I think it was a water-based polyurethane lacquer. When I drank from it the first time I became ill and the drinks tasted a bit strange. However, a month later I used it again and had no problems, so I think it was fully cured by then and was fine to use. I'm still using this same horn from time to time without any problems.
    My suggestion now would be to use a food safe two part epoxy. I'm not really into that, so I have no idea what it can be used for, cold/hot drinks. But I've read some stories while making this horn online from people who've used epoxy to coat the inside of their horn with good results for both cold and hot drinks. So that would be my best guess at the moment.
    (I would however use a polyurethane lacquer on the outside because it keeps the texture of the horn better, where epoxy would smoothen the entire thing.)



    4 years ago

    Use MAX CLR from The Epoxy Experts. It is made for this sort of thing. It is even safe for very hot things!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    finally it becomes more a decoration issue, than a real drinking tool, wright?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, you can say that. But I still use it approximately once a year.


    8 years ago on Step 3

    Envirotex is a food safe epoxy that is used for this exact purpose. My horn is lined inside and out with it.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    For drinking cold drinks and weaker alcohol you don't need to seal the insides. Just wash it. I have 4 drinking horns and none of them gives off a distinct horn flavor. I've used sand and poison (coca cola) to clean the inside, and then cured the horns over a night with Guinness beer.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome job on the carving.
    I can't believe you got such good results with THOSE knives!
    I didn't even make it through 5 pumpkins last Halloween with my set and horn is much harder to carve.

    For the epoxy coating, consider something like this?
    Wax works well for cold beverages(that's how almost all leather flasks are sealed) but not so well for a steaming horn of whatever, as the wax may very well melt.

    Make the copper fit.
    Remove it.
    NOW solder it(using lead free solder, preferably silver solder)
    Refit the copper(slip on from the bottom)
    fix in place with your rivets.

    Probably a better solution for the copper is, start with a thicker copper FOIL.
    It's very soft, and easy to work with. Available from tool supply companies, or thinner stuff can be had in the stained glass department of your local hobby shop.
    Rivets would be pure;y decorative in this case, but might still look good.
    Once it's formed in place, the epoxy sealing material should provide adequate protection, and structure, to keep it from dislodging during use and cleaning, plus will protect it from the more corrosive liquids, like citrus juices, beer or soda.

    Finally, a nice lead free pewter("Fine pewter" is around 99% tin, and 1% copper) could make a fairly nice top. there is a fairly good explanation(though no photos) here
    As long as the rim is thin enough, it will cool quickly enough to not scorch the horn.
    Espcially appropriate, since vikings knew and used pewter regularly(


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks ironsmiter for the reply.

    Like I said in the instructable, I won't try to coat my horn the correct way. Me and a friend are already thinking on how we could form plastic in such a way it will conceal the entire inside of the horn. We are now thinking on vacuum forming by using a vacuum cleaner and a heat gun. The only thing left is finding appropriate, free, plastic.

    The copper I actually like, even with all the imperfections. So I don't like changing it. However you made me think. At the moment I'm searching for tin. Try to melt it and give the horn a proper tip. If this works and I like it I will probably remove the copper rim and replace it with tin. And when I'm really in the mood, i will even add a top.

    So for now I'm focusing on making some vacuum formed inside. But when and if I start on a tin tip and rim I will definitely keep you informed.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I refer you to and

    The basic idea being you could use the first process to form the negative "buck" for the second process, and when you're done, you have a nice heatshrunk soda bottle form ready to line your horn.
    Just trim off any excess plastic, and cover the edge with your metal trim.

    Can't wait to see your results of take-two.

    fyi, is one source of tin. just checked, and it's about $20usd per pound.