How to Make a Powder Horn

Introduction: How to Make a Powder Horn

About: Retired Air Force E-7. Happily Married, the wife and I + 6 furry kids, Definitely a dog person! 2 labs, 1 chihuahua,1 Pekinese, 2 mutts, but they don't know they are mutts!

Ok, So I made a hunters pouch/Possibles bag and I had this powder horn that was pretty nice but too long, and I was not happy with the end cap or powder drop. I also had a couple of real weathered steer horns and they are in the picture as a size comparison. what I want is a horn no more than about 9 inches long.

As I always do, I searched the internet and found a good tutorial on how to heat and reshape the end of a horn so it could use a turned tapered round plug.

The article I found had 3 ways to soften and shape a horn,

1. dip the end in boiling water and then insert tapered plug...draw back, water doesn't get hot enough for the new shape to set and horn will try to return to natural contour over time.

2. hot oil, dip horn end into hot oil...... dangerous and messy but the horn will take a permanent set.

3. Heat gun,....permanent set but the end may discolor slightly.

I used a 3/4 thick piece of Tulip Poplar I purchased at @#$% Depot for the end cap and a piece of compressed shelving board for the jig.

JB weld quick set epoxy

My Cordless drill

my small belt sander

An assortment of hole saws

Step 1: Lets Make a Taper Jig

I have a good collection of hole saws, 3 inches and down. Keep in mind that a 3 inch hole saw gives you a round plug about 2 and 3/4 in diameter.

I used some real dense man made shelving stock,(particle board) , that I happened to have on hand. I carefully cut out a descending set of plugs and when I had enough, i put the biggest on a bolt with a large washer and smeared some wood glue on the up side, add a plug, glue, add a plug, and so forth. add a washer and nut and tighten down until glue squeezes out. I let it sit for an hour then put the combined pieces on the end of my drill and went out to the small belt sander I have.

Belt rotation was in the down direction, I spun the plug in the up direction and worked it back and forth until I had a nice long tapered plug.

I had to eye ball the taper but it turned out pretty good.

Put a good thick coat of paste wax on the plug and we are now ready to re shape the end of the horn.

Step 2: Soften the Horn, Press in the Taper Jig

Cow horns are not naturally round at the base, they are thicker in some spots than others and have some ridges on the inside. cut the end square, I used a band saw but you can use a hack saw. place a sheet of 150 sandpaper on a smooth flat surface and work the end of the horn on it to remove any irregularities.

using a rasp, I carefully removed the inner ridges and then sanded the inner edge smooth.

So, I had the heat gun on low...500 degree's + or - and keeping the horn moving constantly, i heated the inside and the out side for a few minutes. when I could feel the horn getting warm on the end I was holding, I turned to gun to high and continued until I started seeing discoloration at the sharp edges of the horn end.

I turned off the gun and immediately inserted my plug. I held the end of the horn and tapped the bolt on the plug on the bench to firmly seat the plug in the horn.

Let cool for about 30 minutes and remove plug.

Step 3: Make the Inner Horn Plug

So, to give credit wear its due, this idea was also in the tutorial I looked at. I liked it a lot so decided to use it with just a couple changes

find a hole saw bigger then the newly round end of your horn. cut out a plug, insert the bolt and taper it as you did the jig. remove some material and then do a test fit. continue until you get a good snug fit.

when it fits, remove the bolt and then using another hole saw, remove the center of your plug. I left about 1/2 of material all the way around.

I used my dremel to round off the edges of the inner edge all the way around so as not to leave a hard edge that would impede powder flow when I want to empty it.

sand it smooth and set it aside for now.

What you now have is a tapered bushing that the actual end plug will be glued into. I did it this way so it would be easier to center the plug.

Due to the uneven thickness of the horn material, you will still have to do some final sanding to match the plug to the horn contour.

Step 4: Make the Outer Horn End Plug

Using a hole saw 1 size bigger than the one you used to remove the center of the inner plug, cut another plug.

now that the end of the horn is round, find the correct hole saw saw to cut a circle just a bit larger than the horn end.

this is where my design differs from the tutorial I watched. I wanted a way to center the end plug on the horn so my outer end is two pieces, glued together.

take the smaller of the two pieces and mount on a bolt. turn it on the belt sander until it fits inside the bushing, slightly snug but not tight.

using the bolt again, glue it to the large plug as shown.

Once it is dry, remove 2/3 of the thickness of this small plug and you are almost ready for final assembly. I shortened the small plug because I want to leave a tapered depression at the inner end of the horn so that when I want to empty the horn, I will have a natural depression for the powder to flow into.

Picture a funnel, small end pointed at the big end of the horn.

Step 5: Epoxy the Inner End Plug or Bushing Into the End of the Horn

So this is where it potentially gets messy.

I used J B weld epoxy, and as a release agent, Paste wax. This is important. you need PASTE WAX to keep things that you don't want stuck together from becoming 1 piece!!

I have a flat metal plate with a hole in the center. I coated one side of this plate liberally with paste wax...AKA release agent

I took a piece Para cord or 550 cord for you military folk and tied a good knot in one end and threaded the cord through one of the extra plugs I had cut. I then pushed it through the horn from small end to big end.

I mixed up a small quantity of J B weld and carefully buttered the outside of the bushing or inner plug.

I set this into the end of the horn while pulling the cord through the center of it.

I pulled the cord through the center hole in my metal plate. and tied it off.

I anchored the cord from the pointy end of the horn in my bench vise and allowed the whole thing to hang vertical. the metal plate insures a flush fit on the inner plug as the epoxy sets up.

Don't forget the paste wax or you will glue the plate to the end of the horn!!!!!!

the second picture shows the bushing epoxied into the horn end. at this point, you can sand the end flat and even out the horn thickness all the way around.

I used standard slow set epoxy cause it was what I had on hand. If you use Quick set, you can eliminate the whole rope and hanging thing and just press the whole thing down on the metal plate and holt it for 10 minutes.

I love the quick set but remember, it is quick and you don't have a lot of time after mixing it to use it!

Step 6: Turn the End Plug, Install the Bushing and End Plug

Use a bolt and insert it through the end plug you roughed out a couple steps ago.put it in the drill and turn it on the belt sander the same way we did the original taper jig. be careful not to remove too much material. you want about a 16th to and 8th inch of wood hanging over the edge of the horn when you are done.

I used a step drill from both sides of the plug until the bushing in the first photo would fit snugly into the center hole. you can see the graduated step inside the hole in the photo. I kept going until the brass bushing fit flush.

coat the screw on the plug with paste wax and screw it into the bushing. wipe off any excess wax that may have got on the bushing.

I used J B weld quick set epoxy for this step and installed the bushing in the plug, I tapped it in with a hammer, I immediately took a rag with a bit of acetone on it and using my finger, and a nitrile glove removed any excess epoxy from the inside of the plug hole.

after it dried, i removed the end plug and used my dremel with a drum sander to taper out the inner hole so that powder would flow out when it came time to empty the horn. again, picture a funnel small end toward the big end of the horn.

mix up some more quick set and glue the plug into the wooden bushing.

Step 7: Sand, Polish, Add Detail and Finish the Horn

carefully sand the wooden end to match the contour of the horn. I started with 220 grit, I worked with the grain on the horn to remove any rasp marks that were left.

continue with increasingly finer abrasive papers. I went from 220, to 400, to 800, to 1000. after each sanding, use a rough rag to remove residue and inspect the horn for scratches or tool marks. If you find one...and you will, repeat the process in that area blending it with the surrounding areas. if you take your time, you will eventually have a horn that is very smooth and you will be able to see depth and grain in it that you did not know was there.

There will be some pits and marks you won't be able to remove, I think my horn came off a cow that liked to fight. Don't worry about them, The horn came off an animal and I like to think of the pits and such as battle scars. If it bothers you, you can invest several more hours with the rasp and abrasives and probably get rid of all those will have a thiner horn but I have seen references to horns that were worked to the point that you can actually see the powder on the inside through the horn so, make up your own mind,

After that, I used several coats of paste wax on the horn and wooden end cap.

I stained the wooden end prior to waxing it.

I used a flat rasp to add the details in the small end of the horn followed by the sand paper.

I used a fabric tape from the sewing box to measure the circumference. My horn is 8 inches so I measured and marked every 1/2 inch and then drilled through the horn and about 1/4 inch into the wood and installed the solid brass tacks show.

I will install leather hangers and attach is to my shooting bag and there you have it.

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    4 weeks ago

    Safety flaws!:
    1) Never glue the plugs to horn. The plugs should give out easily should a spark ignite the horn's powder.
    2) The plug should not be tied to horn - you must replace the plug before firing and a string encourages bad practice.
    "Powder horns can also be dangerous. I personally knew a gent who loaded and fired a flintlock rifle. A spark or ember from the firing managed to find its way into the spout of the powder horn and the horn exploded causing severe burns and a few days in the hospital.

    Afterwards, while talking with the person and others there was a lengthy discussion of the spout peg. At the time of accident his peg was attached by a thong to throat of horn and after loading he just let the horn and the peg dangle along his side and under his arm. The discussion turned historical that the peg was never to attached to the horn in way where the shooter would never replaced it in the spout before firing the gun. It was a painful lesson for one shooter but a lot of shooters learned from the accident.

    My spout pegs are not attached to the powder horn. The peg is always replaced in the spout that way. And if range shooting the flask or the horn is not carried on my body but on a table away from the firing line."


    7 years ago

    Awesome horn! Wish I had that kind of skill.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I wasn't born with it. This is my first powder horn. Just find something you want to do and try. Do a bit of research first and see how others have done it then try to find a way that works for you.

    Thank you for the positive feedback. I enjoy doing this kind of stuff and thanks to this site, I have a way to share it with others.