There are many different types of horn; horns of Bovidae, rhinoceros, antelope and giraffe, as well as the substance of which the beaks of birds, and the claws and hooves of many animals, are made. The horn with which this manual is concerned may be defined as hard, conical, hollow horn, composed of dead epidermal cells bound together by keratin, which covers the excrescence of the frontal bones that are called "horn cores". This type of horn is found in a species of cattle that is common in Asia and Africa, the zebu. The term "horn" will be used in this manual to denote both hollow horn and its constituent material.
Before the advent of plastics, prosperous artisans throughout the world for centuries produced useful or decorative objects in horn: combs, handles for knives and tools, door handles, sheaths for whetstones, horns for blowing, buttons, stylised animals and plants, rings, bracelets, etc. However, plastics have rapidly replaced horn, and horn processing is in jeopardy.
The compression, injection and extrusion of plastics requires machinery and complex moulds and dies that have to be imported, are expensive to buy and to maintain, and are heavy consumers of energy. Being automated, and hence with a high level of productivity, these processes also cause unemployment. The regulation and operation of this machinery entails the services of qualified electrical engineers, which is a form of specialisation rarely found in developing countries. Horn, on the other hand, can be worked by hand with simple tools such as saws, scissors, gouges and hand drills which, for the most part, can be produced by local artisans. The work can be made much more efficient by the use of small electrically powered tools such as jigsaws, drills, sanders, woodworking lathes, and small grinding wheels which, even if imported, are of low cost and consume little energy.
In some developing countries, plastics are imported at great expense, while horn is a raw material that is cheap and abundant in the countries themselves. In Madagascar, for example, the current price for horn attached to the core is 10 to 11 Malagasy francs per kilo. Obviously horn could not replace all plastic materials but it could easily be used as a substitute for plastics to make a number of small objects that are not subject to great physical stress.
In certain countries, artisans continue to make objects in horn, mainly for the tourist trade. Some of these objects are technically and artistically of high quality. In the majority of countries, however, a great deal of horn is still left relatively unprocessed. In the next few years, it will undoubtedly be in the interest of the developing countries to give preference to horn rather than to plastic materials whenever this is possible. This possibility will entail the development of horn processing, and consequently the training of new artisans. To encourage and complete the training of these artisans, it would be useful for each one to have a manual where all the techniques of horn working are described. This is the purpose of this publication.
We have chosen the terra "homer" to denote an artisan who makes objects in horn. This term, which is to be found in English dictionaries, has fallen into disuse. It would seem appropriate to revive it in this English version of the manual.
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]