How'd They Do It: Curved Airway in Horn Stem?

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geopiper

Member
Jan 9, 2019
266
349
I saw a pipe online listed as being from the early 20th century with a horn stem that is curved and it got mne thinking. How would a pipe maker in the 1920's drill the airway in a horn stem that had a nearly 90 degree total bend over several inches in length? Horn doesn't bend (or does it when steamed?) Directional drill bit?
 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
26,774
33,331
Helena, Alabama
Horn actually does bend. I've seen folks bend it into all sorts of things, but there are curved drill bits. I used to have one for lapidary, but I can't find that thing now. But, it's a flex shaft bit with a cutter end, inside a bent tube. It takes a very practiced hand to use it. But, I really doubt someone used one to cut the actual stem with. But, I do have a Hilson gooseneck pipe with a curved draft from stem to stummel.
 

cosmicfolklore

Preferred Member
Aug 9, 2013
26,774
33,331
Helena, Alabama
One of the things I love about going to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is how huge it is. It takes up the entire city, and there are tents the size of shopping malls. One of these has African venders, a mall sized tent full of people doing tribal gem cutting and working all sorts of materials. I was interested in the folks cutting and shaping horn, because I can get truck loads of horn at the time, cheap. But, they were soaking the horns in a vinegar-like solution, making it floppy, easier to work. I have no idea what the actual solution was.

But, I had a bigger problem with bent amber stems. In all of my lapidary experience with amber, I knew that it cannot be bent at all. It is a soft glass-like material. But, then I found out that there is a resinous version of amber that can be heated and bent. There is a difference between gem-quality amber and the resinous stuff. I am certain that the resinous stuff ends up getting mixed with the gem-quality stuff. But, no one is bending the gem quality stuff, much less using a thousand dollars worth of material to make a pipe stem.
 
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Bwana Kiko

Junior Member
Aug 27, 2021
56
235
Uganda
One of the things I love about going to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is how huge it is. It takes up the entire city, and there are tents the size of shopping malls. One of these has African venders, a mall sized tent full of people doing tribal gem cutting and working all sorts of materials. I was interested in the folks cutting and shaping horn, because I can get truck loads of horn at the time, cheap. But, they were soaking the horns in a vinegar-like solution, making it floppy, easier to work. I have no idea what the actual solution was.

But, I had a bigger problem with bent amber stems. In all of my lapidary experience with amber, I knew that it cannot be bent at all. It is a soft glass-like material. But, then I found out that there is a resinous version of amber that can be heated and bent. There is a difference between gem-quality amber and the resinous stuff. I am certain that the resinous stuff ends up getting mixed with the gem-quality stuff. But, no one is bending the gem quality stuff, much less using a thousand dollars worth of material to make a pipe stem.
Hey Cosmic, we've got lots of horn to work with in Central Africa. These are the horns I have in my house from an Ankole cow. I've put a Bic lighter at the base for perspective.
 

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