Here we are in 2020 and in the middle of the COVID lockdown as I write. I am fortunate that I can carry on working in my workshop and continue to sell walking sticks.
Quality rams horn
Rams horn of the quality necessary to make horn handles from is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Partly due to restrictions on abattoirs disposing of horns and partly to the upsurge in the numbers of stick makers wanting the raw materials to make their sticks.
Our main source is abattoirs where the old rams are sent for slaughter. Also, a friendly farmer can oblige when an old ram dies on the farm. The horns need to be seasoned or dried for at least twelve months prior to me starting work on them. i think maybe only thirty per cent of horn that I purchase will be of the quality needed to make a handle from.
The horns come in all shapes and sizes and a number of different UK sheep breeds. One of my favourites to work with is the Jacob horn. It isn’t the easiest horn to work, in fact, it’s very difficult but the end result as you can see from these images is very pleasing. Jacob is one of the few horns that produces a nice dual colour. The other horn which is similar is the Welsh black mountain sheep horn. These are a little easier to obtain than the Jacob.
Types of rams horn
My main supply of rams horn is from the Welsh mountain breed of sheep, these are highly sought after by stick makers as their size is not too big and they are fairly easy to work with. Last but not least, the Scottish Black face ram is another popular breed from which to create rams horn handles. Typically a very big horn with plenty of material from which it is possible to carve decorative items onto the nose such as a scroll and thistle, trout or birds head.
As well as the horns I need the shanks to fit them onto. These I cut myself every winter, probably three or four hundred hazel shanks and some Holly and Blackthorn as well. Again, like the horns, the wood has to be seasoned for a year to dry out prior to use.