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Buffalo Horn Ferrules..Yay or Nay?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk' started by Bill T, Oct 24, 2015.

  1. Bill T

    Bill T Founding Member

    Hey Everyone...
    I was looking over my favorite knife I use last night while chatting with Robin..and I noticed something alarming.The Buffalo horn I used for the Ferrule was beginning to delaminate...
    I made this knife 2 years ago and just noticed the layers beginning to separate.
    It is NEVER left in the sink and always washed immediately after use.

    So I pose these questions to not only the Makers but the Users as well...those that have Buffalo horn ferrules anyway..

    1 Has this happened to your knives?
    2 What did you do about it?
    3 What is a good alternative to Buffalo horn?

    I know that there is a process to stabilize Horn,Ivory and other materials that aren't wood.
    Have any Makers used this process?
    And if so what were your results/thoughts about it.

    Now a picture of what I saw. The splits are kind of arrowhead shaped, following the lines of the white streaks I thought were so interesting when I made it..

  2. Bill T

    Bill T Founding Member

    And yes I know there's another thread about ferrules ( I posted in it)....
    This is mostly about what, if anything can be done about Buffalo...as I have so much of it
  3. MattS

    MattS Founding Member

    Looks like just a bad piece of horn. I really like horn and have used it a bunch in the past. However, out of a roll I would usually only get one or two ferrule pieces and scrap the rest, usually kept the pieces toward the center of the roll. Finding good horn can be hard.
  4. I've very little to add here.

    Horn pieces that I've used haven't showed any cracks or splits, but I gave away all of them long ago and haven't heard anything since then. If I were trying to save that particular handle, I'd probably try to saturate horn with some oil to make sure it's not cracking due to being over dried. And then fill cracks with CA or epoxy and repolish handle. Probably wouldn't help it in a long run, but at least I would knew I've tried.

    As for substitutes there are lots of choice these days: polyester, raffir, juma, polyester, micarta and probably some others that I missed. Raffir and Juma are some sorts of plastic and are easier in work than horn. They polish nicely and their weight is somewhat comparable to horn. I got some black micarta from Mark and it's really nice looking material once polished, but it's very hard on abrasives/tools and it's much heavier than horn.

    But if you have lots of horn in your stash it might make sense to send some to K&G and see whether they could stabilize it.
  5. cheflarge

    cheflarge Founding Member

    What Anton said. I have dealt with this issue a couple of times (mostly self inflicted :) ), fill with CA glue, let set completely and refinish.
  6. CrisAnderson27

    CrisAnderson27 Professional Craftsman

    Anymore...I won't touch horn...for that reason. Between the shrinkage and expansion...and cracks...it's worthless to me. In addition...I go to a lot of expense to make my handles as impervious to moisture as possible. Stabilized wood will take being accidentally set down in a small puddle on a counter for a pretty substantial amount of time. Horn on the other hand....not so much.
  7. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

    I have had some horn shrinkage but no cracks to date Bill. I think you can save it though. I hear you are a handy fellow.
  8. Spaz

    Spaz Founding Member

    Like Jim, I have horn on some handles that are 4yrs old and have only experienced some shrinkage but no splitting or cracking.
    I think wood like Bog Oak makes for a great ferrule but not sure how it compares in price. I assume it's more expensive but have no idea of extent.

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