Horn contains keratin – the same substance our hair consists of. As it absorbs moisture and oil, it creates a special caring effect when you comb your hair with a comb made of horn. Synthetic combs typically show sharp edges, which are caused during production, whereas handmade horn combs have very smoothly rounded teeth and thus do not irritate the scalp or damage your hair. Moreover, it prevents dandruff. Another advantage of using horn combs is that the hair is not charged electrostatically as it is often the case with combs made of thermoplastic synthetic material.
Every horn product has a unique colour and pattern by nature. Being processed manually, horn products are unique in their elegance and haptics. Small irregularities are not considered a defect but as a typical characteristic of the handmade production.
Horn is harder, denser and more wear-resistant than most wood types. However, as with wood, horn can be processed through sawing, polishing, turning or carving. Unlike wood, horn is less resistant to tension and bending, but it is extremely resistant to pressure. Due to these characteristics, horn has been used to improve the elasticity of hunter's and rider's bows, with horn sheets being laminated to the pressure face of the bows, since the Stone Age. Also in the Middle Ages, crossbows were reinforced with horn for the same purpose.
Origin and Quality
Horn material is gained from almost all horned animals, for example cows, Watusi, sheep, goats, zebu, water buffalo, yaks etc. Horn is a by-product of slaughter, which means that the animals are not killed for obtaining the horn.
Of course, the horn we deal with, is not from endangered species. Most of our horn products are made of horn from domesticated or semi-barbarian species of the Indian or African buffalo.
The horn colour varies, depending on its origin, from black, brown mottled, yellow up and to nearly transparent, as such can be found with albino animals. The quality of the material does not depend on its colour, but on the living conditions of the animals. Wildlife animals or animals living in rough conditions, for example, usually have harder and more finely-structured horns. Another important factor for the quality of horn material is the way it is stored and processed. Most horns on the market are from regions with high humidity. When storing these horns, it is important to make sure that the material does not dry too fast, because this may cause fissures and brittleness as is also typical of tropical timbers. When it comes to processing horn, for example while cutting or welding, strong local heating of the material should be avoided.
The colour-intensive, typically patterned horn of the Madagascar Zebu has made Madagascar a centre of horn production and processing. As the animals are kept in their natural environment and in free range and due to the traditional knowledge and form awareness of the local horn producers, the horn products have a very good quality, characterized by its high breaking resistance and fine structure.
It is important to distinguish horn from antler or tooth material, although these are also often called “horn”. Deer, reindeer, or moose antlers and wild boar teeth do not consist of keratin, but mainly of calcium phosphate, i. e. bone substance. Therefore, this material is much harder than horn and thus different processing techniques have to be applied.