Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sounding horns

Conch shell

Image via Wikipedia

In the carolinian and early middle ages, the sounding horn was beautiful, both in sound and appearance, and essential. From sounding orders in battle to calling together the people to flushing out game to communicating to others far away (which I think is cooler and less addicting than cell phones), the sounding horn was an absolute necessity. According to legend, the well-known knight of Charlemagne, Roland, acquired his famous horn by hewing off the head of a ravaging bull as a mere child!

These horns were made normally of cow or bull horns. They were sometimes carved. The hardness level for horn or bone is 2.5

I wanted a horn like this, so I looked on google and found instead a link to a video on YouTube on how to make a conch shell horn. We had a rather large Queen Conch, so we made that kind of horn instead.

What you do is cut off the tip (where you will blow) so the hole is about the size of a dime in diameter. Then, using a drill, cut (or drill) off some of the spiral- or -knob part directly inside the hole. Then use sandpaper or a file to smooth the edge of the hole. Voila! To sound your horn, press your lips tightly together, with your upper lip slightly further out than your lower one so that the air will come out right at the middle. Now, hold your shell tightly to your lips, and blow. You may make a few spitting noises at first, but keep practicing, you’ll get the hang of it. In case you didn’t understand this, here’s a movie I found on youtube: 


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Cameo, a Painting without paint

So-called Great Cameo of France. Five-layered ...

Image via Wikipedia

Sardonyx cameo.

Image via Wikipedia


A Cameo is a carving normally in stone or shell, and portrays battles, loved ones, Monarchs, and many others. If the carving material is layered, say in three layers, dark, white, and another dark, the artist can carve away the top layer where the face, arms, and other skin would be, carve away the second layer where there would be nothing, and leave the first layer where clothing, hair, sandals and other such things would be. The artist would then carve in the details, give it a final polish, and set it.

Early this Summer, we were playing in Whiskeytown lake, and I found a thick piece of white shell. It looked intriguing, so I brought it home. A while later, I started reading up on Cameos, and a spark was ignited. I remembered that piece of shell, so I traced my design on the shell, and used my Dremel to carve it. I gave it to my sister.

The Romans were great lovers of Cameos. They normally used Sardonyx, which is the banded white, black, and orange variety of Chalcedony. This Sardonyx mostly came from Crete. The first photo is of a Cameo called “The Great Cameo of France” made by the Romans around 23 A.D. It is the largest known Roman Cameo in the world.