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Horn Snuffboxes

Guanxi88Guanxi88 Member
edited August 2009 in General
I'm collecting thoughts on snuffboxes, as always. Now, we all know that silver, brass, and wood are pretty standard materials, but what about horn? I seem to read a great deal suggesting that horn boxes were fairly common. I've seen a few cranked out in India, and the quality is simply atrocious (can't believe I p*ssed away money to have samples of junk shipped half-way around the world), but I know of a few horn workshops (not in India) that do pretty solid work.

It's the hinges that worry me the most, so I suppose they'd have to be table-top items, unless there was some as-yet undiscovered demand for tall, cylindrical horn snuff bottles, where hinges aren't an issue, and one can thread the exterior of the container, the interior of the lid, and apply a cork seal.

What about those socttish pocket-mulls? Those could be made without too much trouble, and could be made to work quite well without too much trouble. I've seen the retail on them, and it's shocking. Is there a possible demand for such things, or are they strictly collectibles?

Oh, and I'm working on getting the silversmith who provided the samples to work on putting decent hinges on the boxes, and changing them to roughly rectangular or oval profiles.


  • I would like one of these, but it's just too expensive. Horn
  • Now, ram's horn ain't cheap, but it doesn't possibly cost even half of the retail price there to get one delivered to a wholesale buyer (standard mark-up). I suspect, though, that if they are using ram's horn, they might very well also be using local (British) labor, and that would account for some of the difference. I daresay that these things are probably bench-made, which would account for the pricing as noted.

    With that said, though, to make one of buffalo horn would not cost much, and a pewter cap wouldn't be terribly expensive. But that's a table-top one, anyway. Any market for the pocket ones, do you think?
  • Most humbler mulls were made of cow horn with a lift-off lid of cork covered with a horn cap, often with a spoon attached. image
  • Here's another that's even simpler Snuff Horn I'd be interested in one like this for the historical association alone.
  • I have a couple of horn boxes that are operating perfectly fine. Scottish and German
  • I've been looking to find just such a sort of pocket mull. I think I might have a lead or two on some horn-workers who might be able to put such a thing together at a reasonable price. A horn lid, cork-lined, would certainly be simpler to produce than pewter, and would certainly be correct.


    Made by a survivor of the Battle of Culloden, yet.
  • Horn was the plastic of the middle ages. A good plastic box would be affordable and very good. I got a plastic box at Smith's some years ago and it is superb.
  • @snuffster

    True enough, the material did fill the niche we now fill with plastics and such, but there's something appealing, at least to me, about the idea of a traditional material being made into a traditional receptacle for a traditional tobacco. Tastes vary, of course, but I'm a hidebound reactionary in a lot of ways, and particularly so when it comes to my vices.
  • Yep, me too. But Just think about the tactile pleasure that plastic can give. Trust me, a good plastic box is a box indeed. My Smith's box is a treasure and I'm amazed that you don't see any others.
  • someone had a bakelite snuffbox before the crash. Bakelite was a precursor to modern plastic.
  • BTW amber and bone were also used as "plastics" in the past
  • I have yet to see any plastic that could match the visual and tactile effects of polished horn or wear as well. @ Guanxi88 Here's another horn snuff container that might interest you: Corrimboque Since it's made from the horn tip, it should be very economical to produce.
  • Ive had horn boxes and its a nice material but there are plastics that are every bit as good if not better, old and modern. I have a bakelite box that is beautiful and a modern plastic box that is also superb and extremely pleasant to handle and in terms of wearing, well it doesn't, at all.
    I would see plastic as a modern version of papier mache - cheap, cheerful and utilitarian. I would love to see a few more boxes on the market that one could loose without great distress. Ironically, my plastic box from Smith's is kept safe in my collection as I've never seen one like it before or since - I actually use a Silver Georgian in preferance because you can get them easily! Its also possible to manufacture plastic to tolerances that eliminate any leaks - and anyone with a snuff box collection worthy of the name knows that most of them leak to an extent.
  • Papier mache made with modern adhesives might be an idea worth experimenting with. Do you know what kind of plastic your modern box is made of? Sounds like it may be Lucite, which isn't all that cheap.
  • I've seen paper mache snuff boxes for sale places like e-bay but have always been leery of their durability. Can any one say how they hold up with normal use?
  • I have an early to mid-Victorian one and it still seals remarkably well (well enough to keep HDT in it) and it also keeps snuff fresher than a wooden box I think.
  • Ben Cartwright had a nice one on his desk in the show Bonanza.
  • Amber has nothing to do with "plastic" at all - not historically, and not culturally. In the 9th-10th century the Arabs and Greeks paid fortunes for Nordic amber, which for this reason was known as the "Nordic Gold". My ancestors made fortunes from this trade. It is still extremely expensive (especially Danish amber, the Polish and Baltic amber is slightly less expensive), and is used for high quality jewelry, and was also used for snuff boxes indeed. But again, amber was *never* used as a "substitute" for other materials, or as an easy way of mass producing items, like horn for example was.
  • Guanxi88Guanxi88 Member
    edited August 2009 PM
    @ snuffgrinder

    Yes! That looks to be an excellent example of a simple, compact pocket snuff mull. Things like that, traditional, functional, and, to my eyes, at least, beautiful - that's the sort of thing to use for storing and using a traditional, functional, and, to my nose, at least, beautiful luxury. We need to refine our vices, all of us, and a good snuff box is a good first step in that direction.

    Not that there's anything wrong with bullets, etc., and I'm not even convinced that a plastic box couldn't satisfy these criteria (I've seen a few of the older bakelite ones, and they are elegant), it's just that. as yet, the available options seem few and far between. A return to the traditional containers would be, to my mind, a development to be applauded and encouraged, even as we work to make the better technologies (e.g., the snuff bullet) sufficiently refined as to distinguish them from their low-market and illegal associations.

    To dream the impossible dream....
  • @ Viking: I never meant to imply that amber was a substitute for anything. Nor did I mean to imply that it was cheap or common. Mereley that it can be, and has been, made into objects such as bone and horn can be. Its texture is somewhat like plastic, and I've seen many intersting things carved from it.
    Plastic has replaced some of these things in modern times.
  • @ Guanxi: You're preaching to to the choir with me. But I don't think that the dream is all that impossible.
  • Im not sure what my plastic box is made of but its hard and scratch resistant. Don't get me wrong, I love the traditional materials, I just wish there were more work a day boxes apart from slide top wooden ones and bullets. I've got tin, plastic and papier mache boxes in my collection that are all charming and when new would have been great ordinary boxes, but you just don't seem to see much like them anymore.
  • I would love some work a day snuff boxes that won't make me cry when lost.
  • @ Juxtaposer:

    That's the ideal, I think. A simple, practical container, elegant in its way, true enough, but not something to which one would become overly attached. A plain brass Zippo, as it were, to invoke a cig smoker's closest parallel.
  • You might like to try tins made by Robert Opie....

    The cost about £2.50 each - there are loads and loads of different designs - and they measure about 60mmx40mmx15mm - about a days worth of snuff.

    They are not completely airtight - but at least as good as most snuff boxes I have used. They are generally available in the UK in giflt shops and museums and the like - Robert Opie is a collector of nostalgia - and these tins feature old advertising/packaging - so are entertaining in their own right.

    I have now thoroughly road tested one - and found it very practical. Readily available (in UK - even on ebay).

    It would be good if Roderick at Toque (even had his own made! - can't cost much - I'd certainly pay a few quid extra for some nice snuff designs on them....) or if Tim at Snuffstore bought a few so it would be available to everyone.

    Cheap enough you don't mind loosing, good enough to keep snuff fresh for a day or so - nice to hold, pretty airtight - very practical

    When I next find them I will be buying half a dozen...

  • jonathan - i was tempted to buy one of those but I wasn't sure how well it'd hold out. It seems I should have taken the risk, damn it.
  • That's pretty cool, Filek. Is it yours now?
  • @Filek, you will soon have another horn snuff box to add to your collection!
  • So will slobandtom, if I recall who won the quiz.
  • Nice Filek! Looks like you could just put it up to your nostril and pour it in, lol.
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